PHILADELPHIA —  Travelers who want to board an airplane will soon need a star on their driver’s license, indicating that it is a REAL ID-compliant credential or they will need another form of approved identification to board their flight or enter a secure federal facility. Pennsylvania’s REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards have a small star in a gold circle in the upper right corner to indicate that it meets new federal regulations that establish minimum security standards.

The upgraded REAL IDs will be required starting May 3, 2023, and the one-year count-down has begun.

Even out-of-state residents who want to fly via a Pennsylvania airport after May 3, 2023 will also will need to have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or other acceptable form of ID.

Pennsylvania residents have the option to upgrade to a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or stick with a standard driver’s license when they get a new license at a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) office. However, a standard credential—without the star—will not be valid to board a flight or to access secure federal facilities, including military bases and some federal offices.

Unsure if a REAL ID is right for you? PennDOT has an online tool that will help determine if a  REAL ID-compliant driver’s license is what you need.  

To get the REAL ID-compliant license, individuals will need to visit their local PennDOT office in person and bring certain documents to prove U.S. citizenship and Pennsylvania residency. Required documents include one proof of identity, one proof of legal presence, two proofs of Pennsylvania residency, one proof of your social security number (if you’ve been issued one) and a current driver’s license if you are applying to exchange one issued by another U.S. state. If you received your first Pennsylvania driver’s license, learner’s permit, or photo ID card after September 1, 2003, PennDOT may already have your REAL ID documentation on file. To find out if your required REAL ID documents are on file with PennDOT, apply for REAL ID pre-verification online. If PennDOT confirms that your documents are on file, you can order your REAL ID online without a need to visit a driver’s license center.

Transportation Security Administration officers who staff the ticket document checking station at airports nationwide will not allow travelers into the checkpoint without a REAL ID-compliant license or another form of acceptable ID after May 3, 2023, because of a federal law (The REAL ID Act of 2005) that mandates that a REAL ID is needed for federal purposes. REAL ID is a coordinated effort by the federal government to improve the reliability and accuracy of driver licenses and identification cards. The improvements are intended to inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.

Critically important, on May 3, 2023, individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the TSA checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly.  

For more information and details about how to obtain a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card in Pennsylvania, visit the PennDOT web site.

“We see plenty of travelers who reside in neighboring Delaware and New Jersey who fly out of Philadelphia International Airport regularly, and like all travelers from out-of-state who want to fly after May 3, 2023, they also will need to have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or other acceptable form of ID when they approach our TSA travel document podium,” said TSA Federal Security Director Gerardo Spero. “The REAL ID law is for all Americans who want to fly out of any domestic airport across the country starting one year from now. My advice is to go to your local state’s department of motor vehicles or department of transportation to get your upgraded REAL ID driver’s license now. Don’t wait.”

“Although a year seems like a long time to get ready, the deadline will be upon us before you know it. We encourage our customers who want a REAL ID to get one as soon as possible,” said PennDOT Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula. “We continue to focus on providing the best possible customer service to all of our customers as the federal deadline approaches.”