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When do I need a Real ID? How do I go about getting it?

A lengthy dispute between Pennsylvania and the federal government has long had Pennsylvanians wondering if the federal government would eventually make good on its threat to stop recognizing the state’s driver’s licenses, a decision that could prevent state residents from boarding airplanes or entering federal property.

The deadline for Real ID compliance, however, kept getting pushed back as some states tussled with the Department of Homeland Security over privacy concerns associated with the Real ID. The federal government finally certified Pennsylvania’s Real ID standards in May, meaning residents can now obtain driver’s licenses and photo IDs that are in compliance with the federal laws.

However, that also means that older Pennsylvania IDs won’t work for federal purposes, and the most recent deadline — Oct. 1, 2020 — is likely to actually be enforced.

Pennsylvania doesn’t care whether you update to a Real ID for ordinary uses like identifying yourself at a traffic stop, according to a state website. However, a Real ID will be required for boarding domestic flights, entering a federal facility or entering a military base after Oct. 1, 2020.

Anyone who uses another form of federal identification, such as a passport or a military ID, can use that as their Real ID.

If you want to get a Real ID, PennDOT will need to examine proof of your identity (a birth certificate or passport), your Social Security card, two proofs of your current address (such as a vehicle registration card or utility bill) and proof of all legal name changes, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree.

If you received your first driver’s license, learner’s permit or other photo ID after Sept. 1, 2003, PennDOT may already have the needed information on file, allowing you to apply for your Real ID online. If PennDOT doesn’t have your identifying information or if you received your first ID before Sept. 1, 2003, you will need to visit a PennDOT office in person.

The ID will cost $60.50, the normal $30.50 ID renewal fee plus a $30 one-time Real ID fee. Those payments will earn you a card that looks like your current ID, but has a gold star in the upper right corner.

Congress passed the Real ID law in 2005 as part of an anti-terrorism initiative, but the requirement raised privacy and federalism concerns among civil liberties advocates. Pennsylvania resisted the requirement for years but finally passed a law in 2017 permitting the state to comply with the federal mandate.

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Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.