U.S. Department of Homeland Security grants PA REAL ID extension

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Harvey Barrison | Flickr

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted Pennsylvania an extension to comply with REAL ID requirements through fall 2018.

The extension — granted Oct. 11 and in effect through Oct. 10, 2018 — means that during this time frame, all current Pennsylvania licenses and identification cards will be accepted for domestic-commercial flights and for entering federal buildings that require identification.

Previously, as of Jan. 22, 2018, Pennsylvanians would have needed to present alternate identification — such as a passport — for these purposes.

The REAL ID Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005, mandated that states follow specific protocol and satisfy certain requirements when issuing driver’s licenses and identification cards if the federal government is to recognize the documents as valid. The government passed this act following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A Pennsylvania law passed in 2012 prevented the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation from complying with REAL ID. This legislation intended to maintain privacy rights for Pennsylvanians amid concerns about creating a national database of all registered license holders. The PA state legislature passed Act 3 of 2017 — also known as the Pennsylvania REAL ID Compliance Act — in May of this year, effectively repealing the 2012 law.

REAL ID licenses and ID cards will be available to Pennsylvania customers in spring 2019, according to PennDOT’s website. The state will need to make a system, building infrastructure and process changes to issue REAL ID-compliant cards. REAL ID would cost about $100 million to implement and $40 million to maintain annually.

PennDOT did not immediately respond to questions regarding whether identification cards not compliant with REAL ID will be accepted in the interim between Oct. 10, 2018 and spring 2019.

PennDOT’s website said the department has not yet determined how much the fee for a REAL ID will be. Standard driver’s licenses will still be an option for customers and are valid to drive, vote, apply for federal benefits, access a hospital or participate in law enforcement proceedings.

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