Homeland Security: No Immediate Impact to Pennsylvanians Expected Regarding REAL ID Act

HARRISBURG, Pa. – No immediate impact to Pennsylvania citizens is expected based on the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding its schedule for implementing the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. The act deals with identification requirements for boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

According to DHS Secretary Jeh C. Johnson, starting January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is not compliant with the REAL ID Act and has not been granted an extension will need to show an alternative form of identification to board commercial aircraft. A U.S. Passport is one of the alternative forms.

In 2012, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed Act 38, which in part states, “Neither the Governor nor the Department of Transportation or any other Commonwealth agency shall participate in the REAL ID Act of 2005 or regulations promulgated thereunder. “

In October 2015, DHS issued Pennsylvania an additional extension until October 10, 2016. The extension allows citizens of the commonwealth who utilize a Pennsylvania driver’s license or identification card to continue to use those documents for federal purposes, including flying on commercial airliners.

Deployment of the REAL ID Act of 2005 by the federal government has been separated into four phases:

  • Phase 1, which dealt with access to restricted areas (i.e., areas accessible by agency personnel, contractors and their guests for DHS headquarters in Washington) was effective April 21, 2014;
  • Phase 2, which dealt with restricted areas for all Federal facilities and nuclear power plants was effective July 21, 2014;
  • Phase 3, which dealt with semi-restricted areas (i.e., areas available to the general public but subject to ID-based access control) for most Federal facilities was effective January 19, 2015; and,
  • Phase 4, which deals with boarding a federally regulated commercial aircraft and is the subject of the DHS announcement on January 8, dictates that a driver’s license or identification card from a noncompliant state may only be used in conjunction with a second form of identification for boarding a federally regulated commercial aircraft, effective January 22, 2018. Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another form of identification acceptable to the TSA, for domestic air travel.


Pennsylvania would have to be issued further extensions beyond October 10, 2016, for Pennsylvania driver’s licenses and identification cards to be used for federal purposes subject to the effective dates and conditions noted in the four phases of deployment. It is unknown at this time whether DHS will issue any additional extensions to Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania has been a leader among states in its commitment to ensure the highest standards related to the security of our driver’s licenses products and processes. Fundamental to our approach is a focus on continuous enhancements to the technology and techniques used.

For the most up-to-date information regarding REAL ID, please visit DHS’s REAL ID Web page at http://www.dhs.gov/real-id-enforcement-brief

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