Like many things, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the date that REAL IDs go into effect. Although the deadline was originally October 1, 2020, the deadline was moved to October 1, 2021.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website, REAL IDs are the drivers licenses that meet standards imposed at the federal level. As of a DHS press release on September 10, every state is now compliant with these standards and will begin issuing them if they haven’t begun already.
Although REAL IDs are recommended, they are not required for most things. In Pennsylvania, citizens are still able to drive, vote, enter federal courts and access most things they are currently permitted to with an ordinary driver’s license or other form of identification. However, there are still a few significant changes to the current system.
REAL IDs will now be required to board a commercial flight with the United States, and some federal facilities will require you to present it after the deadline. In addition, there are other forms of federal identification that are sufficient substitutes, such as a passport or military ID.
Not everyone needs to apply for a REAL ID. According to the PennDOT website, anyone that earned their first driver’s license or other form of identification after September 1, 2003 likely already has their REAL ID information prepared on file. If this is the case, all that one needs to do is fill out an online form and it will be mailed to them.
If someone’s data is not on file, they will be required to travel to either a PennDot REAL ID center or PennDot Driver License Center with proper documentation. PennDot’s website says that some of the forms of identification that are required to get a REAL ID are proof of identity, proof of a Social Security number, two different proofs of legal residence and proof of name changes.
The REAL ID act was originally passed as part of a military spending bill in 2005 as an initiative to meet the 9/11 commission’s suggestion that there be a federal standard for all official forms of identification. According to the DHS, having a secure system for identification is critical to the United States’ national security.
However, there has been some pushback against REAL IDs, and several civil rights groups have raised concerns about them. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Real IDs would have a detrimental impact on state governments, resulting in longer wait times and other administrative hassles at government buildings and for citizens in general. The ACLU also has concerns over the national database that REAL ID would create, saying that the law gives the government access to peoples’ lives and would severely impact privacy.