Passport is queen of Real ID

As of Oct. 1, 2020, anyone wanting to take a domestic commercial flight in the United States will need some sort of Real ID document. People will also need such a document to enter some federal facilities — not post offices — and nuclear power plants.

But not everyone needs a Real ID card. A valid U.S. passport or passport card will suffice.

“Your passport is the Queen of the Nile,” said PennDOT’s Transportation Community Relations Coordinator Melanie Baldwin.

Baldwin was the main speaker at a seminar arranged by state Rep. Stephen Barrar. About two dozen people attended the session at Garnet Valley Middle School Thursday night.

Real ID became law as part of the Patriot Act following the 9/11 attacks of 2001. That part of the act calls on states to change the way they collect information when issuing drivers’ licenses. Some states — Pennsylvania included — resisted, saying those licenses were their domain, not that of the federal government. However, Barrar told the audience that the feds became “heavy-handed” and threatened to withhold federal funds from states that didn’t comply and would prevent people from flying without an approved form of identification.

A Real ID compliant Pennsylvania driver's license will include a yellow star in the upper right quadrant of the license.

Baldwin stressed several times that people with up-to-date passports don’t need anything else, as long as they take their passport or passport card with them when they fly. A military ID for active duty personnel will also be sufficient, she said, but not a veteran’s identification card.

People can get Real ID compliant driver’s licenses for an extra fee, The cost for renewing the license is $30 and there will be an additional charge of $30.50 for the Real ID compliant license. The compliant Pennsylvania license will have a yellow star on it. Other states will use a different color.

Paperwork for the Real ID can be done at drivers’ license centers but only two, the full-service centers in Norristown and in King of Prussia can provide same day service. The other centers will mail the Real ID license or ID to the home in about two weeks after the application is made.

What people will need to get a Real ID card or driver’s license varies, but all requirements are to prove identification. Even a person with a passport who wants a Real ID license or card must bring the passport and Social Security card with them when they apply. People should also have a birth certificate with a raised stamp from their birth state's bureau of vital statistics and people who have gone through a name change, such as a woman who marries or divorces, should show a paper trail of that name being changed.

According to Baldwin, Pennsylvania is an “opt-in” state, meaning the state does not require people to have Real ID documents. Other states, such as Delaware, make it mandatory. Yet, it’s the federal government that is forcing the issue. She also repeated, Real ID for domestic air travel still won’t be mandatory until Oct. 1, 2020.

Baldwin said has the most up to date information. Other sites with information are and

Barrar’s office will also assist and answer questions. His staff has copies of the document checklist, a copy of which may be found here.


About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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