Bill would make REAL ID easier to obtain

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, speaks during a September news conference.

It may be easier for Pennsylvanians to get their REAL ID under legislation proposed in the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, is proposing allowing four new alternatives to verify their identities when applying for REAL ID.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 to establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards following a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission. The updated cards will be required for airport check-in and to enter federal facilities. The deadline to have a Real ID had been May 3, 2023, but the Department of Homeland Security announced in December that the deadline was pushed back two years, to May 7, 2025.

Pennsylvania currently requires anyone identifying for a REAL ID to provide an original Social Security card but doesn’t allow any other documents to verify someone’s Social Security number. Benninghoff is proposing allowing W-2 forms, 1099 forms, pay stubs if a Social Security number is on the stub and direct verification by the state Transportation Department with the Social Security Administration.

“The Department of Homeland Security intends to enforce REAL ID beginning on May 7, 2025, so it is imperative that PennDOT’s REAL ID application process does not continue to place unnecessary burdens on Commonwealth residents,” Benninghoff wrote in his legislative memorandum.

Pictured is an example of a REAL ID driver’s license in Pennsylvania.

“To this end, my legislation will simply require PennDOT to accept any document permitted under federal law or regulation for SSN verificationwhen applying for REAL ID. The aforementioned alternative documents are provided to our constituents on a regular basis and are convenient options for constituents, especially for individuals who may have misplaced their Social Security card, when organizing their required documents for a REAL ID application.”

After the May 2025 deadline, domestic travelers 18 and older on commercial flights must have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or state photo ID identification card. Real ID also will be required to enter some federal facilities such as military bases. The new form of ID incorporates anti-counterfeiting technology and uses documentary evidence and record checks to ensure a person is who they claim to be.

Enforcement has been delayed several times since the original 2008 deadline. Most recently, in April 2021, DHS extended the deadline to May 2023, also citing how COVID-19 made it harder for states to issue new licenses. A DHS spokeswoman said Tuesday that about 52% of state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards were considered Real ID-compliant. That’s up from 43% in April 2021.

“This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a news release. “DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible. We will continue to ensure that the American public can travel safely.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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