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Pennsylvania

Start gathering your identifying documents now for 2019 REAL ID rollout, PennDOT says

| Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, 3:51 p.m.
A sign at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., is shown to inform visitors of the federal government's REAL ID act.  (AP Photo | Ted S. Warren, File)
A sign at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., is shown to inform visitors of the federal government's REAL ID act. (AP Photo | Ted S. Warren, File)

If you thought the wait at the DMV was bad now, imagine what it will be like with 10.7 million Pennsylvanians in line.

As PennDOT brings its driver-licensing systems in line with the federal “REAL ID” standards, the agency is urging residents to start gathering the required identifying documents now or check with the state in a few months to see if they're already on file. The state anticipates being able to issue licenses compliant with the 2005 anti-terrorism identification program starting in spring 2019, said PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell.

To get a REAL ID license, most drivers will need to take to PennDOT:

• Either a valid U.S. passport or birth certificate with a raised seal

• Social Security card

• Proof of any legal name changes — marriage licenses or court orders

• Two proofs of address, potentially including a current Pennsylvania driver's license, a recent bank statement or a utility bill with matching address.

PennDOT driver's license centers will be able to start processing those documents starting next September, but the agency wants people to start gathering the paperwork now because requests for some official duplicates can take months to fulfill.

But if a resident first got a Pennsylvania license after September 2003, the state should have all those documents scanned and electronically filed, so it can start “verifying” those customers without having them go to a driver's license center in person to file the documents or request the new ID. About 3.5 million of the state's 10.7 million license holders should fall into that category, and they can start requesting verification as early as March.

“It will relieve some of the pressure on the centers if we can sort of weed out about 35 percent of the customers and verify them remotely; that can make a big difference,” Campbell said.

Not every current license center will be able to issue the new IDs over the counter, she said, due to stricter security standards under the REAL ID law. The state will open seven new centers and retrofit five existing ones so that customers can get their new cards the same day; customers at other centers will have to wait and receive their IDs by mail.

Locations of the new and retrofitted centers have not yet been determined. They will be located with the intent of being accessible to the maximum number of people around the state, Campbell said.

The state has an extension until Oct. 10, 2018 to bring its drivers licenses and processes for issuing them into line with the REAL ID requirements, though the state will seek another extension. Without compliant cards, Pennsylvanians and residents of 24 other states will need a passport or other federally approved ID to enter military bases, federal facilities or take commercial flights.

Pennsylvania's government had resisted the REAL ID requirements for years, calling them an overreach and an unfunded mandate.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation in 2012 banning PennDOT from complying with the rules. But the legislature overturned that ban earlier this year as the federal government threatened to stop accepting non-compliant IDs.

More information and links to seek remote verification will be added to the driver services web page, dmv.pa.gov , as they become available, Campbell said.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect the state's history of opposing the REAL ID requirements.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, msantoni@tribweb.com, or on Twitter @msantoni.

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