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FOX43 Finds Out: REAL ID questions answered

HARRISBURG, Pa -- Between all of the deadlines and documents related to REAL ID, it can be confusing.

FOX43 Finds Out simplifies what you need to know about REAL ID in Pennsylvania.

PA is one of the states that has an extended compliance , through October of 2018, with the Department of Homeland Security. 

PennDOT says it plans to make REAL ID available to Pennsylvanians in spring of 2019.

"Not everyone has to get a REAL ID if they don't want one or feel they don't need one," said Alexis Campbell, Community Relations Coordinator with PennDOT.

If you do want REAL ID, here's what it will cost you: $30 dollars for the REAL ID fee and if you're a regular non-commercial driver: $30.50 for a renewal.

In total, that's $60.50.

That renewal fee became confusing for some people.

However, PennDOT spokesperson says it will all work out.

For example, if your license expires this year, you need to renew it.

That new license will expire in 2022.

Then, if you get a REAL ID in Spring of 2019 when it`s available, you'll pay another renewal fee - $30.50.

You won't lose the time you've already paid for though, because your REAL ID license will expire in 2026.

Campbell, "The expiration date on your Real ID will reflect any remaining time on your current license."

PennDOT is estimating about 25% of people who currently have a PA drivers license or ID card will want REAL ID.

"That's based on data from other states that have similar programs where you can choose to get a REAL ID or you can choose not to," said Campbell.

That`s about 2.5 million people in PA.

PennDOT says that's a lot, which is why it's renovating five existing license centers to be able to handle the REAL ID regulations and also adding five new centers in the state.

The closest one for most of Central PA will be somewhere in Harrisburg.

Campbell also says PennDOT has the flexibility to add three additional REAL ID centers if needed.

"You'll be able to walk in, pay your fee, get your real ID that same day."

It might not be that easy for everyone, though.

10.7 million people in PA who have either a drivers license or photo id card.

When it comes to REAL ID, that 10.7 million is broken up into two groups.

If you got your first license within the past 15 years, you can easily pre-verify for REAL ID and Campbell says you can probably do it all on PennDOT`s website.

"About 35% of those customers got their very first product, established their record with us after september of 2003. That's significant because that was the time that Pennsylvania`s legal presence law went into effect."

Before then, PennDOT employees didn`t save your birth certificate, social security card and 2 proofs of Pennsylvania residency part of your driving record.

Campbell says, wow they do.

"The remaining 65% of our customers, they're going to need to verify those documents in person because prior to 2003, while we were checking and verifying all that information, we weren't imaging it into our system yet."

PennDOT plans on sending customers a post card starting in March if you`re not sure what group you fall into.

You can also check if PennDOT has those documents on it`s website starting in March too.

If got your first driver`s license before 2003, you`ll probably have to wait until the Fall to get the ball rolling.

"In September of this year, all 71 of our existing drivers license centers throughout the state will be equipped to begin pre-verifying people's documents."

Another common question is,  can I still get on a plane?

Yes, for now.

Pennsylvania has an extensions with the DHS through October 10th of 2018.

PennDOT tells me it plans to file another extension that will likely last until at least October of 2019.

Campbell says, "You can use your current license to get on a plane, no problem."

There has been some confusion what the REAL ID license will look like.

PennDOT rolled out a new design last year.

This is not a REAL ID license, it is just a new design and how you can tell it's not REAL ID, it's missing the gold star.

That is the special seal that allows the DHS to determine if you have REAL ID or not.

I know I threw a lot of dates at you, but remember this one: October 1st, 2020.

That is when PA can`t get any more extensions and the PA license you have now will not allow you to fly domestically, go onto any federal property or nucelar power plants in the US.

If you have any more questions about REAL ID, you can check out PennDOT's FAQ.

If you have a story you want Jackie to look into, FOX43 wants to find out. Send your story idea to Jackie in a Facebook message or send an email to FOX43findsout@fox43.com.