Pennsylvania Launches Redesign Driver's License that Is Not Real ID Compliant

Real ID compliant licenses are expected to be available in Pennsylvania by 2019.

by Daniel Patrick Sheehan, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) / June 22, 2017

(TNS) -- The new-look Pennsylvania driver license, with added security features and a larger photo, will be rolled out statewide by the end of October.

But don't grow too fond of it. You may have to get another license entirely in a couple of years.

That's because the redesign, aimed at thwarting fraud by making licenses harder to counterfeit, doesn't satisfy the demands of the Real ID Act, the 9/11-inspired federal law regulating identification requirements at airports and other federal facilities.

Pennsylvania and many other states are working to implement Real ID after refusing for years to take part in the program because of cost and privacy worries. Gov. Tom Wolf signed Real ID compliance into law last month.

By that time, the license redesign — a routine security update — had already been in the works for two years, PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell said.

Real ID compliant licenses are expected to be available in Pennsylvania by 2019. At that time, residents who want one will have to take another trip to a PennDOT facility to get a license that will look essentially the same but have a gold star stamped on it.

Real ID isn't mandatory, but residents who don't want to participate will have to show alternative IDs, such as passports, at airports and other federal facilities.

In the meantime, the redesign "is an important component of PennDOT's ongoing work to enhance and protect the integrity of the driver license and identification card issuance process," PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said in a statement.

The redesigned licenses will be phased in over the next four-year renewal cycle, so current and new card designs will be in circulation during the transition period.

In addition to the larger primary photo, the license will have a bar code with data from the front of the card unique to the cardholder and a laser-perforated keystone outline. It will also have an optically-variable pattern with the state motto, "Virtue, Liberty, Independence," keystone outline and "1787," the year Pennsylvania ratified the U.S. Constitution.

The magnetic strip has been eliminated on the back of the newly designed driver's license and identification cards.

Pennsylvania is under a Real ID enforcement extension until Oct. 10, which means residents will not face access issues when entering federal facilities through that date. Campbell said PennDOT will continue to request extensions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until Real ID products are available.

If the extensions aren't granted — an unlikely prospect, given that the state is moving toward compliance — residents will need to show alternative IDs beginning in January.

The Real ID law was passed by Congress in 2005 and met with opposition from civil liberties groups, who regarded a uniform federal license as a potential privacy threat, and local governments objecting to an unfunded federal mandate.

©2017 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.