Feds grant Pennsylvania 4 more months to comply with Real ID

Staff and wire report

HARRISBURG — Federal authorities are giving Pennsylvania a few more months to comply with a 2005 federal law that requires people to prove they are legal U.S. residents in order for their driver’s licenses to be valid for federal purposes.

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Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration made the announcement Thursday.

The extension for compliance with the Real ID law means that, for now, Pennsylvania licenses will be sufficient proof of identification to get into federal facilities.

A state legislative fix could be needed to avoid more widespread problems for travelers next year, when Real ID standards will be required for people boarding commercial airlines.

The state’s new deadline is June 5.

Unless requirements are met, Pennsylvania residents will need an alternative, secure form of identification — such as a passport — to gain admission to all federal facilities, military bases and nuclear power plants. The previous deadline was Jan. 30, 2017.

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State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Alexis Campbell has said the Department of Homeland Security is advising people to reach out to the agency monitoring the facility they plan on entering ahead of time to see what alternative forms of ID are accepted.

Effective Jan. 22, 2018, residents also will need an alternative form of ID accepted by the Transportation Security Administration to board a commercial flight.

The Real ID Act establishes minimum-security standards for state-issued licenses and IDs and prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and IDs from states that don't meet these standards, according to the Department of Homeland Security website.

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Standards include capturing an applicant's image at the beginning of a licensing process and requiring more in-person visits for license transactions.

Pennsylvania is one of eight noncompliant states in the country. The others are Kentucky, Maine, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Minnesota, Missouri and Washington, according to Homeland Security.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, serves on the Department of Homeland Security Committee in the House, and previously said he had hoped the department would grant Pennsylvania an extension.

Perry wrote in an email Thursday that he was glad he was able to coordinate with Pennsylvania officials and Congressional colleagues to petition for the extension.

"Residents of Pennsylvania can breathe a collective sigh of relief today about the temporary solution while long-term compliance is resolved among the US Department of Homeland Security, Governor Wolf, and Leaders of the Pennsylvania General Assembly," he wrote.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick wrote in an email that his agency would need at least 18 to 24 months to make all of the required changes.

Beginning to implement the required changes would require a repeal of previous legislative action, however, because the state Legislature approved Act 38 in 2012 to prohibit PennDOT or the governor from participating in the Real ID Act.

State Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, has said making the changes could cost Pennsylvania an estimated $150 million, and he argued the federal government needs to provide funding for its mandates.

— The Associated Press and York Dispatch reporter David Weissman contributed to this report.