As a result of federal requirements for state-issued identification documents, which Pennsylvania driver’s licenses and I.D. cards do not meet, Pennsylvania residents may no longer be able to use these forms of identification to access federal buildings, effective June 7, 2017, or board federally regulated commercial flights, effective January 22, 2018.
The Real I.D. Act, passed by the United States’ Congress in 2005, sets forth minimum security requirements for state-issued identification documentation, in an attempt to improve I.D. accuracy and inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification. This Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting state-issued identification documentation that does not meet all of its requirements.
Presently, Pennsylvania driver’s licenses and I.D. cards meet most, but not all, of the requirements of the Real I.D Act. This is a result of the Real I.D. Nonparticipation Act enacted in Pennsylvania in 2012, which prohibits the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and all other Commonwealth agencies from participating in the Real I.D. Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder. The Real I.D. Nonparticipation Act was passed largely due to concerns that compliance with certain provisions of the federal law would result in an invasion of the privacy of Pennsylvania residents, as the Real I.D. Act would require private information of Pennsylvania residents to be stored in a national database, and consequently a security breach in any Department of Motor Vehicles office across the country would expose the private and confidential information of Pennsylvania citizens. Additionally, there were concerns with the significant cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers to comply with all of the federal requirements, which some estimated to be as high as $300 million.
As a result of Pennsylvania’s non-compliance, the Department of Homeland Security issued a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation this past October, advising PennDOT of the anticipated restrictions on access by Pennsylvania residents to federal buildings and commercial flights. The restriction on access to federal buildings was initially scheduled to take effect on January 30, 2017; however, the Department of Homeland Security granted Pennsylvania an extension, in order to provide the State additional time to come into compliance with the Real I.D. Act. If compliance is not achieved or the Department of Homeland Security does not grant further extensions, Pennsylvania residents may need to use alternative forms of identification to access federal buildings in June 2017 and commercial flights in January 2018.
Each federal agency will determine which forms of identification will be accepted in order to access its office. Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to contact the federal agency, prior to making a visit, in order to determine acceptable forms of identification. Examples of acceptable identification documents identified by TSA are: U.S. Passport, U.S. Passport card and U.S. military I.D.One exception to the anticipated prohibition against accepting Pennsylvania driver’s licenses and I.D. cards is that Pennsylvania residents will be able to use state-issued driver’s licenses and I.D. cards to access federal buildings, if applying for or receiving federal benefits.