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What Licensees Need to Know About
Pennsylvania's New driver's licenses

*NEW* Please see below for information about REAL ID-compliant licenses and photo identification cards.

In Summer 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) began issuing new driver’s licenses and photo identification cards. While these new designs were issued as a pilot program, a full rollout began in Fall 2017. The new designs will be phased in over a 
four-year renewal cycle. PennDOT advises that both pre-2017 and new card designs will be in circulation during this four-year transition period.
These licenses and ID cards look very different from the outgoing design. They also have additional enhanced security features that improve fraud prevention and protect from counterfeiting and alteration.

Some of the enhanced features include:
  • Elimination of the magnetic strip on the back of the card
  • Larger primary portrait and smaller "ghost" portrait
  • 1D and 2D barcodes, which contain data visible on the front of the card
  • Laser perforation – the Keystone outline with “PA” is embedded into the card stock and can be observed by holding the card up to any light source
  • Laminate – Each card is laminated with an optically variable pattern with the state motto, “Virtue, Liberty, Independence,” Keystone outline, and “1787,” the year when the U.S. constitution was ratified by Pennsylvania
The elimination of the magnetic strip means these licenses/ID cards may not be able to be scanned by a card reader unless and until updates are made to the card reader by its manufacturer or provider. Some licensees are manually typing in the driver’s license number or the ID card number into their point-of-sale systems to ensure they are not knowingly serving underaged patrons. Licensees can also ask patrons to complete and sign a Declaration of Age card (PLCB-931).

The PLCB created a short video so you can familiarize yourself with the new designs and features of the licenses and photo ID cards. This video explains how you can check IDs with the new design while using the F.E.A.R. (Feel, Examine, Ask, Return or Refuse) method. 
To learn more about these designs, visit the PennDOT website


Beginning in the first quarter of 2019, PennDOT will begin issuing driver's licenses and photo identification cards that are compliant with federal REAL ID standards. REAL ID-compliant documents will allow bearers to board domestic commercial flights and enter certain federal buildings and facilities once Pennsylvania is no longer exempt from the REAL ID program. An exemption is set to expire on Oct. 10, 2018 – PennDOT has applied for another extension – however, beginning Oct. 1, 2020, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID-compliant license, identification card, or an acceptable alternative identification as approved by TSA to board domestic commercial flights or enter a federal facility without a secondary form of U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-approved identification.

PennDOT plans to begin issuing REAL ID-compliant licenses and identification cards in March 2019. The visible difference between the "new" licenses described in the section above and a REAL ID-compliant product is that a REAL ID-compliant product will be marked with a gold star. 

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is working with PennDOT to remain up to date about the implementation of REAL ID-compliant products. The PLCB will provide images of sample REAL ID-compliant products as the implementation date nears.

To learn more about the PennDOT REAL ID program, click here.

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