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What Licensees Need to Know About Pennsylvania's New Driver's Licenses

*NEW* Please see the bottom of this page 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. 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:

  • 1D and 2D barcodes on the back of the card that contain data visible on the front of the card (replacing the magnetic strip)
  • Larger primary portrait and smaller "ghost" portrait
  • 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 secure federal buildings and facilities once Pennsylvania is no longer exempt from the REAL ID program. Currently, this exemption is set to expire on Aug. 1, 2019. 

However, while obtaining a REAL ID is optional, beginning Oct. 1, 2020, Pennsylvanians who wish to board a domestic commercial flight or enter a secure federal facility MUST HAVE EITHER a REAL ID-compliant license/identification card OR an acceptable alternative identification as approved by TSA

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 PennDOT's implementation of the REAL ID program, click here.
To see the U.S. Department of Homeland Security FAQs about the REAL ID program, click here.