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REAL ID & Philadelphia Marriage Certificates

Beginning next fall, all Pennsylvania residents are required to hold a REAL ID in order to fly domestically or enter government facilities. The process of securing a REAL ID is much more complicated than that of a driver’s license because REAL ID applicants are required to present four different types of legal documentation to PennDOT. These are: 1) proof of identity, 2) proof of social security number, 3) proof of physical Pennsylvania address, and 4) proof of all legal name changes (if applicable).

Number 4 has been causing problems for a number of applicants, especially those married in Philadelphia. “Proof of legal name change” refers to “official” marriage certificates or divorce decrees. The key word here is “official” which, according to PennDOT, does not mean the same thing as “original.” When two people are married in Philadelphia, they receive an “original” marriage certificate. A couple must physically order a certified marriage certificate through the Register of Wills in order for it to be considered “official.”

By way of explanation, a Philadelphia marriage certificate consists of three parts. The officiant keeps the top portion, the bottom portion is signed by the officiant and returned to the clerk’s office, and the middle portion is given to the married couple as a sentimental keepsake but has no legal value.

For a couple in need of an “official” or third portion of their marriage certificate, there are two options: they can head to the Marriage License Bureau office at City Hall where they will need to pay $25 fee for a staff member to make a copy of the certificate, or they can mail in a request with a $40 payment.

To avoid multiple trips to PennDOT, it’s important to know exactly what you’ll need ahead of time. For a list of all the documentation needed and procedures to follow to obtain a REAL ID, check out our recent blog post. You can also find more information at

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