Since January 2018, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been issuing the new “Real ID” driver’s licenses and state identification cards. Beginning October 1, 2020, travelers boarding domestic commercial flights, entering a military base, or using their ID for other federal purposes will need to present a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or state ID card.
The Real ID is a license or ID that is compliant with the Real ID Act, a law passed by Congress in 2005 following 9/11 that sought to create standardized driver’s licenses in all states. The law established certain national security requirements for these state-issued documents.
While non-compliant licenses or IDs won’t be accepted, people can present other federally compliant documents, such as a passport, passport card, or military ID for taking flights and other federal uses. While obtaining a Real ID driver’s license or ID card is optional, it is an easier way for travelers to continue using their driver’s license to board a domestic flight.
Californians who don’t wish to obtain a Real ID license or state identification may apply for what’s called a “federal non-compliant” driver’s license or ID card. The card will be marked with the words “federal limits apply.”
Californians who choose this option may continue to use their state licenses to drive and use it as they do now. But they won’t be able to use them starting in October 2020 for taking a domestic flight, for example. If they don’t have a Real ID license or identification card, they’ll need to present a passport or other approved document to fly.
Applying for a Real ID license or identification card must be done in person at a California Department of Motor Vehicles office. The DMV says an applicant needs to show proof of identity: either a birth certificate, passport, or permanent resident card; a proof of Social Security number; two California residency documents (such as a rental agreement or mortgage bill, deed of trust, vehicle title, etc.) with the physical street address listed (no P.O. boxes), utility bill, or an employment document; and any name change documents (i.e., marriage certificate).
The cost is $35, which is the same as for a regular California driver’s license. Allow about four weeks to receive the Real ID in the mail.
Here is a printable checklist to make sure all documents accompany the applicant to a DMV field office.