REAL ID Act
How the REAL ID Act Impacts Californians
Beginning October 1, 2020, the federal government will require your driver license or identification (ID) card to be REAL ID compliant if you wish to use it as identification to board a domestic flight or enter military bases and most federal facilities.
The California DMV began offering a federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card as an option to customers on January 22, 2018.
If you have a valid U.S. passport, passport card, military ID, or another form of Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) approved identification, these documents will still be accepted to board a domestic flight. Federally compliant identification will also be required to access military bases and most federal facilities.
The federal REAL ID Act of 2005 was passed in response to the events of 9/11. For more on the REAL ID Act, visit the Department of Homeland Security website.
Do I Need a REAL ID?
The California DMV is offering two different types of cards, REAL ID Compliant DL/ID cards and Federal Non-Compliant DL/ID cards.
Before you renew your driver license or identification card, or apply for one, you must choose between a REAL ID card and a federal non-compliant one. Use our REAL ID infographic (PDF) to help you decide which one is right for you.
REAL ID Compliant DL/ID cards allow applicants to:
- Use it as identification to board an airplane.
- Enter military bases and most federal facilities.
Note: These requirements do not go into effect until October 1, 2020.
Federal Non-Compliant DL/ID cards will consist of:
- All DL/ID cards other than REAL ID Compliant DL/ID cards including DLs issued pursuant to AB 60.
If you do not apply for a federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card, you will receive a Federal Non-Compliant card, which displays the words “Federal Limits Apply.” This card cannot be used to board a domestic flight or visit a military base or certain federal facilities beginning October 1, 2020.
Important: Make sure to check with the federal facility/military base before you visit to verify their identification requirements.
ATTENTION: If you plan to purchase firearms or ammunition and have a federal non-compliant driver license or ID card, you may need to show satisfactory proof of legal presence. Make sure you check with the firearms dealer you plan to visit to verify their identification requirements.
The federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card is optional and only one federal compliant REAL ID card may be issued (DL or ID). You cannot apply for both a REAL ID driver license and a REAL ID identification card.
If you have a valid U.S. passport or passport card, military ID or other federally approved identification, you may use this as your form of identification to pass a TSA checkpoint at airports nationwide and visit a secure federal building or military installations at any time. Make sure to check with the federal facility/military base before you visit to verify their identification requirements.
A valid California driver license or ID card can be used to board a domestic flight or enter secure federal facilities until October 1, 2020. After that date, a REAL ID card or other federally approved identification will be required.
If you know you will not be boarding a domestic flight or visiting a secure federal facility or military base, you do not need a REAL ID driver license or ID card. However, if you renew or apply for a Federal Non-Compliant driver license or ID, you will receive a card with “Federal Limits Apply” in the upper right corner.
You do not need a federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card to do any of the following: (Please note this list is not exhaustive and only includes some examples)
- Apply for or receive federal benefits (Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, etc.)
- Enter a federal facility that does not require ID (i.e. a post office)
- Visit a hospital or receive life-saving services
- Participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations
How Do I Apply for a REAL ID Card?
A DMV field office visit is required to apply for a REAL ID driver license or ID card. Here is what else you need to do to apply:
- Make an appointment (recommended) to visit a field office.
- To save time, complete the electronic driver license and ID card application online before your field office visit.
- Provide proof of identity, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate, valid U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved form I-94.
- Show a California residency document that includes your physical California resident address. Documents addressed to a PO Box must include the physical resident address on documents (for example utility bills).
- Present proof of your Social Security number, such as a SSN card, W-2 or paystub with your name and full SSN.
- Note: You can request a replacement Social Security card online if you meet certain requirements.
Note: Name change documents, such as a certified copy of a marriage certificate or divorce decree, is required if your identity document name (birth certificate) is different than the name on your application. See name change document information below.
View the list of document options to apply for a REAL ID card.
Married, Divorced, or Name Change? You May Need to Provide a Name Change Document.
Name change document(s), such as a certified copy of a marriage certificate, is required to issue a REAL ID driver license or ID card in your true full name. If the name on your identity document is different from the name you provided on your application, you must submit a document that establishes your true full name, for example:
- Adoption documents that contain the legal names as a result of adoption.
- A name change document that contains the legal name both before and after the name change.
- Marriage certificate.
- A certificate, declaration, or registration document verifying the formation of a domestic partnership.
- Dissolution of marriage/domestic partnership document that contains the legal name as a result of the court action.
Important note: Multiple name change documents are needed if your name has changed multiple times.
Note: Certified copies of all name change documents are required.
REAL ID Checklist
Use the REAL ID interactive checklist to gather the documents you will need to apply for a California REAL ID driver license or ID card.
New Driver License and Identification Card Design
Beginning January 22, 2018, all California driver license and ID cards have a new design. The federal compliant REAL ID card has a bear and star in the upper right corner while the Federal Non-Compliant card has the words “Federal Limits Apply.” Learn more about some of the new card features and card markings.
Complete an Electronic Application before Your Office Visit
Customers can complete their driver license or ID card application before visiting a field office. The easy-to-use online application guides applicants through the process of filling out the required fields for a driver license or ID card. When customers arrive at a DMV field office, technicians can quickly access the completed form. Complete the application at eDLapp.dmv.ca.gov.
REAL ID Updates
The US Department of Homeland Security has additional information.