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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 an airplane 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 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 an airplane. 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.

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: This card is not needed 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.

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).

If you have a valid US Passport or US 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.

There is no need to rush into a DMV field office. A valid California driver license or ID card can be used to board a commercial flight or enter secure federal facilities until October 1, 2020.

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.

You do not need a federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card to do any of the following:

  • Drive
  • 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

How Do I Prepare to Apply for a REAL ID Card?

A DMV field office visit is required to apply for the new REAL ID card. To apply for a REAL ID card, you must do the following:

  • Make an appointment (recommended) to visit a field office.
  • 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. Note: laminated documents will not be accepted (except a permanent resident card that can be laminated)  
  • 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 (not laminated), W-2, or paystub with your full SSN.

Note: Name change documents, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree, may be required if your identity document name (birth certificate) is different than the name on your application. See name change document information below.

The DMV will begin offering customers the option to apply for a REAL ID driver license or ID card on January 22, 2018.

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 marriage certificate, may be 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.

Note: Multiple name change documents may be needed if your name has changed multiple times.

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. Learn more about some of the new card features.

REAL ID Updates

The California DMV will continue to release updated information regarding REAL ID implementation.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

The US Department of Homeland Security has additional information.

REAL ID Fact Sheet

Frequently Asked Questions on REAL ID

REAL ID Public Service Announcement


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