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REAL ID FAQs

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REAL ID Frequently Asked Questions

En español

1. Is REAL ID mandatory?The federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card is optional.

If you have a valid U.S. passport or U.S. passport card, military ID, or other federally approved identification, you may use this it as your form of identification to board a domestic flight or enter certain federal facilities.  

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: (Please note this list is not exhaustive and only includes some examples)

  • 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
  • Participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations

2. What documents do I need to apply for a REAL ID?

To apply for a REAL ID driver license or identification card, you need to provide:

  1. Proof of identity such as an original or certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, employment authorization, permanent resident card, or unexpired foreign passport with valid U.S. visa and approved I-94 form.
  2. Proof of Social Security Number such as an SSN card, W-2, or paystub with full SSN. Original or certified copies are required.
  3. California residency document such as a utility bill, rental agreement, mortgage bill, or medical document.
  4. If your identity document is in a different name, you will need to provide a certified name change document such as a marriage license, divorce decree or court document. No photocopies will be accepted.

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

3. Do I need to get a REAL ID card right away?

No. There is no need to rush into a DMV field office. Valid California driver license/ID cards will be accepted by TSA to board a domestic flight and by federal agents to enter secure federal facilities until October 1, 2020.  Additionally, if you have a valid U.S. passport or U.S. passport card, military ID, or other federally approved identification, you may continue to use this as your form of identification after October 1, 2020, for federal purposes.

If you do not apply for a REAL ID, you will receive a Federal Non-Compliant card with the words “Federal Limits Apply,” when you renew your current driver license or ID card.

IMPORTANT: Check with the federal facility/military base before you visit to verify their identification requirements.

4. Do I need a REAL ID to purchase firearms and ammunition?

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. 

5. My license expires before October 1, 2020. What should I do?

Know your options. Valid California driver license/ID cards will be accepted by TSA to board a domestic flight and by federal agents to enter secure federal facilities until October 1, 2020. Additionally, if you have a valid U.S. passport or U.S. passport card, military ID, or other federally approved identification, you may use this as your form of identification for federal purposes.

The easiest way to apply for a REAL ID card is at the time of your renewal, to save yourself a future field office visit before October 1, 2020. If you choose to apply for a REAL ID driver license or ID card later, you will still be required to visit a field office and pay for a new card.

IMPORTANT: Check with the federal facility/military base before you visit to verify their identification requirements.

6. Will I be able to renew my driver license or ID card by mail or online and still receive a REAL ID card?

No. To apply for a REAL ID card, you will need to visit a DMV field office and provide documents verifying your identity, social security number, and residency. Once you have a REAL ID card, you may be able to renew by mail or online.

7. Why do I have to present my birth certificate and social security card again when I did this when I first applied for my driver license?

If you submitted identity documents to the DMV before January 22, 2018, you must submit them again when applying for a REAL ID card in order to comply with federal REAL ID requirements.

8. How much does a REAL ID card cost?

The fees for a REAL ID card are the same as those currently charged for a driver license or ID card.  

9. Can I use my current California driver license or ID card to board a domestic flight?

Valid California driver license/ID cards will be accepted by TSA to board a domestic flight and by federal agents to enter secure federal facilities until October 1, 2020. After that date, you must have a REAL ID compliant card or another federally approved document to board a domestic flight.

10. Will a minor need a REAL ID card to board a domestic flight?

TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification. For a current list visit TSA’s website at www.tsa.gov.

11. Will TSA accept identity documents other than REAL ID cards?

Yes. Some examples of federally approved identification TSA will accept include a valid U.S. passport or U.S. passport card or military ID.  For a current list, visit TSA’s website at www.tsa.gov.

12. Is a REAL ID a different form of identification than the current California driver license or ID card?

Yes. A REAL ID is a federally approved card that can be used to board a domestic airplane and access certain federal facilities after October 1, 2020.  The current California driver license/ID card does not meet the requirements of a REAL ID and will not be accepted by TSA to board a domestic flight or by federal agents to enter certain federal facilities beginning October 1, 2020. However, both can be used for driving and identification.

13. If I don’t apply for a REAL ID, what card will I receive?

You will receive a federal non-compliant driver license or ID card with the words “Federal Limits Apply” displayed in the upper right corner. This card cannot be used to board domestic flights or visit military bases or secure federal facilities beginning October 1, 2020. Check with the federal facility/military base before you visit to verify their identification requirements.

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