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REAL ID FAQs

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REAL ID Frequently Asked Questions

En español

1. What is the REAL ID Act?

Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards. States have made considerable progress in meeting this key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and every state has a more secure driver's license today than before the passage of the Act.

2. How do I decide if I need a REAL ID or not?

Use this infographic to find out if you need a REAL ID.

REAL ID Infographic

3. Is REAL ID mandatory?

No. 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 after the new federal requirements begin 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 REAL ID driver license or ID card to do any of the following:

  • Apply for or receive federal benefits (Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, etc.)
  • Enter a post office or other federal facility that does not require identification.
  • Visit a hospital or receive life-saving services
  • Ride Amtrak or other public ground transportation

You will need a REAL ID driver license or ID card if you want to continue using your driver license or ID card to do any of the following:

  • Board a domestic flight starting October 1, 2020.
  • Enter secure federal facilities or military bases starting October 1, 2020. (Note: Check with the federal facility/military base before your visit to verify their identification requirements.)
  • Purchase firearms or ammunition. (Note: Check with the firearms dealer you plan to visit to verify their identification requirements)

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

To apply for a REAL ID driver license or identification card, you must visit a DMV field office and 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. No photocopies will be accepted.
  2. Proof of Social Security number, such as an SSN card, W-2 or paystub with full SSN. Original or certified copies are required. No photocopies will be accepted.
  3. California residency document, such as a utility bill, rental agreement, mortgage or medical document. Photocopies accepted.

NOTE: 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. Multiple name change documents will be needed if your legal name has changed multiple times. The name on your Social Security document also must match your name change document. Original or certified copies are required. No photocopies will be accepted.

You can fill out your application ahead of time by visiting eDLapp.dmv.ca.gov.

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

No. There is no need to rush into a DMV field office before it is time for your renewal. Valid California driver license/ID cards will be accepted to board a domestic flight and 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.

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

The best time to apply for a REAL ID card is when your license or ID card is up for renewal. You must apply for a REAL ID at a DMV field office (appointments are always recommended). You can fill out your application ahead of time by visiting eDLapp.dmv.ca.gov. If you renew online or by mail and choose to apply for a REAL ID driver license or ID card later, you will be required to visit a field office and pay for a new card.

Make sure you know your options. Valid California driver license/ID cards will be accepted to board a domestic flight and 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.

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

7. 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.

8. 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 California residency. You can fill out your application ahead of time by visiting eDLapp.dmv.ca.gov.

Once you have a REAL ID card, you may be eligible to renew by mail or online in the future.

9. 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.

10. 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 it began offering REAL ID driver licenses and identification cards (January 22, 2018), you must submit them again when applying for a REAL ID card in order to comply with federal REAL ID requirements.

11. 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 https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.

 

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