Countdown: 10 Months Until You Need a REAL ID to Fly Within the U.S.

Contact:  Office of Public Affairs
2415 First Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95818
(916) 657–6437 |

July 5, 2022

Don’t wait until the last minute – get onboard with REAL ID

Sacramento – For more than a century, Californians have been required to have a license to drive a vehicle. Driver’s license or identification card holders have also used these cards as official ID for other purposes. Today, card holders are encouraged to upgrade or apply for a REAL ID to continue to use a California driver’s license or identification card to fly within the United States. Starting May 2023, the federal government will no longer let you use other versions of your driver’s license to pass through airport security checkpoints when you are catching a domestic flight.

“There is no need to wait until the last minute to get a REAL ID,” said DMV Director Steve Gordon. “After you have applied online and uploaded your documents, you can complete your transaction at a DMV office in about 10 minutes. So, don’t procrastinate.”

While the California driver’s license has evolved during the past 100 years, the REAL ID is the most secure version to date. To get one, start the application online at and upload the required documents. Bring the original documents and a printed copy or photo of the confirmation page to the DMV office appointment and receive an express experience.

Evolution of the California Driver’s License

The DMV began offering the federal compliant REAL ID in January 2018, a little more than a century after California issued its first driver’s license. Here’s a roadmap on the transformation of the driver’s license.

1913 California State Department of Engineering issues the state’s first “letter-sized” driver’s license, which was free and valid until it was suspended or revoked.

1958 Black-and-white photos are added to the driver’s license.

1972 Photos change from black-and-white to color.

1985 Licenses of Californians enrolled in organ donation program are marked with a dashed dot.

1990 Magnetic strip and hologram are added to the driver’s license.
For Californians under 21, the photo is placed on the right side of the card.

1991 Digital photos debut.

2010 Vertical driver’s license is issued for Californians under 21.

2018 REAL ID is offered.

Remember, most DMV tasks do not require an office visit. The DMV encourages customers to use its online services and other service channels to complete transactions, including vehicle registration renewals. Customers can also use the Service Advisor on the DMV website to learn their options to complete DMV business.


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