IMPORTANT UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, Real ID deadlines have been extended. Read our updated post here.

California REAL ID Licenses Become Available this January.

REAL ID compliant California Licenses will be available beginning on January 22, 2018. As a result, we anticipate the DMV will be significantly busier in the coming months. Even if you don't need a REAL ID, you'll still be affected by the longer lines and appointment waits at the DMV. Read on to see our answers to all your REAL ID questions.


What is a REAL ID?

The REAL ID Act of 2005 calls for states to issue ID documents that meet a higher level of security and standards. The final part of implementation involves the TSA enforcing REAL ID-compliant ID's for air travel. That means that if you fly domestically eventually you will need a REAL ID or a passport, and the timelines for this vary by each state.


How does the REAL ID Act impact Californians?

If you have a federally approved identification already, such as a valid US Passport or military ID, you may use this as your form of identification to pass a TSA checkpoint at airports. You'll also be able to use this at secure federal buildings or military installations. However, if you don't have one of these (or don't want to carry around your passport every time you fly), you will need to get a Real ID by October 1, 2020.


Do I need to change my CA Driver's License on Jan 22, 2018

The short answer is no, since you have until October 2020 to do this. However, if you like getting things done early you may want to apply for this in early 2018. California is one of 24 states that have been granted an extension until October 1, 2020 for the use of their current non-REAL ID compliant license for domestic air travel. One exception that might prompt you to "go REAL" earlier is if you will need to visit a high-security or military facility.

Remember, a passport is still accepted as an appropriate ID (and TSA has a list of other documents too), so even if you do not have a REAL ID-compliant license after 2020, you can still travel using your passport.


Is REAL ID needed for voting or collecting benefits?

No. REAL ID is mainly for security and you can continue to use an existing license for voting purposes, applying or receiving Federal benefits, being licensed to drive, or accessing health services.

If I want to get a REAL ID, what do I need to do?

You will need to go to the DMV in person and show:

  1. Proof of identity (e.g. birth certificate, U.S. passport, foreign passport with approved form I-94)
  2. Proof of California residency (TWO pieces)
  3. Social Security Card or document proving your SSN (e.g. employment pay stub).

Unfortunately there is also a fee for this as well as a required visit to the DMV. If you do decide to get this done, we can help book an appointment at the DMV so you don't have to wait in line. Booking an appointment is free, and we can also find express appointments for you.

Quick recap

You don't need to change to REAL ID immediately after Jan 22, 2018, but if you were planning to get or change licenses around that time, you may want to get a REAL ID-compliant one to save you trouble before 2020. If you don't have a passport or don't want to carry around a passport every time you fly domestically, you'll need to get a federally recognized ID, such as a new REAL ID. And if you do decide to act now, definitely book a DMV appointment before going in. DMV's are booking several weeks out now, so why not book an express appointment now to get an appointment within 3-4 weeks.


Other Tidbits

🚘 Need a driver's license? Read our Ultimate Guide to Getting a Driver's License.

🙌🏽 Taking a Road Test? See our Top 5 Mistakes People Make on Their Road Test.

🚀 Like data? We've published road test pass rates for 12 California DMVs.

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