Confused About Real ID? You’re Not Alone.

If you were issued a Real ID compliant license prior to January 1, 2019, you might be in for a nasty surprise:  it might not be compliant after all. California residents who went the route of early adoption were only required by the DMV to provide one proof of residency document. At that time, that was perfectly kosher with the Department of Homeland Security.

Says Jaime Garza, a spokesperson for the DMV, “Originally, the Department of Homeland security allowed one proof [of] California residency from applicants, and then the second residency was satisfied if the U.S. Postal Service did not return the Real ID card that was mailed to them.”

But then the DHS changed its mind.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles plans to notify any residents by mail whose Real ID’s no longer meet the federal requirements. Thankfully, the fix is simple:  included in the letter will be a prepaid envelope and a piece of paper with your mailing address and a check box. All residents will have to do is verify their address, then send the form back.

For those who prefer a more modern approach, Californians will also be able to submit this second proof of residence online. The letter will provide details explaining how you can go about doing this.

Residents with ID’s that don’t meet the federal requirements will not be required to visit a DMV field office, although they certainly may if they’d like. (Though we’re not sure why anyone would want to.)

Since Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005, there’s been a lot of confusion about the process. Who will need them? How does one make sure they’re compliant. More than 2.5 million passengers fly in and out of U.S. airports each day, the vast majority of whom rely on their state-issued driver’s license as their primary form of identification at TSA checkpoints. But come October 1, 2020, these licenses must be Real ID compliant. If they aren’t, and you don’t have another acceptable form of ID (e.g. a valid passport, etc.), you won’t be allowed to fly.

If you haven’t already gotten your Real ID, and you’re unsure whether you will need to, the Department of Motor Vehicles has a handy infographic to help you determine that.

If you do need one, keep reading to find out more about the process.

How To Acquire a Real ID

Though it might be a bit of a hassle, it’s actually really easy to get a Real ID. In fact, the requirements virtually no different than what it takes to become a California citizen after moving here from another state.

In order to apply for a Real ID you will first have to do a bit of document collection. Here’s where the hassle comes into play. When you visit the DMV to apply, you MUST present original or certified documents (meaning, no photocopies) proving the following:  your identity, your Social Security, and your residency.

Additional original or certified documents will also be required if you have changed your legal name. It’s also uncertain how Real ID might affect transgender or gender-nonconforming people, and whether those who have changed their gender markers on their licences through California’s recently streamlined process will also require additional documentation.

From the DMV website, here’s the step-by-step process to applying for a Real ID:


Step One:  Plan your DMV visit by making an appointment to visit a field office. (This is not a requirement, but is strongly recommended.)

Step Two:  Complete the electronic driver license and ID card application online before your office visit.


Step Three:  See the List of documents to apply for a REAL ID and bring original or certified documents to your DMV visit that prove the following:

  1. Identity, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, permanent resident card, or unexpired foreign passport with valid U.S. visa and approved I-94 form.
  2. Name change documents, such as a certified marriage certificate, if the name on your identity document (for example, a birth certificate) is different than your current legal name.
  3. Social Security number, such as Social Security Card (here’s how to order a replacement one) or W-2 form with full SSN.
  4. California residency, such as home utility bill that lists your name and physical address. You need TWO of these
  5. View the complete list of document options (PDF) to apply for a REAL ID card.
  6. Photocopies are accepted for residency documents


Step Four:  Pay the application fee: $35 for Driver License or $30 for ID Card.

Once you receive a compliant Real ID, you can use it as you would your current driver’s license, and also use it to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility that requires identification, including after the new federal requirements go into effect on October 1, 2020.

If you have any questions about Real ID and how it might affect you or your family, you can check out the resources below, or reach out to us on our Facebook page. We can’t promise to have all the answers, but we can at the very least get you pointed in the right direction.

If you do wish to get a Real ID, keep in mind that it will not actually be required for flying until October 1, 2020. Meaning, until that date, you will continue to be able to use your current license or ID Card to fly. But after that date… no go.

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Check Out These References for Further Reading:

Real ID Act.” State of California. Retrieved 24 May 2018.

Real ID Public FAQs.” Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 24 May 2018.

What Is Real ID? Everything You Need To Know About The New TSA Requirement.” The Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 May 2018.

Here’s the fix from the DMV for your Real ID driver’s license.” The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 May 2018.

2019-05-24T17:15:46-08:00May 24th, 2019|California Driver, Car Safety|0 Comments