California DMV to Offer REAL ID Driver Licenses and ID Cards in 2018

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Federal Enforcement Begins October 1, 2020

Sacramento – The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will begin offering the option to apply for a federal compliant REAL ID driver license or identification (ID) card beginning January 22, 2018 at DMV offices statewide. Californians may choose either a REAL ID or a federal non-compliant card.

The federal REAL ID Act of 2005 was passed by Congress in response to the events of 9/11. Under the REAL ID Act, all states must meet requirements set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for its driver licenses and identification cards to be accepted for federal purposes, such as boarding a domestic flight or visiting a military base or certain federal facilities, by October 1, 2020. 

The federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card is optional.  A valid US Passport or US Passport Card, military ID, or other federally approved identification can be used to board a domestic flight or enter certain federal facilities.  If a customer has another federally approved identification, does not fly, or does not plan to visit a military base or certain federal facilities, they do not need a REAL ID and will have the option to apply for a federal non-compliant driver license or ID card.

Valid California driver licenses and ID cards will continue to be accepted by TSA to board a domestic flight and by federal agents to enter certain federal facilities until October 1, 2020. After that date, a REAL ID or other federally accepted ID will be required.

“The DMV wants to make sure our customers are informed about their choices starting in January 2018,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said. “If you choose to apply for a REAL ID, consider waiting until your renewal date, if possible. We always encourage customers to make an appointment when visiting a field office.”

A DMV field office visit is required to apply for a REAL ID card.  Applicants should make an appointment and must be prepared with the following documents:

  • Proof of Identity: Such as a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, a valid U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved form I-94.
  • Proof of Social Security Number: Such as a Social Security card, W-2, or paystub with full SSN.
  • California Residency Document: Such as a rental agreement, mortgage bill, utility bill, medical, employment or school document.
  • Name Change Document: This may be required if your identity document is different from the name on your application.  Such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, other court document.

Customers do not have to come into a field office immediately to apply for a REAL ID card. They can still use a valid California driver license or ID card for federal purposes until October 1, 2020.  Customers can always use a passport, military ID, or TSA-approved identification documents in lieu of a federally approved driver license.

A REAL ID is not needed to:

  • Drive
  • Vote
  • Apply for or receive federal benefits (Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration)
  • Enter a federal facility that does not require ID (post office)
  • Visit a hospital or receive life-saving services

For more information on REAL ID, visit