Politics & Government

You can get a Real ID in California now. What is it?

What is REAL ID?

Starting Jan. 22, Californians need to apply for a new, federally-approved driver's license or ID before the old ones become invalid for air travel.
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Starting Jan. 22, Californians need to apply for a new, federally-approved driver's license or ID before the old ones become invalid for air travel.

The state of California began issuing federal Real ID cards Monday to residents.

On Oct. 1, 2020, the federal government will require driver’s licenses or identification cards to be Real ID-compliant to board airplanes and enter military bases or other federal facilities, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

U.S. passports, military ID cards and other Transportation Safety Administration-approved IDs will also still be accepted to board planes, however.

The federal Real ID Act of 2005 was passed in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, with backers saying it would increase security by providing standard tamper- and counterfeit-resistant cards for air travel.

Real ID cards became available Monday in California as an option, according to the DMV.

Do I need a Real ID?

“There is no need to rush into a DMV field office,” reads an FAQ on the department’s website. “A valid California driver license or ID card can be used to board a commercial flight or enter secure federal facilities until October 1, 2020.”

The site also notes that not all Californians need Real IDs.

“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,” the site says. Normal California driver’s licenses are still acceptable for driving, visiting hospitals, applying for federal benefits, and entering post offices or other federal facilities that don’t require Real IDs.

How do I apply for a Real ID?

If you do need a Real ID, you must apply in-person at a DMV office with proof of identity, such as a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanenet resident card or foreign passport with approved form I-94. You also must show a California residency document and proof of your Social Security number.

Customers who have married, divorced or otherwise changed their names also may need to provide a name-change document.

The shutdown of the federal government does not affect the Real ID process. The Department of Motor Vehicles is a state agency.

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