What Is REAL ID?

The federal REAL ID Act places new rules on which forms of identification may be used to board flights within the United States (U.S.) and enter secure federal facilities, such as military bases, federal courthouses, and other federal facilities.  A California issued REAL ID driver license or identification card meets these new requirements and is marked with a gold bear and star.

Applying for a REAL ID requires proofs of identity, social security number (SSN) if eligible, California residency, and a trip to a DMV office.

Individuals applying for or renewing an AB 60 driver license are not eligible to receive a REAL ID driver license or identification card.

Which card is right for me?

Bear + star in top right corner = REAL ID
  • Federal compliant?
  • Use to board domestic flights after Oct. 1, 2020?
  • Use to enter secure federal facilities after Oct. 1, 2020?

Federal Limits Apply = Not REAL ID
  • Federal compliant?
  • Use to board domestic flights after Oct. 1, 2020?
  • Use to enter secure federal facilities after Oct. 1, 2020?

* May be used as photo identification, but not as evidence of legal presence in U.S. Additional documentation may be required.

Resources

For more information on REAL ID, visit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) websites.

REAL ID Document Checklist

REAL ID Fact Sheet

REAL ID Infographic (PDF)

Driver License and Identification Card Options

DMV Speakers Bureau

The DMV Speakers Bureau offers REAL ID informational presentations to groups of 40 or more.
Send your request to DMVSpeakersBureau@dmv.ca.gov.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a REAL ID?

A REAL ID is a driver license or identification card that is also a federally accepted form of identification. It can be used to board a domestic flight within the U.S. and enter secure federal facilities, such as military bases, federal courthouses, and other secure federal locations. 

Do I have to get a REAL ID?

No. A REAL ID driver license or identification card is optional.

A REAL ID is needed if:

  1. You wish to continue to use your driver license or identification card to board domestic flights within the U.S.
  2. Enter secure federal facilities.

If you want to continue to use a U.S. passport, U.S. passport card, military ID, enhanced driver license, or other federally accepted identification to do those things, you do not need to get a REAL ID, however, it is recommended.

Do I need a REAL ID to…

Apply for or receive federal benefits from organizations, such as Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, etc.? 

Enter a post office, or other secure federal facility that does not require identification?

Visit a hospital or receive life-saving services?

Ride Amtrak or other public ground transportation?

  • No, you do not need a REAL ID to do any of the above items. 
Do minors need a REAL ID card in order to board a domestic flight?

No. The TSA does not require anyone under the age of 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the U.S. However, the companion will need acceptable identification, such as a REAL ID, U.S. Passport, U.S. Passport Card, DHS Trusted Traveler Card, etc. (see the TSA’s full list of acceptable identification). 

I believe I need a REAL ID. When should I apply?

Applying for a REAL ID depends on the type of  identification you currently use, and when it expires. Because of high demand for REAL ID between now and October 1, 2020 (when the new federal identification requirements begin), DMV recommends you wait to apply for a REAL ID at the time of your renewal cycle.

To determine whether you should apply for your REAL ID now or later, take our short and simple Do I need a REAL ID? quiz. It will tell you your options and when you should apply.

Can I get a REAL ID by renewing my current driver license or identification card by mail or online?

No. Since a REAL ID is a form of federal identification, you must visit a DMV office in person when applying for a REAL ID for the first time. You will need to show documentation proving your identity, California residency, and that you have an SSN (if eligible). View full list of all acceptable documentation

However, there ARE things you can do online ahead of time to apply for your REAL ID! Fill out the online application, make an appointment or check wait times at your local office, and create a checklist of everything you need to bring to DMV.  

Once you have a REAL ID driver license or identification card, you may be eligible to renew by mail or online in the future.

Which documents do I need to present to apply for a REAL ID?

The information below is a high-level overview of documentation requirements. We strongly recommend visiting our Real ID Checklist for full details. It is the best way to make sure you understand and satisfy all document requirements, and gather all of the appropriate documentation before your visit. 

  • ONE identity document that shows your date of birth and true full name, such as a valid U.S. passport, certified copy of U.S. birth certificate, valid Permanent Resident Card, etc.

    If the true full name shown on your document does not match your current true full name, additional name change documentation is required.

  • ONE document showing your name and full SSN, such as a Social Security card, W-2, pay stub showing full SSN.
  • TWO different documents proving California residency that include the first and last name and mailing address that will be shown on your REAL ID driver license or identification card. Examples include a mortgage bill, home utility or cell phone bill, vehicle registration card, and bank statement.

View full list of all acceptable documentation

What if I don’t want or need a REAL ID? What will the DMV give me instead?

If you choose not to get a REAL ID, you will receive a driver license or identification card that reads “Federal Limits Apply”. This means you will not be able to use it to board flights within the U.S. or visit secure federal facilities such as military bases, federal courthouses, or other federal buildings beginning October 1, 2020.

Be sure to check with the federal facility or military base you plan to visit to verify their identification requirements.

I already have a REAL ID and recently received a letter from the DMV asking for a second proof of residency document. Why do I need to do this?

When the California DMV first began offering REAL ID driver license and identification cards in January 2018, only one proof of California residency document was required. Shortly thereafter, DHS changed the requirement to two proofs of residency. Now, anyone who provided only one proof of residency when they originally applied for their REAL ID will receive a letter explaining how to satisfy the second proof of residency requirement. DMV began mailing these letters in late May 2019. If you have not received a letter, please submit a Request for Replacement of Second Residency Letter.

For more information (and answers) about the second residency letter and what you need to do, see our Second Residency FAQs.

I presented my proof of identity and SSN documents when I first applied for my driver license. Why do I have to present them again to apply for a REAL ID?

A REAL ID is a new form of identification that has its own documentation requirements. Even if you previously submitted your proof of identity and SSN documents to DMV for a driver license or identification card, you must do so again in order to meet federal REAL ID application requirements. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation.