Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


Calm Down, California Real ID Holders: Your Cards Are Fine

Sample Real ID (Photo via California Department of Motor Vehicles)
We need to hear from you.
Today, put a dollar value on the trustworthy reporting you rely on all year long. The local news you read here every day is crafted for you, but right now, we need your help to keep it going. In these uncertain times, your support is even more important. We can't hold those in power accountable and uplift voices from the community without your partnership. Thank you.

By Jessica P. Ogilvie and Leslie Berestein Rojas

UPDATE: Real ID holders *still* don't have to go to the DMV if they only provided one proof of residency.

So, you decided to be an overachiever, plan ahead and get that Real ID everybody's been talking about. But then you heard the rumors: millions of those Real IDs aren't valid.

Well, we're here to ease your troubled mind -- the IDs are totally fine. And anyone in possession of one needs to do all of "nothing" to make sure they work, said Jaime Garza, a spokesperson for the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Support for LAist comes from

"Whoever has a Real ID today, that card -- as long as it hasn't expired -- is valid until it's up for renewal," he said.

Real IDs are issued as either a driver's license or an ID card, and any valid Real ID will be identifiable by the California bear and star logo in the upper right-hand corner.

Word about invalid Real IDs started to spread on Friday, when outlets including The Sacramento Bee reported that the Department of Homeland Security -- the entity responsible for creating guidelines around Real IDs -- told California's Department of Motor Vehicles that their procedure for validating Real ID cardholders' residency wasn't sufficient.

Required to get two documents proving residency, the DMV was instead getting one document, then mailing out Real IDs to approved applicants. If those IDs weren't sent back, the department considered their residency affirmed.

This process, however, was approved by DHS in 2012:

But that changed when DHS sent a letter on Nov. 21 informing the DMV that was no longer acceptable. The DMV replied, stating that they would revamp the process, and begin requiring applicants to bring two forms of proof of residency to the DMV in person as of April 2019:

So what is the actual deal with Real ID's? Here's some more info:

Q: What is a Real ID driver's license or identification card?

It's a driver's license or ID card that meets national security requirements implemented by Congress in 2005, in response to 9/11. The requirements, dubbed the Real ID Act, sought to create standardized, federally approved driver's licenses in all states.

If you're flying, entering a military base or entering other Federal facilities, you'll need to show either a Real ID or another federally-approved identification card (a passport is acceptable) as of Oct. 1, 2020. You won't be able to use your pre-Real ID driver's license from that date forward.

Support for LAist comes from

Q: Is obtaining a Real ID license or identification card necessary?

No, it is not. "A Real ID driver's license or ID card is optional," said DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez. "It is just an easier way for you to continue using your driver's license to board a domestic flight. That is really the main part of it."

Californians who don't wish to obtain a Real ID license or state identification may apply for what's called a "federal non-compliant" driver's license or ID card. The card will be marked with the words "federal limits apply." Californians who choose this option can continue to use their state licenses to drive and as a primary form of identification.

Q: How does this affect AB 60 driver's license holders?

According to the California DMV, the changes don't apply to the nearly one million immigrants who have driver's licenses under A.B. 60, the law that allows unauthorized immigrants in the state to apply for the licenses.

Q: Must those who want a Real ID license apply right away?

No, there is no rush, according to DMV officials. Until Oct. 1, 2020, a valid California driver's license may still be used to board a domestic flight or to enter a secure facility.

Q: How do I apply?

Those wishing to apply for a Real ID license or identification card must do so in person at a DMV office. Applicants must make an appointment and come prepared with proof of California residency, proof of their Social Security number, and proof of identity such as a U.S. passport, a birth certificate, an employment authorization document, a permanent resident card (green card) or a foreign passport with an approved form I-94 arrival and departure record. The DMV has posted a list of documents that Real ID applicants may use.

The cost is the same as for a regular California driver's license, $35. The cost is $30 for state ID cards. DMV officials said the processing time should be about four weeks.

Hey, thanks. You read the entire story. And we love you for that. Here at LAist, our goal is to cover the stories that matter to you, not advertisers. We don't have paywalls, but we do have payments (aka bills). So if you love independent, local journalism, join us. Let's make the world a better place, together. Donate now.

Most Read