A new federal requirement invalidating many state driver’s licenses at the airport has put local travelers on a timeline: head to the Department of Motor Vehicles sometime in the next two years for a new kind of license, or get used to carrying a passport on even domestic trips.
California’s DMV started accepting applications for REAL ID driver’s licenses and ID cards last week. The new licenses meet updated federal security standards by requiring applicants to appear, in person, bearing three different pieces of evidence regarding their identity, residency and citizenship.
As of Oct. 1, 2020, the old style of California license will no longer be accepted as identification at airports or secure federal facilities such as courthouses or military bases.
The DMV recommends making an appointment before turning up with the required documents. Tracking down adequate evidence may take time before the appointment – in addition to proof of identity such as a U.S. birth certificate or a passport, applicants must bring proof of their Social Security number, which could be a Social Security card, a W-2 form or a paystub that lists the full number. The third required document includes proof of California residency such as a lease, utility bill or employment form that documents your address.
People who have changed their names for marriage or other reasons will need to provide additional documentation verifying the change. The new REAL ID licenses and ID cards cost $35 and $30, respectively, the same price as prior licenses. After the initial, mandatory, in-person visit, REAL ID licenses can be renewed by mail or online.
The new form of ID is not mandatory for California drivers, and the state will continue to offer licenses that do not meet the federal requirements for proof of identity and citizenship. In the years since the REAL ID program was first announced, critics have focused on concerns about how the new licenses impact immigrant drivers seeking to drive legally, and on concerns about the potential establishment of a national identity database.
Those who don’t get a REAL ID by the deadline can use a passport to board flights or enter federal facilities. The new rules do not affect driving or other local uses of a license – California driver’s licenses remain valid for the purposes of driving and remain a valid form of identification outside of federally controlled facilities. The Transportation Security Administration does not require children under 18 to supply identification, so the new rules should not affect their air travel.