How You Can Get a Federally Compliant California ID

Californians looking to fly around the country could soon be left grounded if they don't get a new license or ID card.

By Oct. 1, 2020, California needs to start issuing federally compliant licenses and identification cards under the REAL ID Act. Under the act, all states must meet Department of Homeland Security standards for their licenses and ID cards to be accepted for such things as boarding domestic flights or visiting military bases or other federal facilities.

The act, passed by Congress in 2005 in response to the 9/11 attacks, establishes "minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards" and prevents federal agencies from accepting those forms of identification from states that don't meet the DHS's standards.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles started offering REAL ID-compliant licenses and ID cards at DMV offices on Jan. 22, 2018.

Here's what you need to bring to get yours:

Proof of identity: Documents that would provide proof of identity are a certified copy of a US birth certificate, a valid US passport, an employment authorization document, a permanent resident card or a foreign passport with an approved I-94 form.

Proof of social security number: This would be your social security card, a W-2 form or a paystub with your full social security number.

California residency document: This could include a rental agreement, a mortgage or utility bill or medical, employment or school document.

Name change document: You would need to show a name change document if your proof of identity document is different from the name on your application. Valid name change documents would be a marriage certificate, divorce decree or other court document.

People should also know, however, that a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or ID card is optional; after Oc.t 1, 2020, people can still use a passport, passport card, military ID or other TSA-approved documents to travel.

So if it's optional, why should you go through the trouble of getting a REAL ID?

"It costs a lot more for a passport, and some people don't want to carry their passport around, since you need to have either a driver license or ID card on you," said DMV Assistant Director of Public Affairs Jessica Gonzalez.

People who do wish to get REAL ID forms of ID don't have to rush to the DMV immediately, either.

"If you choose to apply for a REAL ID, consider waiting until your renewal date, if possible," said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto in a press release.

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