Ask the DMV: Prepare for new regulations with REAL ID

Frankie Wenson
Guest column

If you have not yet applied for your REAL ID, be aware that federal requirements for travel will soon go into effect, making this the last spring break you can travel without one.

Starting May 2023, you will need to show a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card, or other federally approved identification — like a passport — at TSA airport checkpoints nationwide or to visit secure federal facilities.

Q: What is a REAL ID?

A: A REAL ID is a driver’s license or identification card that is also a federally accepted form of identification. And soon, the federal REAL ID Act places new rules on which forms of identification may be used to board flights within the U.S. and to enter secure federal facilities, such as military bases and federal courthouses. A California issued REAL ID driver’s license or identification card meets these new requirements and is marked with a gold bear and star in the top right corner.

Applying for a REAL ID requires one proof of identity document (like a birth certificate or passport), two California residency documents (like a bank statement or utility bill)), your social security number and a trip to a DMV office. Your office visit will be quick if before you go you fill out the online application and upload your documents. U.S. citizens and all legal residents of the United States can apply for a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card. Individuals applying for or renewing an AB 60 driver’s license are not eligible to receive a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card.

Q: I just received a renewal notice for my driver’s license and am eligible to renew by mail. Can I obtain my REAL ID by mail also?

A: Since the REAL ID is a form of federal identification, you are required to visit a DMV office in person when applying for one for the first time. However, you will be able to renew your REAL ID online when the time comes.

Take advantage of the online options to speed up your DMV visit to get your REAL ID. Go to to start your application online and upload documents using the online services portal. Then take your uploaded documents with you when you visit your local DMV office and bring applicable fees. You can speed things up by scheduling an appointment in advance or check local wait times and head right into the DMV office of your choice to finish your application.

For more information or answers to questions not listed here, please visit

This column was submitted by Frankie Wenson in partnership with the DMV.

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