California ‘Real ID’ Driver’s License: What You Need to Know

Real ID isn’t just your typical driver’s license; it’s a form of identification accepted federally for activities like boarding domestic flights and accessing certain federal facilities. As of early 2024, nearly 18 million Californians already have a real ID. 

But keep in mind that this ID is not just for frequent travelers or those who often visit federal facilities. While it’s not mandatory, anyone planning to use their driver’s license for federal identification purposes, like flying domestically, will need a real ID. Except those under 18, who aren’t required to have one for flying. 

A California real ID driver’s license costs just $35, a price that is not too far from the $30 fee for federal non-compliant ID cards. In this article, we’ll tell you more about the Read ID, its requirements, and its benefits. 

Real ID Vs. Standard License

While a standard license may seem more convenient due to its lower requirements, opting for a real ID means having a higher level of security. With rising concerns about identity theft and fraud, having a real ID offers an added layer of protection by requiring more stringent documentation during the application process. This means that your identity is more thoroughly verified, reducing the chances of someone else assuming your identity for malicious purposes.

A real ID will allow you to access certain federal facilities and board domestic flights after the upcoming deadline when a standard license will no longer suffice. By getting a real ID now, you save yourself the hassle of having to update your license later to comply with these regulations. While it may require a bit more effort initially, the long-term benefits of enhanced security and convenience make choosing a real ID the smarter choice.

Required Documents for Application

To apply for a Real ID driver’s license in California, you must provide specific documents as proof of identity and residency. Be sure to have all the necessary documents before going to the DMV to streamline the application process. Here are the required documents: certificate,  application:  

  • One document to establish identity, such as a valid passport or a birth certificate
  • One document to verify your Social Security Number, like a Social Security card or a W-2 form.
  • Two documents to confirm your California residency, which can be utility bills, rental agreements, or mortgage statements.
  • If your name has changed due to marriage or another reason, you must also bring the legal document supporting the name change, like a marriage certificate or court order, 

After you have collected all the required documents, you can schedule an appointment at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. During your appointment, you’ll need to complete the application form for a real ID and have your photo taken. Remember to bring payment for the application fee as well. Once your application is processed and approved, your new California Real ID will be mailed to you. 

Deadline for Compliance

The deadline for complying with the Real ID requirements in California is fast approaching, set for May 2025. Starting on that date, the new federal requirements will take effect, and you’ll need a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card to board domestic flights or enter secure federal facilities.

If you haven’t updated your ID yet, make sure to gather the necessary documents and visit the DMV as soon as possible. Without a real ID, you may face inconveniences and restrictions when traveling within the United States.

Don’t wait until the last minute; the deadline is rapidly approaching, and DMV offices may experience increased demand closer to the enforcement date. By acting promptly, you can ensure a smooth transition to your Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card and avoid any travel disruptions.

Benefits of Having a Real ID

When you have a real ID, you can use it to board domestic flights within the United States, enter secure federal facilities, and visit military bases without needing additional identification. This means that you no longer need to carry a passport or other documents for these purposes, making your travel smoother and more convenient.

Another benefit of having a real ID is the enhanced security measures it offers. Real ID cards undergo more stringent verification processes during the application phase, which acts as a guarantee that the person holding the card is indeed who they claim to be. This added layer of security not only protects you but also contributes to overall safety and security within the state.


We have listed out what you need to get your California Real ID driver’s license. Be sure to gather all the required documents, submit your application before the deadline, and enjoy the benefits of having a real ID. Don’t wait until the last minute to obtain your real ID; start the process today and make sure to comply with the new requirements. Stay ahead of the game and get your real ID now!