The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 based on the recommendation from the 9/11 Commission to prevent fraudulent issuance and use of identification and to further ensure the safety and security of Americans.  The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards and prohibited Federal agencies (like the TSA) from accepting identification that do not meet these standards.

How does this impact California travelers?

First off, this only impacts travelers flying domestically.  Passports are already REAL ID compliant so this has no impact on international travel.

California was issued an extension for REAL ID enforcement, allowing Federal agencies to accept existing California driver’s licenses and ID cards at Federal facilities until January 10, 2019. After that date, if the traveler cannot provide a REAL ID or an acceptable form of identification, they will not be permitted through the security checkpoint.

Acceptable forms of alternative ID include:

  • U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents)

Starting October 1, 2020, every travel passenger nationwide must present a REAL ID-compliant ID or another acceptable form of ID for domestic air travel. Travelers without a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card by October 1, 2020 can still fly domestically, but they must have a valid passport to board the plane.

TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States, but the companion will need acceptable identification.

California is already issuing REAL ID-compliant IDs so make plans to go get yours now if you don’t currently have an accepted form of alternative ID. Otherwise, you can take care of it as your driver’s license comes up for renewal.  The application fee is $35 for the Driver’s License or $30 for the ID card.  I’d suggest reading to prepare and ensure you gather the necessary documents.

California opened three new DMV Driver License Processing Centers statewide exclusively for driver license transactions including REAL ID. We lucked out and one of the centers is located here in San Jose at 2222 Senter Rd. (The story is that the lines are shorter since all they do in these offices are driver license transactions).  They offer walk-in and appointment services Monday – Friday from 8am to 5pm. You may make an appointment online or call toll free at 1-800-777-0133.