Soon to fly domestic, you'll need REAL ID


The California Department of Motor Vehicles is now issuing new driver's licenses - called the REAL ID - that complies with a federal mandate that all states create licenses and licensing procedures deemed more secure by officials at the Transportation Security Administration.

Beginning on Oct. 1, 2020, federal security officials will no longer accept the current California driver's license as valid identification for domestic air travel.

Many of the state's 26 million drivers will need the secure license in order to board domestic flights.

But, it's important to note that California drivers must bring documents that prove their identity to Department of Motor Vehicles field offices.

That news has caused confusion and some consternation.

Here are some common questions about the new cards, with the appropriate answers:

What exactly is REAL ID? In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the REAL ID Act as part of a national effort to safeguard airline travel. The act requires all states to meet tougher identification standards for issuing driver's licenses and other ID cards in order for those cards to be accepted as valid personal identification at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in airports.

When will the new cards start showing up? In California, DMV will make the new cards available starting Jan. 22.

Anyone can apply, even if that person's current driver's license is not up for renewal. To get one, you will have to go to a DMV field office. DMV officials are urging people to make a reservation for a date and time to avoid long waits. DMV is increasing staff at most field offices in expectation of a surge of applicants in the first few weeks. The Antelope Valley's new DMV field office opened in February at 721 West Ave. L-6. The former Lancaster and Palmdale offices have been closed. The phone number at the new site is (800) 777-0133.

nCan you just get the new license automatically when your existing license is up for renewal? Yes and no. When your license is up for regular renewal (usually every five years), you will have the option of applying for a REAL ID driver's license or simply renewing your existing California license. If you want to stick with your existing license, you still may have to go to the field office, but you won't have to bring as much paperwork. Some drivers with good driving records are eligible to renew online, phone or mail when renewal time comes around instead of going to a field office. They will not, however, be able to get a REAL ID using those renewal methods.

If REAL ID is not mandatory, how do I know if I want one? For most people, it comes down to whether you fly. If you fly, you will need a REAL ID unless you have a valid passport. Passports are considered a valid form of identification at TSA checkpoints. Many people will consider it an inconvenience, though, to have to bring their passport for domestic travel.

What additional paperwork do you need to get a REAL ID? The DMV has published a checklist of documents on its website. Among the documents: Some proof of identity, such as a U.S. birth certificate, valid U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with approved form I-94. Social Security card or a federal W-2 form with your full Social Security number on it. Some evidence of your residence, such as a rental agreement or a mortgage statement.

You can check additional questions and answers on the website titled REAL ID Act.

Our advice: If you are likely to take a domestic flight after Oct. 1, 2020, be sure to obtain your REAL ID well in advance.

If you don't have the card, you will not be allowed to board the aircraft.


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