After the introduction of the new and secure REAL ID cards, a preexisting driver’s license and identification cards in California will no longer be applicable. The goal of this measure is primarily to increase and improve the security features of a driver’s license across the country.

The regular state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards will now be revised as per the REAL ID Act (2005). The act established a guideline for specific standards that must be met before any sate issues a driver’s license. It was further specified that federal agencies would be prohibited from accepting any identification cards and licenses from states that violate or have failed to have met the said standards. The REAL ID enforcement was supposed to be in effect from October 1st, 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DMV has now extended the deadline to October 1st, 2021.

So, what exactly is the REAL ID?

It is important for you to understand that Real ID does not refer to a specific type of identification document. It is an entirely new standard that is geared to improve airport security. And multiple state-issued identification cards must fit into this standard. So, if your current driver’s license is the only form of identification that you have, then you need to get one that is Real ID-compliant. There is a simple check to help you determine whether a California driver’s license or any other form of an identification card is Real ID-compliant. All you have to do is look for a bear and a star towards the top right corner of the card if you live in California. If this icon is present, then it confirms that your credentials are Real ID-compliant. For other states, the icon changes from a black star to a golden star.

Why Is The REAL ID Necessary?

The government has classified that the existing identification cards are not good enough to prevent terrorism attacks,  making it mandatory for all US residents to purchase the new form of ID from the nearest DMV. After 9/11, serious security concerns disturbed the government. Therefore, it was important to take measures to prevent people from using fake ids to get through airport security. This is when the government put forward a recommendation to upgrade ID cards, referred to as The REAL ID Act of 2005. Since all US states have their individual set of rules and standards for obtaining a driver’s license, there was no consistency observed. This led to security breaches and forgery of documents to obtain fake ids. The REAL ID of 2005 then decided to introduce a strict and more thorough set of standards to be followed by all states. This act was directed to improve the verification process by efficient means. In addition to this, the card itself will be made using the latest technology, further complexing any attempt of forgery.

What Do You Need to Obtain a REAL ID?

To obtain a Real ID, you now need more identification documents than was required in the past to prove your identity. The federal government has narrowed down and defined the types of documents required. All applicants are required to visit their nearest DMV and must carry the following documents:

1. One proof of Identity – Original or Certified. (valid passport, birth certificate, etc.)

2. One proof of Social Security Number (SSN)

3. Two different proofs of California Residency, clearly showing street address.

Some states have specified the REAL ID documents checklist on the State Driver License Agency’s website. To make sure that you carry the right documents, it’s better to cross-check from the list before you visit the DMV in person. You can easily access the list through their website. Furthermore, you can book an appointment at the DMV before you visit so that you can save yourself from the prolonged waiting. However, an appointment is not mandatory to get the REAL ID instead of just strongly recommended for your convenience. You must also fill out the REAL ID application online prior to your visit to the DMV in person, this will help accelerate the REAL ID process. Moreover, it is also recommended that you apply for REAL ID at the earliest so that you can receive it at its earliest, making it easier for you to travel. The Transportation Security Administration has a list of documents that can be accepted in case you don’t have a REAL ID when traveling. 

It was reported that starting from October 1st, 2021, you would have to carry your Real ID at all times if you are boarding a domestic flight in the United States or to get access to any secure federal facilities and military bases. However, the recent coronavirus outbreak is affecting the Real ID process, making it difficult for California and other states to issue the Real ID swiftly. Therefore, a one-year extension has been granted to the residents, and now Real ID-compliant cards can be obtained until October 2021. Essentially, the primary purpose of REAL ID enforcement is to ensure the safety and security of all passengers during air travel.  

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