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Is A REAL ID Legally Required In California?

by Jul 24, 2019Family Law

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government create standards for sources of identification, including driver’s licences. Currently, REAL ID is optional in California and the rest of the United States. However, a REAL ID will become mandatory in certain circumstances on October 1st, 2020.

What Is A REAL ID?

Basically, a REAL ID is any form of identification that meets increased security standards (as defined by the federal government) for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.

The purpose of the REAL ID act was to make it harder for criminals and terrorists to obtain and/or counterfeit legal identification cards. To do this, state agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles will start requiring more paperwork to prove identification. Additionally, the new ID cards themselves are constructed using new technology, making them much more difficult to counterfeit and duplicate.

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REAL ID vs Passport

Currently, many people use only their driver’s license to travel domestically within the United States. Starting on October 1st, 2020, you will not be able to board a domestic flight without a passport or REAL ID driver’s license or ID card.

If you already have a US passport, you will not need a REAL ID to board domestic flights after the October 1st 2020 deadline.

A REAL ID is not a substitute for a passport when traveling internationally.

Do I Already Have A REAL ID?

There’s a chance you might already have a REAL ID compliant California driver’s license or ID card. To check, look at your driver’s license or ID and see if there is a golden bear with a white star in the upper-right corner. If there is, you already have a REAL ID.

Should I Worry About This?

REAL ID is really aimed at making air travel and access to certain government facilities more secure. If you already have a valid passport, you don’t need to worry about getting a REAL ID right away.

If you don’t have a valid passport and plan on traveling by plane within the US regularly, or need access to secure government locations, you should consider applying for a REAL ID this year or early next.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

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