California Complies with Federal ID Rules

As of Jan. 22, the state is issuing driver’s licenses that comply with the Real ID Act. Travelers will have until Oct. 2020 to get a new license or risk being turned away at airport security checkpoints.

by Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle / January 24, 2018
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(TNS) — As if the specter of standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles for that driver’s license renewal didn’t produce enough angst for Californians, there is now another need to queue up — especially for those who travel by air.

On Monday, a new driver’s license, with a revised look and fancier security features, became available. The so-called Real ID licenses look pretty much the same as the standard versions, though they contain features to make them tougher to counterfeit.

But there’s a big difference, or at least there will be, beginning Oct. 1, 2020.

As of that date, Californians won’t be allowed to board a commercial flight in the U.S. without the new federally compliant Real ID license, or a passport or other federally accepted ID.

But the state is getting a head start.

“We want to make sure Californians are prepared to apply for a Real ID license, if they choose,” said Jean Shiomoto, DMV director.

To obtain one, she said, customers will need to visit a DMV field office and bring a variety of identity-verifying documents with them. Although most California drivers have grown accustomed to renewing their licenses online, Real ID licenses will require an in-person appearance.

So far, it seems that many people aren’t even aware of the new requirement.

That was the case Tuesday at the Daly City DMV, where almost none of the people waiting in line for driver’s licenses had heard of the Real ID, or knew that they were supposed to bring a collection of documents, proving their identities, to get one.

Regina Apolinar, 36, a regional human resources manager who said she flies all the time, said she only learned about Real ID from a DMV clerk after waiting in a long line to renew her license.

She didn’t have her passport, birth certificate and utility bills with her, so she decided to get a regular license and remember to bring along her passport when she flies after the October 2020 deadline.

The DMV renewal notice she received in the mail mentioned the Real ID, Apolinar said, but not the required documents. To renew a regular license, legal drivers just need to show their existing one.

“They could have done a better job of letting people know about it,” she said. “It would have been nice to know.”

Maria Tungpalan, 27, a caregiver, just moved to Daly City from Hawaii and was in line to get a California license. She knew nothing of the Real ID but happened to have a bag full of the necessary documents.

“I guess I’m going to get it,” she said.

Barbara Wittrock, 65, of San Francisco, was one of the few customers who seemed to be aware of the Real ID. She arrived with a pink pouch full of documents.

“My license is expiring on Saturday,” she said. “This seems like the perfect opportunity to get a Real ID and not the regular one. I wanted to take care of it in one stop.”

All California driver’s licenses have been given a slight makeover, with the state’s name spelled out in cleaner, bolder sans serif type. “USA” is in small print with an image of a gold miner in the background of the right side of the card and California poppies appear on the bottom left. Under ultraviolet light, images of the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower are displayed along with the driver’s photo and birth date.

But the Real ID version features, in the top right corner, a grizzly bear, the state’s official animal, with a white star on its haunch, like a hip tattoo.

It’s the version everyone who expects to fly will need after the October 2020 deadline, barring possession of a passport or federally acceptable ID. In addition to being prohibited from boarding a commercial airplane, people with federally noncompliant licenses, won’t be able to get onto military bases or into other secured federal facilities.

The new licenses, federally compliant or not, cost $35. Identification cards cost $30. Applicants will be given the choice of a Real ID or a standard license and an explanation of the difference.

The Real ID licenses will not be required for people who don’t fly or want to enter a secured federal facility. Existing, or new noncompliant licenses, will be valid for driving, applying for or receiving federal benefits, entering a nonsecure federal facility such as a post office, visiting a hospital or receiving life-saving treatment, according to the DMV.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 to bolster security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. It established several new identification and immigration restrictions but the driver’s license requirement was by far the most sweeping. Enforcement of the license laws was deferred for five years until this month. A total of 27 states and territories have met the federal standards. The rest have been granted extensions until 2020.

At San Francisco International Airport last week, some travelers were wary of the new license and travel requirements.

“It’s another hoop to make us jump through,” said Will Barnard, 43, a real estate developer from Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County). “If it’s for safety, I’m for it. But if it’s just to get us to apply for new licenses, I’m against it.”

For Vijay Ganapathay, 33, a technology worker from Green Bay, Wis., the need to get a new license or travel with a passport just seemed like a hassle.

“It’s not going to be convenient for people to travel,” he said.

What you need to know

Drivers seeking a Real ID may make an appointment or choose to stand in line without one, but they will need to present three types of documents:

Proof of identity: A certified copy of a birth certificate, a valid U.S. passport, a work authorization permit, permanent resident card or a foreign passport with appropriate travel permit.

Proof of Social Security number: Social Security card, W-2 form or paycheck stub with complete Social Security number.

Proof of California residency: A mortgage bill, property tax bill, rental or lease agreement, utility bill, or a school registration, medical or employment document with a current address.

Note: Some people will need to present marriage licenses or divorce decrees to prove their names have been legally changed.

©2018 the San Francisco Chronicle Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.