Here's What You Need to Know About Real ID

New Federal requirements are creating long lines and frustration at the DMV, as Californians scramble to meet the 2020 deadline

What to Know

  • The Real ID requirement for air travel goes into effect on October 1, 2020
  • Your California driver's license will have to meet new Federal security standards
  • Without a Real ID, you'll need a passport at airport security

It's become the source of headaches and delays at DMV offices across California: the new Federal driver's license security requirements known as Real ID.

Though the long lines and flurry of confusion are relatively new, Real ID itself is not. The Real ID Act of 2005 was passed as an anti-terrorism measure on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, and signed into law by President George W. Bush. There's nothing clever about the name: "real ID" is the opposite of "fake ID" — and that's what several of the 9/11 attackers used to board the airplanes they later hijacked. The law sets standards for state-issued IDs that make them more difficult to forge.

One of those standards — the one causing all the delays — is a process that requires you to prove your identity when applying for a Real ID-compliant driver's license. Applicants have to bring a birth certificate or passport, a document showing their social security number, and a document showing their legal home address. If you've ever changed your name, the DMV may ask for documentation of that too.

Though California's DMV has brought scores of extra workers into some offices to help alleviate the long lines, they're still bad enough that a local startup is offering a line concierge service to do the waiting for you.

Watch the video above to see the whole Real ID process step by step!

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