Renew your California Driver License to a Real ID

Time to renew your California Driver License?

Consider when renewing your California Driver License to renew it as a Real ID.  Why?  On or after October 1, 2020, if you want to travel in domestic US, you will need to have a Real ID or a passport.

Real ID is a designation on your Drivers License which will allow you to continue to use your Driver License for identification on Domestic flights. After October 1, 2020, your regular Driver License will not be accepted for U.S. flights and it will say “Federal Limits Apply”. In that case you will need to bring your passport as I.D.

Between now and 2020, the renewal of your Driver License costs $35 whether or not you renew as Real ID, but if you have already renewed your Driver License before 2020, to get the Real ID would be an additional $35, whenever you choose to do it.

To renew for Real ID, you need to appear in person at the DMV with the following items: passport, social security card, utility bill showing your name and address, and if you wear contacts, bring your glasses too.

Here’s what happened when I went to renew my Driver License.  First, I went online to get a DMV appointment. The DMV office near my home was going to make me wait 2 months, so I elected to get my appointment near where I worked.  Then I printed out my appointment confirmation and kept it, because I needed it to show the DMV people that I was in the correct line.

At the time of making your appointment, please review the List of things you need to bring, because maybe there are things you still have to do to comply with the list.  For example, I had not seen my social security card for years, so about 6 months ago I went online to Social Security to get a replacement card.  See what you have and you need to collect so it’s ready by the DMV appointment date.  You do not want to have to go back again!

Most likely you will need to have a vision test for each eye separately, so if you wear contacts, you should bring your glasses.  My left eye failed the vision test, so I quickly removed my contacts and passed the vision test with my glasses.

When I got to the DMV office, I saw 3 lines — for those with appointments, those without appointments and those who were getting driving tests.

I waited in the appointment line, behind 6 people and when I got to the front of the line, I met with a DMV guy who reviewed the documents that I had brought and determined the reason I was there. Then he told me to go to another room to fill out my “application” on their computer, which include voting questions – this is a chance to change your voting choices.

After I was done, I was to enter the confirmation code on my paper he had given me, and return back to him, at which time he gave me a queue number.  I was given F105 and they were serving F99 so my wait was not long, and they had 28 windows fully staffed and a room full of people with enough chairs for most everyone who was waiting.  It seemed very full, but organized.  Numbers were being called almost constantly.

When I was called up to desk 13, the DMV guy checked my online application, reviewed the documents I had brought and made copies, gave me my vision test, took my thumbprint, and then he sent me to get a new photo for my license.  I returned to him to pay my $35 and then he printed a temporary Driver License and I was on my way. The whole process took 50 minutes.

They told me I’d get my new Driver License within 2 weeks, but I got it in 8 days!


It has been in the news that California does not meet the Federal standards for real ID.  The main issue is that the DMV needs to get 2 documents with the individual’s name and principal residence, not one.   And while the California DMV is finalizing its correction plan, they will start to require 2 forms of proof of residency beginning in April 2019.   So before you go to the DMV make sure you have two different utility bills, etc.  to prove your residency.  For those people like me who already got their Real ID this year, we will just have to provide 2 proofs of residency when we renew in 5 years.

The key is to plan ahead and bring everything needed.

Here’s the link where you can get more detailed info:

Here’s the link where you can look at frequently asked questions:

Here’s the link to show you alternative items to bring to prove your identity:


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