Please sign in to post.

REAL ID : worth worrying about?

California is adopting a new REAL ID - compliant driver license at the end of January,
which happens to be the worst possible timing for when mine expires.

So, if I go ahead and do my renewal at the DMV now, I will be one of the last Californians to have the now-obsolescent form of the license when whatever new regime comes into effect slightly down the road.

Should I go ahead with the renewal as encouraged by an automatic mailing from the DMV, or is it worth waiting for a little while after my current license expires to get the new REAL ID version?

What's the real usefulness of the new REAL ID licenses after all?

Posted by
1058 posts

You will need a REAL ID or a passport to board any airplane flight that originates in the US and that includes domestic flights. I don’t know when that rule will come into play, but unless you want to carry a passport everytime you fly, you will need a REAL ID.

Correction: There are other ID’s that can be used to board an airplane for a domestic flight and if you forget your ID, it is possible to still board a plane for a domestic flight without a photo ID. According to the TSA, you will have to undergo additional screening and provide correct answers to the questions that they ask you.

Posted by
2047 posts

Well in THEORY you will need a REAL ID, but so far every year the TSA has backed down.

And the truth is you can actually board a plane for a domestic US flight without ANY photo ID. Yes, you will be searched etc, but... the statement that you can't board a plane is not correct. (Been there done that)

Posted by
2929 posts

I use my passport as ID when I travel even domestically so if you have one just use that going forward instead of worrying about the license.

Posted by
2740 posts

Why get something that will be technically obsolete in a few weeks?

Posted by
13007 posts

When I fly domestically, I use my US passport or Calif Dr Lic. as ID at check-in. When I fly international dep from SFO, I only use the US passport as ID at check-in.

Posted by
4741 posts

TSA's use of REAL ID starts in 5 1/2 weeks......January 22, 2018. After that, if your state D/L does not have REAL ID you will have to use some alternative form of ID. Or none at all and a lot of search and interrogation.

Not exactly. A number of states have gotten extensions that allow residents to continue to use their non-compliant state driver's license until some later date. For example, Virginia has an extension until Oct 10, 2018. You can lookup your state here:

https://www.dhs.gov/real-id/virginia

Posted by
4784 posts

or is it worth waiting for a little while after my current license expires to get the new REAL ID version?

I’m confused by part of your question above. Would you really want to take the risk of driving with an expired license?

If you get stopped by the police, for any reason, you’d receive an infraction for driving with an expired license.

Posted by
5697 posts

But don't throw away your expired license -- handy to have for leaving as collateral for audio guide rental.

Posted by
3352 posts

New York now has 2 types of automobile drivers' licenses: the standard license and the "enhanced" license which replaces the US passport for travel by land or sea to Canada, Mexico, and select Caribbean nations. When your license expires, you can choose if you want to spend the extra money for the "enhanced" version.

In California when your license expires, do you have a choice like we do in NYS between the regular and the "REAL ID" license?

Posted by
28131 posts

ok, I may be confused, probably because I haven't visited the US for 2 decades. What is a REAL id and how does it differ from a non-real one?

Posted by
9929 posts

Nigel, "The REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft."

https://www.dhs.gov/real-id-public-faqs

Many states have been reluctant or slow to adopt the process either due to political views, funding concerns or other issues.

This is the WIKI article which probably tells you more than you want to know!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/REAL_ID_Act

Posted by
6802 posts

Nigel, REAL ID is a US federal law that was passed in 2005 (at the height of terrorism concerns) that required that all state-issued drivers licenses (they all looked different) to conform to a federal standard. The intent was to standardize the requirements and information that could be accessed by law enforcement. If state licenses did not meet the requirements, they would not be acceptable for legal identification purposes by the federal government, for things such as airport security, access to federal buildings and military installations. Someone with a non-conforming drivers license would need another government-issued photo ID, like a passport to get through security.

This became a highly politicized issue with concerns about government access to personal information, and some states balked at complying. The compromise some states have taken is to have two options for drivers licenses, so that those fearful of government oversight can choose a non-conforming license.

The core problem is that in the US, there is no universal government issued identification card as there is in Europe, and until now, the state-issued drivers license was the most common identification for just about everything. No impact on foreign travelers since you will have passports.

Posted by
1962 posts

In reply to some of the above, California does not offer a choice of IDs under the new regime as New York apparently does, and is switching to REAL ID licenses at the end of January,
so the point made above regarding 'why get something that will be obsolete in a few weeks?' has some merit --
the wait times listed online for my local DMV offices are relatively short, in part I imagine because people are holding off on their DMV transactions until after the switchover if they can -- it's like holding off on upgrading your laptop because you know a new release is imminent. But then the other concern arises: if I wait, then I'm risking trouble if I get nabbed while holding an expired license.

For those outside the US, the politics involved is not just a matter of federal uniformity versus states' rights -- that, as usual, is cover/rationalization for anxieties over Others, variously misconceived.

Posted by
11452 posts

When I had a California Drivers License a few years ago, they had a program where you could extend your license for a year by just applying. I had to call Sacramento but this may be something to look into.

Drivers LIcense Extension

FYI--I mailed it in like they suggested and never got a response. I wound up calling and was told mailing doesn't work. The person I spoke to processed it on the spot and I received my extension card in the mail.

Posted by
31524 posts

For travel purposes I find it just as easy to always use a Passport, even when flying domestically.

"Should I go ahead with the renewal as encouraged by an automatic mailing from the DMV, or is it worth waiting for a little while after my current license expires to get the new REAL ID version?"

Would you be able to function without a driver's license for a short period of time while you wait for the REAL-ID version? If you're not concerned about having the features of a REAL-ID license, just renew the license now.

Posted by
1962 posts

@Ken, I also generally use my passport for airport ID wherever I'm headed, so my need for a REAL-ID compliant driver license isn't really a critical need.

Thanks, @Frank II, for the pointer to the line about a 1-year extension -- it's interesting, but seems to be for people who are 'away' -- I'm not off in Freedonia like yourself.

To add to my factors under consideration, my passport will also need renewing in 2018, probably best to take care of it in early spring or even late winter, and that could mean that I will be momentarily without either a REAL-ID driver license or a current passport. I will have my GOES card, though :-)

Posted by
3352 posts

In reply to some of the above, California does not offer a choice of
IDs under the new regime as New York apparently does, and is switching
to REAL ID licenses at the end of January, so the point made above
regarding 'why get something that will be obsolete in a few weeks?'
has some merit -- the wait times listed online for my local DMV
offices are relatively short, in part I imagine because people are
holding off on their DMV transactions until after the switchover if
they can -- it's like holding off on upgrading your laptop because you
know a new release is imminent. But then the other concern arises: if
I wait, then I'm risking trouble if I get nabbed while holding an
expired license.

Besides the added expense of the "enhanced" NYS driver's license, another reason I didn't get it is, like you mentioned above, I would have had to have gone to the DMV to accomplish this. What a waste of time that would have been!

Question for you, if you were to renew your license now and not have the "real id" version, would your renewed license be valid for the same number of years as your current license which is about to expire? If that is so, may I assume you would not be breaking any law by not having the 'real id' license that goes into effect "slightly down the road"? May I also assume that you can renew to the current non "real id" license without going to the DMV?

If my assumptions are correct, why get the Real ID license? Just renew now and be done with it. In addition, If you drive on a regular basis, you cannot risk being behind the wheel without a valid driver's license. Waiting for the "Real ID" would be a risk if it meant not having a valid driver's license even for a 1 day.

Posted by
31524 posts

"so my need for a REAL-ID compliant driver license isn't really a critical need."

That sounds like an easy decision then. Renew your license now and don't worry about the REAL-ID version as that will happen next time you renew.

Regarding your Passport, renew that as soon as possible after you've renewed your D.L.

Posted by
3352 posts

I must have missed this:

that could mean that I will be momentarily without either a REAL-ID
driver license or a current passport

If you don't have a valid/current driver's license (Real ID or not), don't drive.

Why would you let your passport expire? Here is the form and you will see you are not asked about your driver's license. Scroll to the last 2 pages for the form itself.

Posted by
11452 posts

To get a California extension, you don't have to prove you're away. Just tell them you're away and can't renew on time. Do you really think the clerk cares?

If you don't renew and chance it, and get stopped, you could get a fine up to $250 and then have to retake both the written and driving tests. Technically, you could be charged with a mesdemeanor meaning fines up to $1000 and/or six months in jail. The latter though is highly doubtful.

Your other choice is to renew now and then get a replacement license once the REAL ID ones are issued. It will mean a trip down to the DMV and $27.

But if you use your passport, and don't have a need to enter numerous federal buildings, don't worry about it and just get your license

Posted by
1962 posts

I appreciate everyone's comments about my particular circumstance, but I'd like to hear more from others about the headline I wrote, and the closing question: REAL ID's real usefulness.
[I was using my particular circumstance as an occasion for broaching the more general question for travelers.]

In that vein, I liked hearing from those of you who said you carry your passport to get through airport security whether you're going international or domestic. I also lean towards that practice -- airports and passports go together in my thinking, perhaps.

Some of it may be Bourne Identity-style fantasy, that I had better be prepared when I'm 'away' for any eventuality. Suppose a desperate sheikh offers me a briefcase full of non-sequential $100 bills for accompanying his dusky (and perhaps too independent-minded for her own good) granddaughter to their family dacha in Azerbaijan at the last minute as I am waiting for a connector from San Antonio to San Jose -- if I take him up on his offer, I'll need to have my passport handy.

That makes a passport a more flexible fantasy facilitator than a REAL ID state-issued driver license, it seems. How many supermodels need to get into a Nevada nuclear storage site, after all?

Posted by
13007 posts

"...whether you're going international or domestic." For international...always; for domestic...sometimes, or I use my Calif Dr Lic. just depends on my mood. If it's the sheikh, I don't bother. It's optional.

Posted by
3352 posts

In that vein, I liked hearing from those of you who said you carry
your passport to get through airport security whether you're going
international or domestic. I also lean towards that practice --
airports and passports go together in my thinking, perhaps.

I travel weekly for business and NEVER need a passport for domestic flights. No issue in bringing a passport if you like.

Posted by
2916 posts

But if you use your passport, and don't have a need to enter numerous federal buildings, don't worry about it and just get your license

But what about nuclear power plants? :-)

Posted by
28131 posts

Is it only in San Antonio that you can find this sheikh? too bad

Posted by
3709 posts

There’s no advantage to waiting for real ID since CA has a waiver and an approved compliance date so will not end up on a federal non-compliant list.

Enhanced DL: because this has a citizenship verification component, I can’t get it at the DMV, must go to a full service county government center that offers passport services. I think only NY, WA, MI, VT, and MN offer it, and several provinces. No Mexico border states for some reason, so apparently best for the Canada/US border.

Posted by
5536 posts

I live in a state with enhanced drivers licenses available. It was extremely easy to get and not very expensive. I already had a passport so they linked info. to that. I have traveled to Canada on enhanced drivers license alone. One area of usefulness is that I already have the requried ID in place and won't be in line with thousands of travelers who suddenly realize that they need a different ID for domestic travel than their old drivers license when enforcement comes into effect. An enhanced drivers license would be quite a bit cheaper than a passport for some individuals that are not planning to travel out of the country.

I also have a NEXUS card (which I absolutely love!). Once again it allows for quick land or sea entry into Canada. I also get global entry, and TSA precheck. I get fast track security/immigration at the Vancouver airport as well. I have also traveled to Canada on just the NEXUS card. Nothing beats driving past a back up of cars at the border in the designated NEXUS lane and getting through the crossing quickly.

I have a hard time appreciating why Real ID keeps getting all these extensions in many states. Time to just get it done.

Posted by
2047 posts

And as expected the “deadline” has been extended to 2020.

Posted by
503 posts

I wonder if your global entry ID card would be an option? It's issued by TSA and has your photo on it.

Posted by
1962 posts

As previous commenters indicate, the California DMV website information on this topic has been updated,
and it includes a link to other forms of TSA-approved identification that will be acceptable at airports and
federal secure sites,
and that now includes DHS Trusted Traveler cards like Global Entry and Nexus.

So if you have a GOES card, and I do, then there isn't really any rush at this point to get a REAL ID - compliant driver license.

https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/realid
https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification

Posted by
2 posts

Does Real ID apply to foreigners traveling domestically as well or is this only for americans? I am from spain and i am currently in las vegas. I have my spanish passport but im not sure if tsa will accept it for my next flight. I have seen “foreign government passport” as one of the alternatives on tsa website but i am unsure if they will accept it since it does not say anything about tourist traveling domestically

Posted by
1127 posts

Your Spanish passport should qualify as a Real ID for domestic flights. I wouldn't worry.

I haven't tried to get a Real ID driver's license because the steps to get one are more onerous, at least where I live. You can't apply at the usual driver's license offices. Instead you have to go to the state trooper's station where they give the tests for new drivers. I would expect a much longer wait.

Rather than carry my passport, I got the US passport card the last time I renewed my passport. All I had to do was pay the additional fee. That card I always carry in my wallet along with my driver's license and I can use it to cross the border into Canada or Mexico, at least by car. I think I may still need a passport if flying to those countries.

Posted by
3259 posts

Paul, I got the REAL ID and the process was even worse than stated-the first day I went the computers were down at DMV and they sent us all home after we'd already waited for awhile.

Posted by
1962 posts

The TSA website link above does indeed list
"Foreign government-issued passport"
as valid identification for travel.

Posted by
3493 posts

I am confused by the statements made that to get a Real ID driver license in certain states you have to go to a specific place other than where you would normally get you license. In my state, there doesn't seem to be any such restriction. There is only one driver license offered (other than the normal distinctions for commercial, chauffeur, and so on). Are these other states still fighting the federal law in their own ways? It just appears to be a waste for everyone involved.

Posted by
6802 posts

Yes, Mark its a state-by-state mess. My state, Missouri has requested another extension, in order to have more time to create a dual-ID system People will be able to opt for a REAL-ID compliant drivers license, or choose one that is not, for political reasons. I asked at my local license office (which are actually private contractors) this month who said they did not know when the new option would be available. So its only been 13 years since the Act was passed.

Posted by
21863 posts

The big hold back is that the very conservative folks fear that this will become a national id card. And once the Feds have the national id card they will start running up all the guns. It is that damn slippery slope again.

Posted by
3493 posts

The government already knows everything they want to about everyone anyway. I doubt any ID card will make a difference in their plans, whatever they may be.

Posted by
18384 posts

The government already knows everything they want to about everyone anyway.

That's almost as much as Facebook or AdChoice know.

Posted by
1962 posts

That's the problem with law&order in the age of social media and smartphones --
used to be that you could apply law&order to those others and save discretion/mercy (a blind eye) for yourselves,
but now people get so huffy and insistent on applying the rights and responsibilities of citizenship to everyone.

Another unanticipated consequence of communications technology, no?