If you haven’t already heard, as of Oct. 1, 2020, the federal government will require all states to issue IDs that are REAL ID Act–compliant.
But don't wait; the lines at the DMV are the stuff of legend, so you don’t want to get caught in a last-minute rush with the entire state population in the month before the deadline. Now is the time to get started on the process to switch.
How It Started
The REAL ID Act is an anti-terrorism measure that was conceived in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The ID is, theoretically, a tamper-proof, single ID/driver’s license. It’s a federally compliant document that works for domestic flights and access to military bases.
Not everyone is on board with the change – yet. Car & Driver's Northern California correspondent, Davey Johnson, needs renew his license this year and says he's not going for the updated REAL ID, and mentioned he is quite happy to keep using separate documents for driving and flying. "If you already have a passport card, it basically makes no difference at all," he said.
He's right, in a way, but this new ID should smooth the way through a series of checks that go beyond the usual traffic stop interaction with the police.
Technically it’s optional and you can choose to hold off on the switch. But, come 2020, you won’t be able to board a flight with a driver’s license and you’ll need to carry a passport.
Making An Effort
Just showing you make the effort to have the simplest form of ID can buy you a lot of goodwill with security and the local police force. It makes their job easier, so they can make your life easier and send you on your way as fast as possible.
We suspect insurance companies and others will apply their own gentle pressure by making it easier for REAL ID owners to file documents online and simple convenience, rather than any pressing need, will convert most people to the new ID.
You have to apply in person at the DMV with proof of your identity, a document proving your residency and your Social Security Number. The cost, right now, is $33. That could always increase if the costs balloon, so it’s worth getting your paperwork together now and taking the trip to your local DMV field office sooner rather than later.