California DMV announces free offer valid through 2021

ID: Sacramento woman gets Real ID with photo of her wearing a face mask | Contributed Photo

The California DMV announced Monday that all Californians who received driver’s licenses or identification cards during the pandemic but did not get a REAL ID can upgrade for free through the end of the year.

“We don’t want Californians to pay the price for not getting a REAL ID during the pandemic,” DMV Director Steve Gordon said in a statement. “While the federal government has extended the enforcement date for a REAL ID, there is no need to procrastinate. If you act now, you can take advantage of this offer and upgrade to a REAL ID for free.”

To get a REAL ID, you must visit a DMV office in person, but the agency recently simplified the process to fall in line with new federal rules.

The DMV no longer requires applicants to provide both a Social Security card and W-2 to prove they have a Social Security number. You only need to provide your Social Security number in addition to proof of identity and two proofs of California residency.

The agency advised people who need a REAL ID to go online and fill out the application and upload their documents. You must then go to a DMV office in person to complete the process at your convenience, including on the same day. No appointment is necessary.

Starting May 3, 2023, a regular California driver’s license or ID card won’t be accepted as a valid form of federal identification. The old cards will still be a valid form of state ID (you can show it to a police officer if you’re pulled over, etc.), but they will not be sufficient at airports or other federal facilities such as courthouses and military bases.

If you have another form of federal identification, like a passport, you can use that instead. People who don’t have passports (or don’t want to carry them) will need a REAL ID to fly, even within the United States. Find more information about the REAL ID at

Amy Graff • SFGate

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