Following a number of states already issuing REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses and state ID cards, California is set to roll out its new driver’s license design on January 22, 2018. Current license-holders will be given the option when renewing to elect a standard or REAL ID compliant license, enabling use in airport security and other higher-security governmental environments. Current California licenses can be used in airport security but only until October 1, 2020, when REAL ID compliant licenses will be universally required. Fees are the same for both, but getting the REAL ID compliant driver’s license or ID card will require a trip to the DMV.

The new California driver’s license has the following features (seen in the samples below):

  • A golden bear with a white star in the upper right– the white star signifies REAL ID compliance on all new state licenses.
  • A pale, color image of a 49er miner and a landscape on the right side.
  • Golden poppies (California state flower) in the lower left under the photo and sailboats to the right of that.
  • A large image of the state of California running through the middle background.
  • A new font for California header at top.
  • Ultraviolet “UV” light-visible images of the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit tower not visible in regular light.

New REAL ID Compliant California driver's license design

The current, soon to be outdated license can be seen below for comparison. Unlike some more subtle changes in other states, the two California ID cards look drastically different. In addition to providing access to future airport security entrance, the security features on the new cards help to prevent the use of fake IDs for underage or otherwise fraudulent cardholders.

Current California Driver's License - soon to be replaced with REAL ID compliant driver's licenses

Current license-holders don’t need to switch their license or state ID card over to the new design until their card expires, and they can elect the REAL ID compliant design at renewal. Licenses and ID cards will be gradually rolled out as current licenses expire. For more information, please visit the California DMV REAL ID website.

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