What Is the New California Driver’s License and How Does it Affect Me?

August 31, 2018

The California Department of Motor Vehicles began issuing upgraded driver’s licenses and identification cards starting January 22, 2018. This new California license replaces previous versions and meets the federal Real ID standards.

What Changed Exactly?

California driver’s license requirements upgraded to meet guidelines established by the US Congress in 2005. These stricter standards improve national security by increasing the difficulty to manufacture false identities.

To qualify, you must bring clear proof of your identification with any of the following documents:

  • A US passport
  • Certified copy of your birth certificate
  • Permanent residency card
  • Foreign passport with an I-94 document
  • Employment authorization document

You must also provide proof of your Social Security Number and your residency within the State of California.

There are a few minor cosmetic changes as well. Each license has an emblem indicating it meets the Real ID standards. You may select either the basic Real ID logo or the golden California bear icon.

What You Can do With Your New Driver’s License

Functionally, the California license remains the same. You need the appropriate license to drive, operate a motorcycle, or a commercial vehicle.

The increased national security standards take effect October 1, 2020. After that time, you must have an enhanced driver’s license, a US passport, or a military idea to do any of the following:

  • Gain Entry to federal buildings
  • Access to nuclear power plants
  • Board federally regulated commercial aircraft

It is not mandatory to change your existing driver’s license. You may still drive legally, but you will not be able to board a domestic flight without a passport. The upgraded license program is meant to make mundane identification procedures easier for residents while also improving security at airports.

Tickets and California’s Point Systems

Traffic tickets in California still accumulate points on your license. Upgrading does not erase your record of previous infractions. The DMV may still suspend your driving privileges if you exceed your point limit. A ticket lawyer may help you protect your license. The Ticket Clinic represents you in court and helps to reduce or eliminate your charges. Consult with these licensed attorneys to secure your rights before your hearing date.