California Issued 2.3 Million REAL ID Drivers Licenses & ID Cards Using Insufficient Verification Standards


Travelers with standard drivers licenses issued by various U.S. states will soon require a new Real-ID document if they wish to fly domestically and California has apparently already issued 2.3 Million such documents accepting insufficient documentation.

Individuals can apply new and also upgrade their current ID / Drivers License to the new REAL ID which comes with a designation on it while non compliant ID’s include the notion “Federal Limits Apply”.

According to media reports, the California Department of Motor Vehicles was told by the Department of Homeland Security that the 2.3 million new IDs since early 2018 were issued using a process that doesn’t meet the federal government’s standards.

The matter was already reported in late December 2018 by the Sacramento Bee (access here).

The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued 2.3 million new IDs this year using a process that doesn’t meet the federal government’s standards, the DMV was told last month.

The development means Californians who got those Real IDs will need to provide a second form of documentation to prove their residency when their ID comes up for renewal. DMV spokesman Armando Botello said the federal government told the DMV during phone conversations about the issue that it would still accept IDs that didn’t meet the requirement in the meantime.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent DMV director Jean Shiomoto a letter on Nov. 21 saying California’s process for verifying ID applicants’ residency didn’t meet federal requirements.

Federal standards require ID applicants to “present at least two documents of the State’s choice that include the individual’s name and principal residence,” according to the letter. It instructed the DMV to send federal officials a plan to correct the issue.

The department is still finalizing its correction plan, but intends to start requiring new applicants to provide two documents verifying residency beginning in April.

Indeed, the California DMV has updated the requirement on their website in the meanwhile:

Last November I went to a DMV in the Los Angeles area to get myself a Real ID and had to only provide ONE address verification document, which in all honesty was a joke. It didn’t actually verify any actual “residence” other than being able to obtain that document at some address or in original form via a counter.

See the list of accepted documents here:

I believe I used a letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation that I received confirming a consumer complaint against an airline, which was of course accepted as “Document issued by a government agency”.

You can actually still apply for ID’s and Drivers Licenses without the RealID feature. Why? Because the RealID requirement is actually quite restrictive and you’re only able to get one if you’re in possession of a Social Security Number (obviously no problem for U.S. citizens or lawful residents) as well as valid Identification which includes as a minimum a valid foreign passport, valid U.S. Visa and most recent I-94 (definitely a problem for individuals with questionable status).

This issue apparently happened due to a miscommunication between the responsible departments on federal and state levels:

… The department provided several emails between California and federal officials from last year that show DHS official Steve Yonkers, director of identity and credentialing for the Real ID program, describing the state’s residency verification plan as “acceptable.” …

The entire matter will really become an issue nationwide starting October 1st, 2020 from which day on travelers will require a RealID or a passport (among a few other accepted documents). The old drivers license which doesn’t meet federal standards will no longer be accepted.


That’s a pretty embarrassing snafu, but honestly the materials provided so far are really sufficient considering a second proof of residency would simply mean another account statement, doctors bill or some other nonsense piece of paper such as a USPS address change postcard.

Whoever got issued a RealID so far has already proven to be a lawful resident – even if just temporary – based on the mandatory government issued documents (social security number, passport, visa, birth certificate etc).