Real Problems with Real ID

By Steve Propes

Every driver of a motor vehicle in California needs a valid DMV-issued driver’s license. Not every driver needs a Real ID license. An example of need would be a driver who plans to travel on a commercial airliner. Absent a current passport or certain military ID, a DMV-issued Real ID is essential to board a flight, according to Homeland Security regulations that go into effect on October 1, 2020. Recently, several drivers sought out a Real ID with mixed success.

Class of 1973, CSULB grad, retired teacher Bill Earl, 68, and his wife, Rosemary, decided to renew their driver’s licenses at the same time, as hers expired in July, his in September. Now residing in the San Gabriel Valley, in early June, they went to the Montebello office. They understood to qualify for Real ID, they needed birth certificates and other ID that proves their current address, such as a utility bill. And for Rosemary, proof of her name change by way of a marriage license.

“Rosemary brought in her marriage certificate and birth certificate that looked like a negative, white on black,” said Earl. Neither document was acceptable. The wedding chapel in Las Vegas did not amount to official documentation. “They told us they did not accept any religious or non-governmental certificates. She needs an official marriage license from the county.” The black on white birth certificate was bounced as it was a photostat of the original.

In Bill’s case, “I needed a birth certificate, two utility bills and a new Social Security card. “They looked at my Social Security card” issued in 1966. As it was typewritten, “one DMV person bent it, said they’d never seen a card like that one before.”

Bill traveled to Social Security Administration three times to obtain his brand new Social Security card, which he brought in to DMV with two utility bills. “Once they put you on the screen, you’re in limbo. You can’t go to another office, they have a hold on my information. They confiscated my license,” claimed Earl.

In fact, they both could have had their driver’s license renewed without all this red tape, had they been willing to forgo the need for a Real ID.

According to DMV spokesman Jaime Garza, since the start of the Real ID requirement in January 2018, only 32 percent of driver’s license or ID card renewals have chosen to get a Real ID.

Radio Producer Mike Stark, 67, of Lakewood, a 1974 CSULB graduate checked Yelp for the best performing DMV office in the area, opting for the Stanton office. “All they do is handle driver’s licenses, they’ve got a pretty good system down. I brought in my Social Security card and proof that I live at the address, mortgage payment receipt and a utility bill.

“They sent me the real ID, but the feds stopped it. The DMV sent a notice to me and had me sign another notice that I received the notice at my home address. They paid for the return envelope. That solved that problem easily.”

The Homeland Security stop to the California Real ID program in 2018 “added workload to what we do here,” said Garza. “The biggest problem is not properly preparing to come in. It’s not that difficult. If you’ve moved, supply two proofs, which need a street address. Other acceptable documents are medical forms and tax forms.” As to the question of marriage certificates, “You must show a certified marriage certificate issued by the county or state.”

“If a person’s name on their original or certified copy of their birth certificate is different than their current legal name, they must show why the name changed due to marriage, adoption, domestic partnership,” Garza said. “If a person’s name has changed several times, we need to see all documents to show why it changed.”

More information on required documents is at

“To address the fact that more people will apply for a Real ID driver license or identification card, we are mailing out renewal notices four months in advance. If you make an appointment immediately when you receive the notice, you can schedule an appointment well in advance of your current card’s expiration date. Do not procrastinate.   Check appointments daily for the office of choice, we have cancellations and additions, so appointments open up. Check nearby offices for appointment availability.”

“To also assist with the influx of applicants, we have 62 offices open on Saturdays and 69 offices open on weekdays at 7 a.m. (except Wednesday). Appointments are extremely popular,” but make them early, Garza said. “Some times are better than others,” such as after 2 p.m. on Saturday” or about one hour before the office closes for the day.

As it shook out, Rosemary Earl had to drive without a license for most of July to her job as a nurse until she could gather the proper documents, when she was finally issued a Real driver’s license.


Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Copyright 2019 Beeler & Associates.

All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced or transmitted – by any means – without publisher's written permission.