You don’t need a gold star on your California driver’s license to fly today, but you will. Residents of the state of California must obtain their REAL IDs by May 3, 2023. After that, federal agencies will no longer accept identification cards and driver licenses issued at the state level without stars on them for passengers older than 18 years old. This is an extension from the original October 2021 date due to the COVID pandemic. 

california real id star ion driver's license

Department of Homeland Security’s Alejandro Mayorkas recently stated, “Extending the Real ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card.” 

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has stated that those without a star on their cards can continue to use their cards after May 3, 2023, but they will only be accepted for state-related purposes like driving, accessing hospitals, visiting the post office, applying for or receiving social security or veterans’ benefits, or banking transactions. For federal purposes, this identification will not be able to be used.

Not everyone in California has a passport, especially if they don’t travel internationally. For domestic flights, a state-issued document like a driver’s license is all you need to fly. 

However, according to a law called the REAL ID Act, air travelers in the United States will be required to use a driver’s license that complies with the Real ID requirements when traveling within the United States of America beginning May 3rd, 2023.

Other documents that people will be able to use are their passports or their U.S. Military cards. Most people use their license to get through security on domestic flights though.

This law means that your driver’s license MUST comply with TSA’s requirements for you to fly domestically. A complying license will have a star on it. Does yours?   

Here is a great video on it from the Department of Homeland Security

Additionally, a REAL ID or will be required to enter federal facilities in addition to the current identification requirements.

This is one of the new minimum security standards that will be used in federal buildings as well. As such, your domestic flight in the US will require a REAL ID.

Do you need a star on your license to fly into California?

Yes, a star will be required for all Americans after May 3, 2023. This includes Californians. The gold star indicates that your license has been certified as compliant with Federal REAL ID standards by the Department of Homeland Security. 

As of May 3rd, 2023, at least one REAL ID compliant credential or another form of identification will be required for domestic flights on commercial airlines in California.

What does a California REAL ID look like?

Driver’s licenses issued in California after January of 2018 are REAL ID compliant, and the upper right-hand corner will display a gold star. If yours doesn’t have that star, just go back in and talk to them about getting one that does. 

California real id

How to get the gold star on your California license? 

You will receive it on your new license when you renew your ID or driver’s license before the May 2023 deadline.

You may need to present more identification documents to get a REAL-ID compliant California driver license or to be verified. These required documents include:

  • Your social security
  • An unexpired U.S. passport card or book, or the original of your Birth Certificate
  • Title or registration for a California vehicle
  • Legal documents proving your name change from your birth name if your name has changed
  • Policy or statement from your current car insurance company 

Just call or visit your local DMV office to replace your old one with one that is certified REAL ID. Click here to find your closest local branch office.

How much does it cost to get a California REAL ID card or driver’s license?

For a regular license or a Real ID, the California Department of Motor Vehicles charges $39. HERE are all the fees on the state’s website.

What does a gold star on your California driver’s license mean?

The gold star certifies that you have met the Real ID Act requirements. This means that the citizenship of the holder has been verified by the state department that issued the REAL ID.  

A star will appear in the top right corner of your Real ID license or non-driver identification card to indicate that this document can be used for federal identification.

Your California driver’s license card will be REAL ID compliant if it was issued after January of 2018 and has a gold star in the right-hand corner. Your compliant card can be used as a form of federal identification until it expires.

California residents are given a gold star in the corner of their licenses upon getting their first license or renewing one they already have. This indicates compliance with new DHS  REAL ID regulations. TSA checkpoints will require identification compliant with those regulations from all passengers after May 3, 2023.

Does REAL ID replace my California driver license?

It will replace your current driver license, yes. And then you will use it as a driver license going forward.

It is a driver’s license. It just ensures that each person that receives it has met some minimum guideline the federal government has established for identification purposes.

What’s the star on your California license for?

It indicates that your license is compliant and can be used anywhere a REAL ID is required for federal purposes. Flights, military bases, and nuclear power plants are a few of these places.

What is the REAL ID Act?

It is a federal law that requires states to issue driver’s licenses and ID cards that meet minimum security standards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and ID cards issued by states that don’t meet them.

It states as of May 3, 2023, REAL IDs will be required to board domestic flights or enter secure federal facilities.

Your Real ID Driver License or Non-Driver ID Card will be marked with a star in the top right corner or will have an American flag on it or the word “Enhanced” to indicate it qualifies for use as federal identification.

If your current identification card or license doesn’t qualify, so long as it hasn’t expired, it will be accepted until May 3, 2023. 

Do I need a REAL ID card in California?

Yes, they will be mandatory as of May 3, 2023, for international travel or domestic flight or to enter a secured federal facility. Until then you can use your current driver’s license or card that you have been using.

Do I have to get a REAL ID in California? 

Getting a REAL ID is not mandatory but is encouraged.

A REAL ID is optional and is not needed for the following:

  • Receiving Federal benefits
  • Driving a car
  • Accessing or entering hospitals and health clinics, law enforcement, or accessing court proceedings
  • Voting
  • Entering Federal facilities that do not require identification

Do you need a REAL ID to travel to California?

California will begin to require the use of a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or state identification card starting on May 3, 2023, for those traveling with commercial airlines. A REAL ID is indicated by a gold star in the upper right-hand corner of the ID, driver’s license, or another appropriate form of identification.

The U.S. Congress introduced this law in 2005. It was one of the security measures put in place in the wake of one of the most significant attacks against the United States of America on its land, 9/11.

It is meant to set minimum standards of security for identification documents issued. These documents include identification cards and driver’s licenses.  

From May 3, 2023, you will need a gold star on your driver’s license or ID card for federal agencies such as TSA to board a federally regulated commercial aircraft. This will be the acceptable form of federal ID and ensure they are REAL ID compliant.

Is my California driver’s license REAL ID compliant?

Your California driver’s license is REAL ID compliant if it has a gold star in the upper right corner of it. See the pictures above to see examples of the gold star. 

If you don’t have one, it is easy to get one. Just keep reading.

Can you fly without a REAL ID in California?

You can fly without a REAL ID right now, but you won’t be able to after May 3, 2023. Not only will you need to have one to board commercial flights, but to visit military bases, federal courthouses that require federal identification, nuclear sites, or other federal facilities like federal prisons.

Is California a Real ID state?

Yes, it is. Applicants for new licenses, permits, or ID cards must provide documents verifying their identity, lawful status, social security number, and residency in California. A Real ID-compliant credential is issued to the DMV in return. Licenses and ID cards for non-compliant drivers may only be issued to California residents with non-compliant licenses and ID cards.

Have more questions?

Federal Resources

If you have additional questions, the Department of Homeland Security has a great FAQ here.

Additional information can be found on the Department of Homeland Security’s site here: state compliance and state implementation

You can also contact the Transportation Security Administration: 866-289-9673

State Resources

To view information from the California Department of Motor Vehicles website including time-saving tips, licensing locations, documentation requirements, fees, and other helpful federal and state resources please click HERE.

HERE are the documents you will need to bring with you to get your driver’s license or state ID.

HERE is a bunch of other facts about REAL ID in California.

Does your California driver’s license have a star on it?

To check whether you have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license, check near the upper right-hand corner of your card. It will be a gold outline of the state of California with a white star in it.

If your license isn’t from California and it doesn’t have a star in the upper right corner, know that some other states already have enhanced their licenses to comply with the Real ID requirements. Such enhanced licenses do not have a star, but they have the United States of America flag on them or say “Enhanced”.

Your license doesn’t meet the requirements if it has any of the phrases below on it:
“Federal Limits Apply”
“Not For Federal Identification”
“Not For Federal Purposes”

Can I renew my driver’s license online and get a REAL ID?

No. When you apply for your first REAL ID, you must visit a DMV office in person because a REAL ID is a federal identification. Proof of your identity and residency in California must be provided in person.