Didn’t get the Real ID letter fixing proof of residence issue? Here’s what to do

Millions of letters correcting issues with Real ID driver's licenses were mailed
( appleuzr )

Attention, Real ID license holders: Have you received a letter from the California Department of Motor Vehicles informing you that the DMV wants more documentation? No? Don’t panic.

In the DMV’s own words (from the letter I received), here’s why you might receive such a notice: “This letter was sent to you because at the time you were issued a Real ID card during the period January 2018-April 2019, only one residence document was provided to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A second residency document must be provided…..”

The letter goes on to ask whether your mailing address on the letter is correct. If it is, you sign the letter, put it in the postage-paid envelope and drop it in the mail.

If the address is not correct, it asks you to sign the letter, provide two “residency documents showing your updated address,” return same in the envelope, then go the DMV website to update your address (

Here’s a Q&A to explain what to do if you haven’t received this letter, what to do if you received this letter and already provided two forms of proof of residence, why this matters, why this happened, plus a few other odds and ends about Real ID.

QUESTION: Does this mean my Real ID, issued between those dates above, isn’t valid?


ANSWER: It is valid. You can tell it’s a Real ID because it has a star in the upper right corner; the California license also has a bear.

Q: Why should I bother with the fix in the follow-up letter?

A: So you don’t have to return to the DMV when your license is up for renewal. If you don’t want to go back, sign the letter and return it.

Q: I didn’t receive a letter from the DMV, and my driver’s license was issued in that time period. Now what?

A: About 3.6 million letters are being mailed through the end of July, the DMV said. “Once all letters have been mailed out, the DMV will assess the number of letters that have been returned and will send a second letter to individuals from whom the DMV did not receive one,” Jaime Garza, a DMV spokesman, said in an email.

Q: And if I still don’t get one?

A: If you haven’t received a letter by Aug. 15, it’s time to take action.

Q: What is the action?

A: You complete the “Request for Replacement of Second Residence Letter” ( But again, please do not do this before Aug. 15.

Q: Wait. I went to the DMV to apply for my Real ID in winter 2019, and at that time, they asked me, to my surprise, for a second form of proof of residence. Now I’ve received the letter. What is going on here?

A: As of April 29, 2019, two forms of proof of residence were required. If you went to the DMV before then and gave a second proof, here’s what may have happened, Garza said in another email: “If someone provided two proofs in the months leading to that [April 29] date, we accepted them. Some people who provided two proofs of residency when they applied for a Real ID driver license or identification card may receive a letter to verify their address. We encourage them to sign and return the letter to ensure our records are updated and accurate.”

Q: Why do I need a Real ID?

A: You don’t, unless you plan to use it as proof of identity for domestic flights only, beginning Oct. 1, 2020. (International flights still require a passport.) To board an airplane beginning on that date, you will need a Real ID driver’s license or one of several other acceptable forms of identification, including a passport, a passport card or others that can be found at

Q: Where else might I need a Real ID?

A: At some federal facilities and to enter nuclear power plants, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Q: Do I need a Real ID to drive?

A: No.

Q: Then what’s the point? I don’t want to go to the DMV to apply. I don’t fly, I don’t go into federal facilities and I’m not visiting any nuclear power plants. Or I do fly and I’d rather use my passport (or other acceptable form).

A: Having Real ID is mostly a matter of convenience. You probably will have your driver’s license with you, but you can prove your identity for flights, federal facilities and nuclear power plants by using other forms of ID:

Q: Why would the DMV fail to ask for this second form of proof or residence?

A: You can’t pin this one on the DMV. California and Wisconsin had received the OK from the Department of Homeland Security to use the successful delivery of your license as the second form of proof of residence. In other words, if your license was mailed to you at the address you provided and it wasn’t returned to the DMV, that was the proof of residence.

Late last year, DHS changed its mind and said a second form of proof was required, leaving California with a problem it didn’t create.

Q: What was the impetus for Real ID?

A: The 9/11 commission recommended a more secure form of identification. That was nearly 15 years ago. Some states have been given an extension on compliance, but most states and territories have complied. More than 4.2 million Real IDs have been issued in California.