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How to get your Real ID with ease before 2023

Americans now have more time to get the Real ID with the deadline extended to May 2023, but a DMV spokesperson urges all not to put it off until the last minute.

SAN DIEGO — Many have put off getting a Real ID to avoid long lines at the DMV or bringing in all the paperwork on top of being in a pandemic. There are tips to make getting your Real ID to become a reality.

It's not everyone’s favorite place to be, but you must come in person to the DMV in order to get your Real ID.

"The rules are federal rules, and they have requirements that you have to actually bring in your documents and show them to us,” said California DMV spokesperson Anita Gore.

Those Real ID documents include:

  • Proof of identity – such as a passport or birth certificate.
  • A paper showing your Social Security number – such as a W-2 or social security card.
  • Two proofs of California residency – like a utility bill, insurance letter or bank statement.

"We want you to upload your documents ahead of time. so that you don’t have to stand there and watch us do it for you, that just slows the process down,” Gore said.

Gore says after filling out the Real ID application online, you'll get a confirmation code to bring to the DMV.

"With your confirmation code, once you’ve uploaded your documents, you're treated as if you do have an appointment,” Gore said.

The code worked for Laurel Rathbun, the Colorado native, who has been to the DMV twice in one week getting a Real ID and her car registered,

"When I came, and the line was wrapped all the way around the building, I was just able to show my code and get in and get out in like 30 minutes,” Rathbun said.

At the Clairemont DMV location on Derrick Drive, there are triage tents set up outside to assist customers and make sure they have all the necessary documents. There are yellow tape marks on the ground to keep people spread out in line per Covid-19 health guidelines.

Before going inside the DMV office.

"Our windows are not 6 feet apart, so we cannot keep them all open, so we’ve been restricted to every other window,” Gore said.

Fewer windows available inside the DMV means more waiting. DMV customer Martin Lim came prepared for a long wait.

"I think of a long wait, so I brought my Nintendo Switch here, some headphones, and a lot of water,” said Lim, who needed to get his license renewed and was unable to do it online.

Norman Jones only needed his car registration renewed and dreaded that someone in front of him missing all the necessary documents could make the line go slower.

“Waiting in line for everything especially now with Covid, you have to have gaps everywhere, so it gets longer,” Jones said.

Gore says the best times to come to the DMV are mid-morning and early afternoon and not first thing in the morning.

“I was like who is going to be at the DMV at 8 o'clock on a Monday morning? Turns out everyone is going to be the DMV at 8 o'clock on a Monday morning,” said Rathbun with a smile as she described waiting in a cold, rainy line without an umbrella on Monday.

But also don't go at the very end of the day either.

North Carolina native Andrew Petry advises that no one should risk going to the DMV at the end of the day either before the office closes at 5 p.m.

"I had to go print a document real quick at the Staple’s across the street, and I got back in line at 4:31 right when they shut the line off at 4:30," said Petry, who first tried getting his Real ID at the Chula Vista location after checking the current wait times listed on the DMV website.

"The wait times said it would be shorter over there, but don’t believe the wait time online, that is always incorrect,” said Petry, who has been to two different DMV’s back to back trying to get his Real ID.

Gore suggests using the "Get In Line Now" option online to sign up your phone number for an alert.

"You get a text message from us when you are like sixth or seventh in line, and it says okay come on down,” Gore said.

Be prepared if you want a "picture perfect" Real ID that you'll have to wear a mask indoors before taking it off for the photo and can quickly add any makeup before having to put your mask back on post photo. The next stop is waiting in a short checkout line to pay $38 for the Real ID.

 “I think probably people had been putting off coming to the DMV as long as they could, and now that things are opening up, I’m sure that was why there have been longer than usual lines," Rathbun said.

Even with the Real ID deadline now pushed back until May 3, 2023, the DMV urges everyone not to wait.

"We know that people have a tendency to procrastinate and put off until the last minute, but if you do that then you were going to force us into situations where we have long lines and longer wait times,” Gore said.

Another reason you don’t want to put off getting your Real ID is that you’ll be issued a paper license in the meantime before you are mailed your Real ID officially in the mail.