What do Federal Limits Apply to Mean on a Driver’s License in California?

What do Federal Limits Apply to Mean on a Driver's License in California?


There’s so much chaos about the ‘Federal Limits Apply’ driver license and Real ID card since the government asked citizens to get a Real ID card as ID proof for the federal works. Read more What do Federal Limits Apply to Mean on a Driver’s License in California?

Often, people become confused about the significance of the mark, the federal limit apply to their card and its use. So, the article answers everything from whether you should apply to get a Real ID card or not and where you use both cards and who should apply to get the real ID card, and so on.

What do federal limits apply tag indicate?

Out of state-local law agencies, federal officers are not restricted to accept the driver’s license as a form of identity.

After May 2023 (the new deadline to get a real id) the driver’s license that has ‘federal limit apply’ on it won’t be accepted as the identification proof for anybody living in the U.S. It means that to board domestic flights in the U.S. one has to carry the passport as their identification proof or get a Real ID card.

For someone who carries federal limits apply a driver’s license card to enter the federal buildings (which ask for identification proofs) will be prohibited.

To get access to these facilities either one person has to carry other federally accepted ID proofs or has to apply for a Real ID card.

Can you use it as ID proof?

Because of the Real ID Act, the driving license that reads Federal Limits Apply on it is not acceptable as ID proof.

How are both driving license cards different?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues two types of driver licenses. One of these comply with the Real ID Act and the other one doesn’t.

The one that complies with the Real ID act has a golden bear with a star mark on it, at the top right corner. While the other driver’s license has federal limits apply written on its top right corner.

The real ID card is acceptable as an ID proof to enter federal buildings and board domestic flights in the U.S.

Why is there a need for a Real ID?

This rule is a part of the Real ID act, which was passed in 2005 under the presidency of George W. Bush. After the enforcement of this law, it’ll be easy for federal officers to check the identity of U.S. citizens and immigrants.

When should one apply for a Real ID?

It’s good to apply for a Real ID as soon as possible. But if you already have a driver’s license, then you can apply for the Real ID driver license after your driving license’s expiry date. Until the expiry date of your driving license, you can use a passport or other federally accepted IDs.

But if you do not have a passport, then you should immediately apply for a Real ID. Because without a passport or Real ID you will not be allowed in the courthouse, military offices, or other federal bodies.

How to apply for a Real ID?

You can apply for a Real ID by visiting a Department of Motor Vehicle office. The DMV requires the applicant to visit the office personally to apply for a Real ID.

Documents that are asked during the application for Real ID.

The list of documents asked during applying for a Real ID.

A document showing the applicant’s full name and date of birth. A birth certificate, permanent resident card, or passport will be valid for this purpose.

A document showing the applicant’s social security number such as social security card, W-2, paystub, etc.

Two documents as proof of applicants’ California residency. These documents can be the mailing address, phone utility bills, mortgage bills, vehicle registration card. Also, check the name of your spouse on the documents that you want to submit.

Who can skip applying for a Real ID card?

The importance of Real ID is already highlighted in the article. Based on that, we can say that a Real ID card is not necessary for someone who wants to use a passport card as their identity proof. That means it’s necessary for those who don’t have a passport.

A Real ID card is not compulsory for children below 18 years of age. In that case, the spouse will be checked for the id.

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The real ID is not compulsory to get into the post office or other federal buildings which don’t ask for the person’s identification proof.

The Real ID card is not compulsory as a driving license, and one can use the existing driving license for that purpose.


From the information mentioned above, it will become easy for you to understand the difference between both driving licenses. The federal limit applies, the card will be valid as a driver’s license but not as an identification proof for anybody. As the deadline to get a Real ID card is extended, it will be convenient for citizens to decide whether or not they should use a driver’s license and apply for the same.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.1: How is the real ID card different from a non-compliant driver’s license?

The real ID card has a golden bear and a star marked on its top right corner, and the non-compliant card has the federal limit apply written on it.

Q.2: Is it compulsory to get a Real ID?

It is not compulsory to get a Real ID, but then you have to use your passport as identification proof in the federal buildings, domestic flights, and other federally governed bodies.

Q.3: What is the deadline to get a Real ID?

According to the department of motor Vehicles’ website, the new deadline to get a Real ID is extended till May 3, 2023.

Q.4: can I get a Real ID by mail or online?

No, you have to visit a DMV office to get your Real ID. However, you can get an appointment and fill the application online.

Q.5: Will my existing driver’s license still be legal?

Yes, you can continue using your existing driving license, just, it will not be accepted as identification proof anymore after May 2023 (the deadline).

What do Federal Limits Apply to Mean on a Driver’s License in California?

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