New California DMV Digital Driver’s License: Here’s What You Need to Know

California residents can now access their driver’s license or ID card on their smartphone and use it to pass Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checks at select Bay Area airports.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is offering a limited number of free sign-ups for the state’s first digital driver’s license. In addition to being used at many airports across the US, including San Francisco International Airport and Mineta San Jose International Airport, participants can use it to verify their age when purchasing alcoholic beverages at a few convenience stores in the state.

The agency spokeswoman, Anita Gore, said in an email that the DMV began testing the digital driver’s license in late May with a limited number of participants. In August, the agency opened the pilot program to the general public, now allowing 1.5 million people to participate. As of Wednesday morning, about 135,000 people had signed up, Gore said.

Gore stressed that the digital driver’s license, called an “mDL”, does not replace an actual driver’s license. She urged people to continue carrying their physical cards, “although the acceptance and uses of mDL will continue to evolve.”

Businesses — including bars — law enforcement agencies and state government agencies are not yet accepting digital licenses. So, if you get pulled over on a road in California, only your physical card will do.

A digital driver’s license is accepted at United Airlines terminals at SFO and Los Angeles International Airport, at San Jose International and 26 other airports nationwide, by adding it to your phone’s digital wallet, according to Gore and the Transportation Security Administration.

TSA said: At the TSA pre-check point, tap your linked phone or device to present your ID, and the TSA reader will take your photo before proceeding to the screening. You should still carry your actual ID with you.

Below is a list of other participating US airports.

So far, Gore said, only some convenience stores in the Sacramento and Los Angeles area that use the TruAge age-verification process accept digital cards. “The DMV expects the mDL to become more widely accepted over time,” she added.

Gore said the digital license is secured “through the use of biometrics and encryption and meets the highest federal and international security standards” and makes it difficult for people to access or steal information.

The DMV said that usage is not tracked, and no data is left on the device without the owner’s consent.

How does the process work?

I signed up for a digital license, which was a straightforward process that took about five minutes. Here’s how I did it, following the DMV’s instructions:

First, you must have a smartphone and a driver’s license or state-issued ID. Search for and download the CA DMV Wallet app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. The app is only available for those who have an iPhone 6 with iOS 13 or later, or Android 7 or later. The DMV said the app is not available for Android 10-based EMU 10 devices.

I downloaded the app to my iPhone 14 and was asked to enter my phone’s passcode when I launched the app.

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