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Calif. DMV Gets Last-Minute Extension To Fix REAL ID Snafu

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) – The Department of Homeland Security Wednesday gave the California DMV a more than three-month extension in order to comply with changing requirements for the new REAL ID cards.

The DMV reported that DHS had granted an extension to April 1 in order to meet federal standards.

Airport lines TSA
Passengers wait in a Transportation Security Administration line at JFK airport on Jan. 9, 2019, in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

There has been major confusion about the issue that has been compounded by the government shutdown. According to the DHS website, which has not been updated despite the extension, residents of states such as California which are currently not in compliance with REAL ID requirements would not have been allowed to board a plane beginning Jan. 22 without showing a secondary form of identification, such as a passport.

"This extension allows all valid California driver licenses and identification cards to continue to be accepted for federal purposes, such as boarding commercial aircraft and entering federal facilities," the DMV said in a statement. "This extension, however, most likely will not be reflected on the DHS website until the partial federal furlough ends."

Because of the partial government shutdown, most DHS employees are furloughed and its website is not being actively managed.

By October of 2020, REAL ID cards will required to board airplanes or enter federal buildings under security enhancements following 9/11. U.S. residents who do not have a REAL ID will be required to show an alternative document, like a passport.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration told SFGate Wednesday that the TSA will not enforce REAL ID requirements until October of 2020, and the issue of compliance is a DHS matter.

The California DMV has been issuing REAL IDs since January of 2018. However, the muddle up began in November, when DHS informed the DMV that it had changed its mind, and the DMV's procedure for approving REAL IDs was incorrect.

To obtain a REAL ID, applicants must show two documents proving residency, such as a utility bill or a pay stub. The California DMV had been operating under the assumption that it only required applicants to bring one document proving residency to the DMV office, and counted on delivery of the ID card by the post office as the secondary proof of someone's address.

Emails show that DHS had approved such a process in 2017. However, in November, DHS suddenly reversed course and told the DMV that that was no longer acceptable; applicants must now bring two documents proving residency in person to a DMV office.

"So in other words, the method by which we have been collecting two proofs of residency was approved by the [U.S.] Department of Homeland Security and we were following those guidelines," DMV spokesman Jaime Garza told CBS San Francisco last month. "That's changed a bit."

As of December, the California DMV had already issued about 2.3 million REAL ID cards under the previous requirement.

It remains unclear how those cardholders will be affected by the mistake. Garza said REAL IDs already issued will remain valid and changes will only apply going forward.

According to the DMV's website, those who already have a REAL ID card do not need to do anything immediately – their cards are valid -- but at some point will have to provide the DMV with a second residency document. The DMV is hoping to implement a process that allows people to provide those documents online or by mail so they don't have to visit a DMV office.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he is launching an effort to modernize the state's embattled DMV.

Newsom appointed Marybel Batjer to lead a "strike team" focused on finding new DMV leadership and recommending reforms to improve service. Batjer is the secretary of the state government operations agency and will retain that job during her six-month role at the DMV.

The DMV has been under fire for long lines and voter registration errors and is facing a state audit. Its former director, Jean Shiomoto, retired last month.

Newsom says the agency has been "chronically mismanaged" and is failing in its mission to serve customers.

Newsom didn't announce an expected price tag for modernizing the agency.

For answers to common questions about REAL IDs, click here.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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