How to Get a Free CA Photo ID


Can I get a free California photo ID? 

If you are a California resident, experiencing homelessness, and can visit a "homeless service provider" so they can complete your photo ID "fee waiver" form, then yes, you are eligible to get a free California photo ID. (Note: You will need two additional pieces of information -- See Step 2 below). 


At what age can you apply for a California photo ID?

You can apply for a California identification card at any age. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues two types:


  • A regular ID card.

  • A senior citizen ID card for residents over 62 years old.


Can I also get a photo ID for my child?

Yes. The process is the same for children as for adults. 


Where do I begin? 


Step 1: Go to a local "homeless service provider" and let them know you are currently experiencing homelessness and need a "fee waiver" to get a free California photo ID from the DMV. If you're not sure where to go, contact your local emergency shelter or County human services office and let them know you are currently experiencing homelessness and need a "fee waiver" to get a free California photo ID from the DMV. 


Step 2: After you have your "fee waiver" from the homeless service provider, make sure you have all of the following documents.


  • The "fee waiver" form from the homeless service provider.

  • Your Social Security number (SSN). If you are ineligible for a SSN but are legally present in the U.S., you can still apply for a CA ID card.

  • A "certified copy" of your birth certificate OR United States passport. (Note: If you do not have a certified copy of your birth certificate, you can obtain a free copy by going through these steps. The same person who completes your fee-waiver for the DMV can also complete your fee-waiver for your birth certificate.) 


Note: Is your current name different than it appears on your birth certificate or passport?

If so, you will also need to bring a document showing proof of your name change -- such as:


  • Marriage certificate OR

  • Name change document showing both your original and new name OR

  • Adoption papers


Step 3: Visit your local California DMV and bring your fee-waiver form, your Social Security number, and your certified copy of your birth certificate (or a United States passport). 


1. When you arrive at the DMV, start at the Information Desk and let them know you are there to get a California photo ID. 

2, You will need to fill out an "Identification Card Application" (Form DL 44). This form is not available online, you must get the form at the DMV.

3. You will be asked to give your thumbprint.

4. You will have your picture taken.


Step 4: You will receive your new CA photo ID in the mail within 60 days. If your ID card hasn't arrived after 60 days, call the DMV at 800.773.0133 to check the status of your application. You will need to have your receipt number.


Please keep in mind . . . 

The law making California photo IDs free to people experiencing homelessness is brand-new -- it went into effect January 1, 2016. Because it's so new, not everyone who can help you has heard of this new law, so it make take a little time for your service provider and the people at the DMV to complete your paperwork. We are working to get the word out and help everyone understand the process, so your experience will be quick and easy.


Learn about free birth certificates 

As of July 1, 2015, people experiencing homelessness can now get a free certified copy of his/her California birth certificate. Learn more