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Use your California DMV digital driver’s license this holiday at SFO, SJC and LAX airports

A sample california driver's license card with a man's picture
The state Department of Motor Vehicles provided an example of a California driver’s license card. | Source: California Department of Motor Vehicles

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has launched a pilot program that can put a “digital” driver’s license on your mobile phones—and possibly ease your airport travel this holiday season.

The digital licenses are considered valid forms of identification at TSA PreCheck lines at about two dozen airports across the United States, including San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Jose Mineta International Airport (SJC).

SFO is expecting about 2.25 million travelers between Friday and the end of December. That’s about 5.75% higher than the same period in 2022 and is about 87% of what the airport saw during the same period in 2019, before the Covid pandemic, according to spokesman Doug Yakel. Travelers are advised to arrive two hours prior to a domestic departure and three hours ahead for international flights.

More than 300,000 Californians have downloaded the mobile driver’s license since the DMV launched the expanded pilot program in August. The program allows for up to 1.5 million enrollees.

Screenshots of a phone showing a blue background and drivers license info
Source: Courtesy California DMV

The digital licenses are available for both Apple and Android-based phones.

To enroll, first download the app to your phone. Next, create a DMV account or log in to your account.

After that, you will be prompted to scan your driver’s license and then take a selfie.

If the DMV’s system can validate that your photo matches your scanned ID card, it will deliver a digital copy of your driver’s license to the app.

But can you use it to buy some spiked holiday eggnog? Not yet.

The Department of Motor Vehicles says law enforcement officers, state government agencies and businesses are not yet accepting the digital licenses. That means holders cannot generally use them as proof of age when buying alcohol, cigarettes or other age-restricted products. Only a few stores in Sacramento and Los Angeles have been allowed to test out accepting the digital licenses for age-restricted products like alcohol and cigarettes.