Driver License with Limiting Note OK to Establish Identity

A new employee gave me a current California driver license. On the front of the license there is a notation “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY.” Can I accept this driver license as an identity document for purposes of the Form I-9?

Yes. A driver license with the “Federal Limits Apply” notation indicates that the license does not meet federal standards for the issuance and production of a compliant card under the REAL ID Act, but it does not prohibit the document from being used to establish identity for I-9 purposes.

The REAL ID Act of 2005 is a federal law pertaining to national security, which, among other things, requires that all states comply with federal standards in issuing driver licenses or identity cards and that those standards be in place by October 2020.

What this notation means is that an individual will not be able to use a noncompliant REAL ID driver license or identity card to fly within the United States or enter secure federal buildings and military bases that require identification after October 20, 2020.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is in compliance with this law and now issues two types of driver licenses or identity cards—one that complies with the REAL ID Act and one that does not. Either license is an acceptable identity document for purposes of I-9 requirements.

Federal Explanation

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that oversees lawful immigration and issues the Form I-9, posted a question and answer addressing this issue:

Is a state-issued driver’s license with the notation “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY,” “NOT ACCEPTABLE FOR OFFICIAL FEDERAL PURPOSES,” or other similar notation on the front or back of the license an acceptable List B document?

Yes. The notation “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY, “NOT ACCEPTABLE FOR OFFICIAL FEDERAL PURPOSES” or a similar notation on the front or back of a state-issued driver’s license indicates it does not meet the standards for the issuance and production of a compliant card under the REAL ID Act.

A driver’s license with this type of notation is, however, an acceptable List B document if it contains a photograph or identifying information such as name, date of birth, sex, height, color of eyes, and address. An employer must examine the document presented by its employee and determine whether it meets Form I-9 requirements. If the employer accepts any document, including a state-issued license with a limiting notation, as a List B document, the employer must also examine a List C document establishing employment authorization.

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2 Types of Driver License

Individuals who are either renewing or obtaining a driver license in California are able to choose either a REAL ID or a noncompliant driver license.

According to the DMV website, in order to obtain a REAL ID driver license, an individual must go in person to a DMV office and present an original or certified document proving identity (examples of acceptable documents include a U.S. passport, a certified copy of a birth certificate, permanent resident card or unexpired foreign passport with valid U.S. visa and approved I-94 form).

In addition, two documents that establish a physical address must be provided (examples of acceptable documents include car registration, home utility bills, phone bills, a mortgage statement or lease agreement, bank records and insurance documents).

Additional information and copies of what the two California licenses look like are available on the REAL ID page at the DMV website,

Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at

Staff Contact: Sunny Lee