SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – Californians who renewed driver’s licenses or ID cards during the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible to upgrade to Real ID cards for free, the Department of Motor Vehicles announced Monday.

Due to pandemic concerns, the agency allowed all Californians 70 and older and those who already reached their limit on out-of-office renewals to renew online or by mail, but an office visit continued to be required to receive a Real ID card. The DMV said it would waive the application fee for those who seek to upgrade through the end of the year.

Since March of last year, DMV officials said they have issued more than 5 million licenses and ID cards that are not Real ID to those who are eligible for one. Cards that are not compliant with Real ID are stamped with the words “Federal Limits Apply.”

“We don’t want Californians to pay the price for not getting a REAL ID during the pandemic,” DMV director Steve Gordon said in a statement. “While the federal government has extended the enforcement date for a REAL ID, there is no need to procrastinate.”

In May 2023, the Department of Homeland Security will require a Real ID card or a passport to board flights within the United States or to enter federal facilities or military bases.

Before the pandemic, the rush to get a Real ID ahead of the previous October 2020 deadline led to long lines at offices and prompted a state audit of the DMV. The agency said it has since streamlined the process, by allowing applicants to upload their documents and schedule in-person appointments online.

Additional information about the Real ID application process can be found on the DMV website.