If you’re waiting for your new, counterfeit-proof driver’s license, the DMV says the wait is getting shorter. Apply today and you’ll have one in a month. Really, it insists.

But it’s hard not to be skeptical about that promise, especially when last fall DMV officials insisted the problem was just a glitch that would be fixed within just a few weeks. And then there are the horror stories shared by Road Warrior readers.

DMV spokeswoman Jan Mendoza said the delays result from the manufacturing company having a tough time getting the cards’ sophisticated security features absolutely perfect. And the DMV won’t accept any licenses unless they’re 100 percent accurate and is withholding any payment of the $65 million contract until the problems are fixed, she said.

The new California driver’s license is the “most complex” of any in the U.S., she said.

The new features include the driver’s date of birth and signature in raised lettering that can be felt by touch, a photo of the driver that can be seen only with ultraviolet light, a bar code on the back of the license that replicates and verifies the information on the front of the card (similar to the current magnetic strip) and a laser perforation outline of the California brown bear that can be seen on the license only when a flashlight is pressed against the back of the license. The changes also raised the cost of producing each license to $1.31 from the old version’s 64 cents, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Mendoza said DMV workers do spot checks of batches of new licenses and reject an entire batch if such things as the coloring, alignment, symbols and photos aren’t right. She said 2.5 million licenses have been made since October and about 10 percent have had errors. That means at least 250,000 people have had to wait for their licenses.

She said DMV officials have had discussions with the company, L-1 Identity Solutions of Stamford, Conn., about the problems and delays. She said the licenses actually are made at a L-1 Identity Solutions plant in Sacramento, but she didn’t know if any DMV officials have gone to the plant to check the manufacturing process. She said the company is the only one in the nation that makes drivers’ licenses, and it made the previous version of the California license.

A call to the company’s headquarters requesting comment wasn’t returned. The company has turned down inquiries from other media.

If you’ve been waiting awhile for your new license, Mendoza said you should call the DMV at 1-800-777-0133 and once you get a representative on the phone, tell him/her of the delay and they’ll transfer you to a DMV worker who will have “a better idea” of where your license is in the process and, if necessary, will expedite a temporary license for you.

The Road Warrior called that number and the recording said the wait time for a license was six weeks. To get a representative, we had to say “technician” when the recording asked what we wanted. That got us transferred to a representative, but the wait time was 30 minutes.

DMV spokesman Armando Botello said he didn’t know if the 30-minute wait was typical but said going to a DMV office to get help probably would take longer than that.

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  1. John

    I went to the DMV on 11/1, and my license came in the mail on 2/1. Hope the wait times go down; I was told 6 weeks too.

    February 15th, 2011 7:58 am

  2. Ken

    It took me 90 days to receive my renewed license. The people at the primary DMV contact number told me “something is wrong, we processed your request on Nov. 16″ and had me call the secondary number, which deals with exceptions. I had no trouble getting through, but the guy I talked to said another 30 days and asked if I wanted a temporary extension. Since I was already driving on an expired license I said yes – but they never sent it. The real license showed up three months after I sent in my check (which they cashed immediately, of course). I drove around for about a month on my expired license. Lets hope not many other people have to go through this.

    February 15th, 2011 8:11 am

  3. scott miller

    That they’re discarding “batches” of licenses is alarming. There’s no way to guarantee they aren’t misappropriated by staff members or pulled from whatever destruction process they’re put to and passed into the underworld for identity theft.

    This process REALLY needs to get fixed!

    February 15th, 2011 8:12 am

  4. Juli

    I do not like the vertical under-21 licenses. I do understand their purposes, but they do not fit or show correctly in wallets. I’m 20, but feel like some little 16 year old with my vertical kid’s license. I renewed my license in the end of December and got it the end of January, so it did take about a month.

    February 15th, 2011 8:15 am

  5. ofarrell

    I ordered my new one 3 months ago, as my birthday (and the license’s end of validity) is next week. Still haven’t received it. But I will simply carry with me the receipt given when I renewed it on line.
    And hope.

    February 15th, 2011 8:24 am

  6. John

    I stopped by the DMV when my temporary renewal was about to expire. The lady @ the county said that law enforcement won’t cite you for an expired temporary license, as they are aware of the delay in processing new licenses. I drive for a living, so I asked for a temporary extension but they declined to give it to me. I took the lady’s name and ID #, just in case.

    February 15th, 2011 8:45 am

  7. BV

    Ordered mine in October and it showed up two weeks ago. Worst part was that I when I called in mid-January to check up on it, the guy I talked to told me it could take two more months.

    February 15th, 2011 8:46 am


    I renewed my license on 9/8/10… I am STILL waiting to get my new one. I have called the DMN NUMEROUS times, i have even called their Sacramento office NUMEROUS times. Each time they tell me its in process, its in the mail and I should recieve it within “2-3 weeks.” 5 months later, I am still waiting.

    February 15th, 2011 9:04 am

  9. well

    In large part, I think a lot of this has to do with budget cuts and fewer workers, and then also some workers are known to ‘raise’ their hands from things and not try hard when work load becomes ridiculous- more mistakes, more frustrated workers, more frustrated citizens

    February 15th, 2011 9:07 am

  10. BV


    Although the budget is probably part of the problem, according to the DMV rep I talked to, it’s more complicated than that. L1 is a huge defense contractor that does biometrics and identification for everything from government agencies like the US military and the FBI, to entire countries like Saudi Arabia. The new CA ID is easily the most complex state id in the US, and consequently one of the most difficult and expensive to produce. Unfortunately, the CA ID market simply isn’t large enough, nor are we important enough, to warrant a huge influx of capital to remedy the problem quickly. It may take a while, but the problem will sort itself out in time.

    When you put yourselves in L1’s shoes, it makes sense. I mean, think about it. Here you have a bunch of IDs to produce, a complex one for the FBI, maybe a run-of-the-mill one for the Saudi government, some teachers here, a state in middle America there, etc, then from out of the blue, a few hippies from that other coast throw a huge, insanely complicated project at you. Their market’s probably not that lucrative and let’s face it, other customers are probably more important than them. Time is limited. Who’s going to get pushed to the bottom of the pile?

    February 15th, 2011 11:09 am

  11. Sarah

    I’ve been waiting since November 30. Just waited 46 on hold to speak to a technician. She couldn’t give me one bit of information. Didn’t know when it would be sent out, nothing. They’re mailing me another interim paper because my previous one has expired.

    Side note: I was to attend a friends birthday party at a 21 and up lounge. I called Alcohol and Beverage Control on Friday to determine if a copy of an old license with a paper interim license was sufficient to get into a 21 and up place and consume alcohol. NOPE. NOT LEGAL. So essentially the DMV has locked me indoors until they feel like sending me my license!!

    (Luckily Sacramento is as ridiculous as the DMV and bouncers, waiters, bartenders don’t know that the interim license is illegal. I talked my way in on Friday night without any problems.

    February 15th, 2011 12:47 pm

  12. ER

    I have a friend who flies as part of his job, applied for a renewed license two months before the expiration date and is still waiting. He wasn’t sure an expired license would be considered valid ID to get thru airport security so he’s taking his passport along when he travels.

    My license expires in 2014. Maybe I should renew it now to be sure I get a new one by then?

    February 15th, 2011 12:56 pm

  13. Jessica

    Since I’m STILL waiting for my new license in the mail (over 1 month now) my concern is how will this impact traveling? Will I get through airport security without any problems? Planning to go out of state in April…. I’ve already gone to the DMV and received a temporary license.

    February 15th, 2011 1:16 pm

  14. SusanH

    My daughter passed her test Sept. 2, 2010. We went to the DMV in December and they were no help and redirected my daughter to the 800 number. Of course she had already tried that 3x and never got to a real person for over half an hour. My daugher called the State Assembly person and she got to talk to them. They had DMV contacts and could actually talk to somewhat at the agency. My daughter’s second temporary license expired and the Assembly office got a third sent to her. A week later, in mid January 2011 the actual license arrived….4 1/2 months later. So dont believe when they tell you 6 weeks.

    February 15th, 2011 7:05 pm

  15. Stephanie

    I renewed my license over the internet back in Dec 2010 it is now a few days from being March 2011 and I still have no license. If it wasn’t for me having a passport and the fact I know my ID number by heart I would be driving around risking a ticket for no proper identification if I was to be pulled over. Yup I live in one of “THOSE” towns.

    February 26th, 2011 10:14 pm


    i got a temp license paper good untill 31 of marchn 2011
    and by what i been reading it is going to take a couple of months before they get their act together

    they are good to take your money but not in giving results

    and if the cops stop you the head ackes are for you

    sounds to me like set up. to get more money from you in court

    why is it always its to their advantage ?

    March 15th, 2011 9:32 am

  17. Caroline

    whoa im kind of glad that i am not the only one. so im guessing i have to wait an additional 2 months ontop of the 3 months of waiting… but my birthday is in 2 months and it is the year that it expires…

    ive heard that the dmv does not do refunds. so it seems like they are stingy meaning that i have to pay again to receive the newer license.. even tho i never received the old one that i wanted to replace because i had lost it…

    ok just got off the phone with the technician. she said it got issued on march 11th… and it should arrive shortly. after i told her about how my license will expire in june and asking her if it would take another 4 months after i get to renew my license, she told me that the system is getting better and in fact she applied for her license in february and received it 7 weeks later.. i applied in january… i have sadly forgotten to ask her for a temp license cuz my temp has been expired for a while now… but it seems that some people couldnt even get the temp of the temp.. i will not waste my phone minutes and my time to call back or wait a long time at the dmv. i will just deal with this 2 months later.

    im just gonna say its safe to say that i will receive my NEW license (the one that i have to renew because the one im getting replaced is pretty much USELESS) by september.

    April 1st, 2011 2:53 pm

  18. Jeff Foster

    I think it is a grizzly bear, not a brown bear.

    July 24th, 2011 1:20 pm

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