What You Don’t Know About Putting Your Driver’s License on an iPhone

It’s not a picture, it’s your real license

Lance Ulanoff
Published in
3 min readSep 1, 2021


Scanning in your real license to create a digital one (Credit: Apple)

Apple’s promise of adding driver’s licenses and state IDs to Apple Wallet is coming to fruition and bringing with it a wallet-full of questions.

As soon as I posted the news, people expressed concerns about holding up their phone or, worse, handing it over so an official can ogle your license on the screen.

That’s not how this works. Let’s look at how it does.

Getting the license on your device

For those living in Arizona and Georgia (and soon Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah), the process of adding your driver’s license to your phone’s wallet starts with your existing, physical license.

As you might’ve guessed, you do follow on-screen prompts to scan in both sides of your license. You also take a selfie and even get a little bit of facial and head movement scanning. Each of these tasks has a slightly different purpose.

When Apple scans the license, it’s looking at that barcode on the back, which contains all the crucial information on the front. The selfie is used to compare to the photo on the front of the license. And the head movement stuff is a bit like CAPTCHA for this process. It proves that you’re a living person and not, say, a thief who filched your card and also has a still photo of you for the selfie.

How it works

Once collected the information is verified with your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which issues a new digital license to your iPhone’s Apple Wallet. On the device, the front of it doesn’t even look like your license. In other words, showing someone your phone and the digital card wouldn’t be much use.

A digital license in Apple Wallet is only half the solution.

At Airports, for example, the TSA is slowly working on introducing new kiosks that will let you hold the phone near them and enable a secure, local communication channel. Your card info is encrypted on the phone but the communication between the kiosk and the phone decrypts it to gather, with your permission (you get a prompt to double tap on…



Lance Ulanoff

Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.