What Is N.C. REAL ID?
Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, federal agencies will enforce the REAL ID Act, which requires a REAL ID, U.S. passport or
another federally approved identification to board commercial flights and enter secure federal buildings.
Please note: If your driver's license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you are unable to renew at your state driver’s license agency, you may still use it as acceptable identification at the checkpoint. Due to the affects of COVID-19, the Transportation Security Administration will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID a year after expiration.
The N.C. REAL ID is a REAL ID Act-compliant driver license that is just like a traditional license or ID but has a star at the top. Driver licenses and IDs without a gold star are noted "Not for Federal Identification."
N.C. REAL ID Is Completely Optional
You do not need a REAL ID driver license or identification card to do any of the following:
- Apply for or receive federal benefits (e.g., Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, etc.)
- Enter a federal facility that does not require an ID (e.g., a post office)
- Access a hospital or receive life-saving services
- Participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations (e.g., serve on a federal jury, testify in federal court, etc.)
A REAL ID, however, might be helpful for anyone who frequently:
- Boards a commercial airplane
- Visits nuclear sites
- Visits military bases
- Visits federal courthouses, federal prisons or other federal facilities
An individual without a REAL ID or U.S. passport may still be able to board flights or make visits to the facilities mentioned above, but they may have to provide
additional documentation with their traditional license or ID.
Getting an N.C. REAL ID
Even though the federal law is not effective until Oct. 1, 2021, anyone can get a REAL ID now.
To do so, visit
an N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles driver license office with the
required acceptable documentation:
One document (with full name) proving identity and date of birth
One document (with full name and full Social Security Number) confirming Social Security number
Two documents (with current physical address) proving North Carolina residency
For non-U.S. citizens,
one document (with full name) proving legal presence/lawful status
one or more documents verifying any name change
Be Prepared for Your Office Visit
Heading to the NCDMV for your N.C. REAL ID? Use the N.C. REAL ID Document Wizard to create a list of documents you will need for your visit. Go to the N.C. REAL ID Wizard
Other Details to Know
Your first N.C. REAL ID cannot be obtained online. It can only be issued at a driver license office, where required documents will be scanned and permanently stored, as required under federal law, in your NCDMV record.
Appointments are required for ALL services that need to be completed in a driver license office.
- Getting an N.C. REAL ID driver license or ID card
costs the same as getting any other license or ID for the first time, and the process is similar.
- If you get an N.C. REAL ID outside of the renewal period, the cost is same as a duplicate license or ID card. You will have to take a new photo, but no tests are required.
- The cost is the same as a
renewal, if the REAL ID is obtained within six months of expiration. You will have to take a vision test and take a new photo.
Applying for a North Carolina driver license or ID card will cancel any licenses or ID cards from other states through the
State-to-State Verification program.