❮ Real ID

North Carolina REAL ID Resource Guide

About This Resource Guide

Changes are coming to the identification process in the United States, and many North Carolina residents are making the move to a REAL ID license. You can apply for a REAL ID through the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) at a Driver License office of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Applying for a REAL ID license can be confusing, but this guide will help you understand what a REAL ID is, what it is used for, and how to navigate the application process.

What is REAL ID?

REAL ID is a form of identification that allows access to commercial flights and federal buildings. Starting May 3rd of 2023, the law will require a form of federal identification to board commercial flights or enter federal buildings.

North Carolina’s REAL ID is a state driver’s license marked with a gold star to indicate that it also acts as federal identification, as shown in the image below (from the nc.dot.gov website). If your NC driver’s license or other state-issued identification doesn’t have a gold star, it will not be accepted as a valid form of federal identification after May 3rd, 2023.

An example of a North Carolina Driver License with the REAL ID gold star in the top right corner.

Owning a REAL ID is not mandatory. If you are an adult and plan on flying or visiting federal government buildings, however, you will need federal identification, like a REAL ID, passport, military ID, travel visa, or Green Card.

Applying for REAL ID

The first step to acquiring a REAL ID is finding a North Carolina DMV office that offers driver license service. You can find your local options here. North Carolina REAL IDs can ONLY be issued at NCDOT Driver License Offices. There is no application process available online.

Think carefully about the timing of your visit. There are often extended waits at DMV offices, particularly during the summer months, and federal holidays. Some DMV offices are open on Saturdays, but you should check if the office you plan to use has Saturday availability before making a visit.

A great way to save time is to make an appointment in advance. The NCDMV website is easy to use and can help you plan around your schedule.
If this is your first time applying for a license, you should be ready to take the standard driver's license tests. You can prepare by reviewing the NC Driver Handbook.

The Documents You’ll Need

You will need to have a collection of documents prepared when you arrive for your appointment; your application cannot move forward without ALL of the necessary documents.

You can check that you have everything you need with the NCDOT Document Wizard, or by using the images below.

A guide to the documents required at your REAL ID appointment.
Further guidance regarding name changes and REAL ID applications for minors.

Payment and Processing

If you obtain a REAL ID outside the renewal period (6 months before your license expires) the cost is $14.

During the renewal period, a REAL ID driver’s license costs the same as a usual license renewal ($44 for Regular Class A, B, or C licenses).

You can pay for your REAL ID with cash, money orders, personal checks, debit cards, and major credit cards.

When your appointment is complete, expect to receive your new REAL ID license by mail within 20 days.