Getting a REAL ID in NC? Make sure you take these documents to the DMV.

The idea behind the REAL ID is pretty straightforward: Create a new form of state driver’s license or ID card that requires stricter documentation to guarantee the identity of the person who has one.

But the details, about whether to get a REAL ID and how, can be confusing. Every time The News & Observer publishes an article about REAL ID, we get new questions about it.

So here, in one place, is (most) everything you need to know about the REAL ID in North Carolina. If we haven’t answered your question, please let us know.

Q. What is the REAL ID?

A. The N.C. REAL ID is a driver’s license or ID card issued by the state Division of Motor Vehicles that meets new federal identification standards established by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Q. Do I need to get a REAL ID?

A. No, neither the state nor federal government requires that you have a REAL ID.

Q. Then why would I get a REAL ID?

A. The federal government will begin requiring stricter identification standards to board a commercial flight or to enter a federal facility, including courthouses and military bases, as well as nuclear plants. The REAL ID will be sufficient to board a plane or enter facilities where the public is required to show ID. To fly, those without a REAL ID will be required to show another form of identification, such as a passport, Department of Defense ID or one of dozen other IDs listed on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s website, Military bases require two forms of identification if you don’t have a REAL ID.

Q. If I can fly with my passport, why do I need a REAL ID?

A. It’s mostly a matter of convenience. Most Americans are not accustomed to carrying their passports unless they’re planning to leave the country. You’d have to remember to bring it with you to visit a federal facility as well.

Q. I never fly, and I don’t plan to visit a federal courthouse or go on a military base. Is there any other reason I should get a REAL ID?

A. No, probably not. But before you visit a federal facility, you may want to check ahead to see what identification will allow you to get in.

Q. When will the new identification requirements go into effect?

A. Some military bases, such as Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg, will begin enforcing the requirements on Jan. 22, 2018. For commercial air travel, the REAL ID, a passport or other approved ID will be required to board a flight starting Oct. 1, 2020.

Q. If we have until 2020, why is the N.C. DMV so keen for people to get them now?

A. DMV officials estimate that as many as 4 million North Carolina drivers may want to get a REAL ID by Oct. 1, 2020. If everyone waits until the months just before then, DMV offices will be overwhelmed.

Q. Where do I get a REAL ID?

A. The N.C. REAL ID is available at the 113 DMV license offices in the state as well as mobile offices that visit remote areas or special events. To find the office nearest you, go to and type in your city, county or ZIP code.

Q. What documents do I need to get a REAL ID?

A. You need to provide three types of documents. You need one document that shows your identity and date of birth. This can include a U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport or any one of a half dozen other documents issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or the Citizenship and Immigration Service. If your name is different than it appears on those documents, because of marriage or divorce, you will need to provide another document that shows the change, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree. Next, you need one document that shows your Social Security number. This includes a Social Security card or one of the following: a 1099 tax form, W-2 form or pay stub, each with your name and full Social Security number. Last, you’ll need two documents that prove your current North Carolina residency. This can include your current unexpired driver’s license, vehicle registration card, voter precinct card, a DD214 veteran’s form, utility bill, school records or North Carolina vehicle insurance policy. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you’ll need to provide a document showing you are lawfully in the United States. Note that birth, marriage and divorce documents must be certified. For a full list of documents that can be used to obtain a REAL ID, go to

Q. Will the DMV keep copies of these documents?

A. Yes, the federal government requires that DMV scan those documents and keep them as part of your DMV record. On reason it has taken years to develop the REAL ID system in North Carolina and other states is that each state DMV had to develop new systems for securely storing electronic copies of these documents.

Q. What if my name has changed?

A. If your name no longer matches the one on your birth certificate or other document used to establish your identity and date of birth, you will need to provide another document that shows the change, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree or a document from a court or register of deeds. If your passport has your current name, no additional documentation is needed.

Q. Does a REAL ID cost extra?

A. If you’re renewing your driver’s license, a REAL ID costs the same as the license, $40. If it is not time to renew your license, the REAL ID costs the same as a duplicate license, $13.

Q. Does a REAL ID look different from a driver’s license?

A. No, except a REAL ID will have a gold star in the upper right-hand corner. A driver’s license that doesn’t meet the new federal identification standards will contain the words: “Not for Federal Identification.”

Q. Should I wait until I renew my license to get a REAL ID?

A. You can’t renew your license until six months before it expires. If that’s going to happen between now and Oct. 1, 2020, you might just wait, though you risk enduring longer lines.

Q. I have to renew my license in 2019 anyway. If I get my REAL ID now, will I still need to get my license renewed then?

A. Yes. Getting a duplicate REAL ID now does not change when your license comes up for renewal.

Q. Can I get a REAL ID online?

A. No, not the first time. You need to visit a DMV office to obtain a REAL ID. When you renew a REAL ID, you’ll be able to do that online.

Q. Can I make an appointment?

A. Yes, you can call your local DMV office to make an appointment to renew your license or obtain a REAL ID.

Q. Will minors need a REAL ID to fly?

A. No. Anyone under age 18 can fly without ID when traveling with an adult companion, but the companion will need acceptable ID.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739,