Real ID driver's license

Next fall, when you go to catch a commercial flight and the officer at the TSA security checkpoint asks to see your ID, your regular old driver’s license won’t be good enough anymore.

Starting Oct. 1, 2020, most travelers on domestic flights will need either a passport, a U.S. military ID or a REAL ID driver’s license with a yellow star in the upper right-hand corner.

The new, tougher identification standards have been in the works since 2005, when Congress passed the REAL ID Act in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. To get a driver’s license or ID that qualifies as a REAL ID, a person must visit a Division of Motor Vehicles office in person and present documents to verify their identity and place of residence.

The North Carolina DMV began issuing REAL IDs in May 2017, and agency officials estimated then that some 4 million state residents would eventually want one. But as of Nov. 5, with less than a year to go before the new requirements take effect, only a bit more than 1.5 million REAL IDs had been issued in North Carolina.

DMV officials are worried that people will wait until the last minute, overwhelming driver’s license offices. That’s what happened in the summer of 2018, when people sought REAL IDs during the DMV’s busiest season. The long lines prompted the agency to take several steps to reduce the amount of time people spend waiting to be served, but another run on REAL IDs next year could fill DMV offices again.

The demand for REAL ID could spike as state and federal officials, airlines and airports and travel organizations encourage people to get one. The president of Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the regional security director for the Transportation Security Administration held a news conference last month to get that message across.

“Oct. 1 will be here before you know it,” said Michael Landguth, the president of the Raleigh-Durham airport. “No one wants to be the person who misses their flight because they show up at the airport without the right identification.”

Here are some common questions about the REAL ID.

Q. Am I required to get a REAL ID?

A. No, neither the state nor federal government requires that you have a REAL ID. Your current driver’s license will function as a driver’s license after Oct. 1, 2020.

Q. Then why would I get a REAL ID?

A. The federal government will require stricter identification standards to board a commercial flight or to enter federal facilities, including federal 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, U.S. military ID or one of a dozen other IDs listed on the TSA’s website,

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 don’t plan to visit a federal facility or military base. Is there any other reason I should get a REAL ID?

A. No. But before you visit a federal facility, you may want to check ahead to see what identification will allow you to get in.

Q. Where do I get a REAL ID?

A. The N.C. REAL ID is available at the 115 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 six 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 another document that shows the change.

Next, you need one document that shows your Social Security number. This includes a Social Security card or a 1099 tax form, W-2 form or pay stub.

Last, you’ll need two documents that prove your current North Carolina residency: an 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. 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.

Q. What if my name changed?

A. 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.

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. 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.

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