As you know, insurance and the DMV go hand-in-hand. Proof of liability insurance is required to do a number of things at the DMV, including obtaining a driver’s license or registering a vehicle. Because what we do is so often tied into the reasons that you go to the DMV, we are trying to get the word out about a new initiative – the NC REAL ID – that you can take care of the next time you visit the DMV.

Beginning in October of 2020, federal agencies will start enforcing tougher security standards at airport check-ins, federal buildings, military installations and nuclear sites. The federal identification standard is changing, and a state-issued driver’s license will no longer be sufficient for those who want to fly, enter a federal building like a courthouse, or visit a military base.

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to recommendations from the 9/11 Commission following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The NC REAL ID is a REAL ID Act-compliant driver’s license that is just like a traditional license or ID but has a gold star at the top. Driver’s licenses and IDs without a gold star are noted “Not for Federal Identification.”

The NC REAL ID is completely optional. You will not need an NC REAL ID driver’s license or identification card to do any of the following:

Drive; Vote; 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.).

An NC REAL ID, however, will 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 an NC REAL ID or U.S. passport will still be able to board flights or make visits to the facilities mentioned above, but they will have to provide additional documentation with their traditional license or ID.

The cost of the REAL ID is the same as a normal renewal if obtained within six months of your current license expiration. If you are obtaining the REAL ID outside of the renewal period, the cost is the same as a duplicate ($13). A new photo will be taken, but no tests are required.

Even though the federal law is not effective until Oct. 1, 2020, anyone can get an NC REAL ID now. Simply bring the following documents (no photocopies) to a driver’s license office:

One (1) proof of identity/date of birth​: certified birth certificate or unexpired U.S. passport

One (1) proof of full Social Security Number: Social Security card, W-2 or 1099

Two (2) proofs of current physical address: driver license, vehicle registration card, voter registration card, utility bill, cable bill, bank statement

Proof of name change (if applicable): certified marriage license, divorce decree and/or court document indicating the name change (number of documents depend on number of name changes) Additional documents, as well as more information on the initiative, are available at

Sample REAL ID with the gold star