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The Real Deal on Real I.D.

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Beginning October 1, 2020*, federal agencies will enforce what is known as the REAL I.D. Act. This requires a REAL I.D., U.S. passport or another federally approved means of identification to board commercial flights and enter secure federal buildings.

*“Due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration… the new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021.” – DHS

What is REAL I.D.?

The REAL I.D. is a REAL I.D. driver license that is just like a traditional license or I.D. but has a gold star on it. It is also Act-compliant and carries this gold star in the top right corner. Driver licenses and I.D.s without a gold star carry the stamp “Not for Federal Identification”.

The REAL I.D. is optional

The REAL I.D. is not mandatory and you do not need a REAL I.D. driver license or identification card to do any of the following:

  • Drive
  • Vote
  • Apply for or receive federal benefits (Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, etc.)
  • Enter a federal facility that does not require an I.D. (i.e. post office)
  • Access a hospital or receive life-saving services
  • Participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations (i.e. serve on a federal jury, testify in federal court, etc.)

However, the REAL I.D. might be helpful to anyone who frequently:

  • Boards a commercial airplane
  • Visits nuclear sites
  • Visits military bases
  • Visits federal courthouses, federal prisons or other federal facilities

Individuals without a REAL I.D. or U.S. passport may still be able to board commercial flights or make visits to the facilities mentioned above, but it is likely they may have to provide additional documentation with their traditional license or I.D.

How to Get the REAL I.D.

Although the federal law does not go into effect until October 1, 2020, anyone can get the REAL I.D. now by visiting a NC or SC 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/South Carolina residency
  • For non-U.S. citizens, one document (with full name) proving legal presence/lawful status
  • If applicable, one or more documents verifying any name change

Other Details to Know

  • Your first REAL I.D. cannot be obtained online. It can only be issued at a driver license office. Required documents will be scanned and permanently stored, as required under federal law, in your NCDMV or SCDMV record.
  • Getting a REAL I.D. driver license or I.D. card costs the same as getting any other license or I.D. for the first time and the process is similar.
  • If you get a REAL I.D. outside of the renewal period, the cost is $13 – the same as a duplicate license or I.D. 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 I.D. 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 or South Carolina driver license or I.D. card will cancel any licenses or I.D. cards from other states through the State-to-State Verification program.
  • You still need an unexpired passport to travel internationally.

REAL I.D. Express Days

The NCDMV is hosting 10 REAL I.D. Express Days on Saturdays through early May at select driver license offices in the following cities: Durham, Kernersville, Charlotte, Greenville, Raleigh and Concord. NCDMV will be providing service for only REAL I.D. express transactions. Those transactions include driver license renewals and duplicates, as well as original identifications.

Please keep in mind: Knowledge and driving skills tests will not be provided at these locations during the REAL I.D. Express Days.

For a list of NC Real I.D. express days, visit: https://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/license-id/nc-real-id/Pages/default.aspx

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