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450K In NC Get REAL ID The First Year; Millions More Eligible

A sample REAL ID, with the identifying gold star.
The federally-recognized REAL ID has a gold star in the corner and is sufficient identification to enter federal facilities.

It's been a year since North Carolina began offering REAL ID cards in compliance with federal law, which requires extra documentation to get the card.

A REAL ID looks like state drivers license, but also has a little gold star in the corner which will allow holders to get through federal checkpoints and onto a commercial airplane or into a military base. In October 2020, anyone without a REAL ID will need to bring various other documents along with state ID to get through those checkpoints.

About 450,000 North Carolinians have gotten a REAL ID so far, but millions more are eligible, according to North Carolina Transportation Department Spokeswoman Patrice Bethea, adding people should not put off the switch.

"We know people already find the wait times to be a bit challenging at the DMV currently. It is going to increase," Bethea said. "There are 7.3 million drivers in the state of North Carolina, and another almost 900,000 identification card holders, and they all are eligible for REAL ID cards as well. And so we want people to go ahead and make their appointments now, avoid you know the rush at the end. It'll make it easier for everyone."

However, nobody will be forced to get a REAL ID.

"You can still do anything you want to do with that license," Bethea said. "It will just affect your ability to use that license by itself to enter a federal facility or a TSA checkpoint."

Bethea said the REAL ID card costs the same $13 fee it takes to renew a drivers license. Necessary documents are listed at

Residents can call 919-715-7000 to schedule a DMV appointment, or drop by a local license office with the proper documents and wait in line.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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