(WGHP) — The clock is ticking to get your REAL ID before the federal deadline.

The change has been years in the making. A REAL ID—which you can identify by the gold star in the top right corner—is a relatively new form of identification that is recognized by the federal government.

A state license or ID without the gold star may not cut it if you’re trying to get on a plane or get into certain federal buildings.

Starting on May 3, 2023, your driver’s license or ID must have the REAL ID gold star if you hope to use it to board a commercial airplane or visit secure federal facilities, such as military bases, nuclear sites, federal courthouses and federal prisons.

Getting a REAL ID is completely voluntary. If you don’t make the switch, a driver’s license without the star will still allow you to drive, and you can use a license or ID without the star to apply for federal benefits or participate in legal proceedings.

You may still be able to get on a plane or visit secure federal facilities without a REAL ID, but you may be asked to provide additional documentation to verify your identity or show a valid passport, passport card, permanent resident card or U.S. military ID

How to get a REAL ID in North Carolina

You don’t have to wait until May 3, 2023, to get your REAL ID. They are available now.

To get your first REAL ID in North Carolina, you must visit an N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles driver’s license office and bring the necessary documentation. You cannot obtain a REAL ID online. You’ll need:

  • 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 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

You can see the list of acceptable documents on the NCDOT website or you can also use the “REAL ID Document Wizard” to determine which documents you need to bring.

You can wait in line at the driver’s license office or make an appointment online. If you book an appointment online, be sure to select “duplicate license” as the reason for your visit and, when you arrive, tell the examiner that you want a REAL ID.

Getting a REAL ID does not cost any more than getting any other license or ID for the first time.

If you get your REAL ID while renewing your license, the REAL ID will cost $5.50 per year. A license for a driver between the ages of 18 and 65 is valid for eight years and costs $44 to renew. At age 16 or over 65, a license is valid for five years and costs $27.50 to renew. At age 17, a license is good for four years and costs $22 to renew.

If you get your REAL ID before your renewal period, the new REAL ID will cost $14.