License Renewal in North Carolina

Renew Your North Carolina Driver's License

To continue to drive legally in North Carolina, you must renew your driver's license before it expires. The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) handles all driver license renewal applications.

For information about other types of driver's licenses or permits in NC, please refer to any of our following pages:

North Carolina REAL ID Driver's License

The NCDMV issues federally-compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses in addition to non-compliant licenses. As of October 1, 2021, only the REAL ID will function as federal identification for domestic travel and entry into federal and military buildings—a standard license will not after this date.

You have the choice to obtain a non-compliant license or upgrade to a REAL ID license upon renewal—we'll walk you through the requirements below. For more detail, visit the NCDMV's guide to REAL IDs.

When to Renew Your NC Driver's License

The NC DMV will send you a renewal card approximately 6 months before your driver's license expires. However, you can renew your driver's license up to 180 days before its expiration date.

While you are not required to have the card with you when you renew in person at a NC DOT driver's license office, it may prove to be helpful.

Lost, Stolen, or Damaged Driver's License

If you've misplaced your NC driver's license that is close to expiring, you may be able to renew it instead of applying for a replacement. To verify, contact your local NC driver's license office.

For additional details about how to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged driver's licenses, please read our page about Replacing a Lost License.

Renew Your North Carolina Driver's License

You can renew your NC driver's license online (if eligible), by mail, or in person at your local NC DMV office.

If you're upgrading from a non-compliant license to a REAL ID, you MUST do your renewal in person so you can submit additional identity documents. You'll only need to bring these items once.


In order to renew online you must:

  • Have a valid driver's license
  • Submit the last 4 digits of your Social Security number.
  • Not have any vision changes.
  • NOT be upgrading to a REAL ID license.
The online renewal is a step by step process that may require you to renew in person if any of the criteria is not met.

By Mail

The North Carolina DMV allows certain individuals who meet the eligibility requirements to renew their driver's licenses by mail.

For more information and step-by-step details about this renewal process, see Out-of-State & Military License Renewals below.

In Person

To renew your NC driver's license in person, you'll need to visit your local driver's license office. You may want to consider making an appointment first. You must:

  • Bring your current North Carolina driver's license.
    • If you don't have your driver's license, you'll be required to show 2 documents to prove your identity.
  • Provide your Social Security card, if your Social Security number (SSN) is not on file with the NC DMV.
    • If you are not eligible for a SSN, you must show documents to prove your legal presence.
  • Submit any required identity and residency documents to upgrade to a REAL ID, if applicable.
  • Pass a vision test.
  • Pass a traffic sign recognition test.
  • Submit payment for the driver's license fee.

NOTE: If you need to process a name change, you will be required to bring additional documentation. Visit our Changing Your Name page for more details.

Out-of-State & Military License Renewal

Notice for Military Members Stationed in Germany

If you are currently stationed in Germany, please be aware that some states require you to have a valid U.S. driver's license in addition to your USAREUR license. Read our article for more information.

Out-of-State NC Residents

To be eligible to renew your license by mail, you must meet any of the following criteria:

  • You will be temporarily residing outside of North Carolina for 30 days or more.
  • You are in the armed forces and stationed outside North Carolina on active duty.

If you're eligible to renew by mail, you'll only receive a temporary driver's license. You will need to visit your local NC DMV office to obtain your permanent North Carolina license within 60 days of your return. You must have:

  • A permanent and verifiable residential address in North Carolina.
  • A NC driver's license that has not been expired for more than 2 years.
  • A photo on file with the DMV that was issued within the past 5 years.
  • Record of your SSN on file with the NC DMV.
  • Vision statement.

Complete the NC DMV Out-of-State Renewal Packet and return to the DMV with all required paperwork indicated within the packet.

The North Carolina DMV reviews each mailed-in renewal application on a case-by-case basis, and could ask for additional requirements.

For specific renewal-related questions on how to proceed, call (919) 715-7000.

Military Residents Stationed Out of State

For members of the U.S. armed forces that are serving outside of North Carolina, the DMV allows you to renew your driver's license:

  • Early, before you deploy. Visit your local DMV office with your military orders.
  • By mail while you are away. To be eligible, you must:
  • Not be older than 65 years old.
  • Have a NC driver's license that is not expired for more than 1 year.
  • Have your photo and proof of SSN/legal presence already on file with the DMV.
  • Have a valid North Carolina address.
  • Be able to provide a copy of your:
    • Military ID (front and back).
    • Military orders.

Complete the Out-of-State Renewal Packet and include the required copies of your orders and ID, as well as a completed vision statement (included in the packet) and payment for your renewal fee. Once you return, you do NOT have a window in which you must visit a DMV; you can simply wait until the expiration date on your license.

Fees to Renew Your NC Driver's License

Depending on your age and the duration of your NC driver's license, you will have to pay the renewal fee of $21.50 per year:

  • 18 to 65 years old: 8 years.
  • 66 years old and above: 5 years.
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