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How to Get a North Carolina Driver’s License and 🚘 How to Transfer a License to NC

Last Updated on: 30th August 2023, 12:32 pm

Moving to North Carolina and need to know how to transfer your license to NC and register your car? Or do you have a teen ready to get their NC learner’s permit? This complete guide covers everything you need to know about North Carolina license requirements, what you need to get your license, and NC DMV learners permit steps plus how to register your car and transfer your license as a new resident.

How to Get a North Carolina Drivers License – Steps to Get a NC DL for Adults 18 & Older

If you are at least 18 and you have never had a driver’s license, including in another state, you will need to meet the requirements below and follow the steps to get a new NC driver license.

What Do I Need to Get My License in NC?

Before starting the NC DMV drivers license process, make sure you meet all the requirements below and have the necessary documents.

Basic NC Drivers License Requirements (18+ years old)

If you have never had a driver’s license before, you must meet the following requirements to qualify for a NC driver’s license:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Pass the written NC drivers license test
  • Pass the NC road signs test
  • Pass the NC DMV driving test
  • Pass a vision test
  • Apply for a North Carolina DL in person with the required documents

What Documents Do I Need to Get a North Carolina Driver’s License?

You must have documents proving identity, date of birth, SSN, NC residency, and legal presence and/or name change (if applicable) for getting a new license in NC. However, the types of documents accepted depend on whether you are getting a regular North Carolina driver license or a NC REAL ID license. We have listed documents accepted for a REAL ID.

When you apply for a NC driver’s license, you will need the following documents.

  • Document proving date of birth and identity with full legal name. This may include a certified birth certificate, valid and unexpired passport, or valid and unexpired REAL ID license or ID card.
  • Document proving Social Security number. This may include a Social Security card, 1099 or W-2 form with name and full SSN, or payroll record with name and full SSN.
  • Document(s) proving North Carolina residency. One document is required for a NC drivers license; two documents are needed for a REAL ID. Examples include a NC Vehicle Registration Card or insurance policy, a NC Voter Precinct Card, a utility bill, a lease or mortgage statement, property tax statement, or school records.
  • Proof of liability insurance coverage from a North Carolina-licensed provider. Learn about North Carolina car insurance requirements here.
  • Proof of legal presence for individuals born outside the U.S.
  • Proof of name change if your name does not match the name on these documents. This may be a divorce decree, court documents, or certified marriage license.

Note that other documents may be accepted for a NC drivers license, but not a REAL ID. Learn more here.

These documents will be submitted with the NC DL application form which can’t be downloaded or filled out online. You will complete the form in person at the North Carolina DMV.

Step #1. Apply for a North Carolina License in Person at the NC DMV

The first step to getting a new license in NC is applying in person. You can’t fill out the application online. You will need to bring the required documents above and pay a fee. The Class C North Carolina drivers license fee is $5.50 per year. The license can be issued for 5 to 8 years.

Step #2. Pass the Vision, Written & Road Sign Tests

You must pass four North Carolina DL tests starting with a vision test then digital and written tests.

The NC DMV written test covers safe driving practices and traffic laws. The NC road signs test requires identifying traffic signs by color and shape then explaining the meaning of each sign.

You will want to study the NC DMV Driver’s Handbook for the test. You can also try the DMV written test NC sample questions.

Step #3. Pass the NC DMV Driving Test

After passing the road sign and written tests, you will need to complete the driving portion of the NC driver’s license test. The North Carolina driving test is an on-road demonstration of your ability to drive and obey traffic laws. You must complete the driving test the first time you apply for a North Carolina driver’s license.

The NC DMV driving test will grade you on skills such as:

  • Safely approaching traffic signals, stop signs, and intersections,
  • Stopping as safely and quickly as possible when instructed,
  • Backing up,
  • Parking, stopping, and starting the vehicle,
  • Using turn signals,
  • Turning,
  • Lane use,
  • Passing,
  • Yielding the right of way, and
  • Three-point turns

You will need to provide your own vehicle for the test. Make sure it meets NC driving test requirements:

  • Good, road-worthy condition
  • Current registration, insurance, and inspection sticker
  • Accompanied by licensed driver

Once you pass the road test, you will receive your temporary North Carolina driver’s license. Your permanent license will be mailed to you.

How to Get a NC DMV Learners Permit & Provisional License

Teenagers 15 to 17 years old are required to get a limited learner’s permit before receiving a NC provisional drivers license. There is a graduated licensing process that must be completed before you receive full driving privileges. This graduated licensing process in North Carolina means teen drivers must gain the required on-the-road experience needed before they are licensed to drive without supervision.

If you are at least 18 years old, you can apply for a NC learner’s permit instead of a driver’s license to practice driving.

NC Learner’s Permit Requirements

North Carolina has a graduated license for teens with three levels.

Level 1 limited learner’s permit requirements:

  • 15 to 17 years old
  • Have a Driver’s Education Certificate and Driving Eligibility Certificate
  • Pass the written, road sign, and vision tests

With a level 1 limited learner permit, teen drivers must drive with supervision only between 5 am and 9 pm for the first 6 months. After the first 6 months, supervision remains a requirement.

The Driver Eligibility Certificate is issued by schools to high school students who complete their academic requirements. Students must be 15 to 17 years old and currently enrolled in school. Without this certificate, proof of high school graduation or GED is required.

The Driver’s Education Certificate is awarded to students who complete driver education courses that include 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of behind-the-wheel education.

Level 2 limited provisional license requirements:

  • 16 to 17 years old
  • Have had a limited learner permit for at least 6 months
  • Completed and logged 60+ hours of supervised driving (Form DL-4A)
  • No convictions for moving violations or seat belt or cell phone infractions within the past 6 months
  • Proof of liability insurance coverage

With a level 2 provisional license, teen drivers no longer need supervision while driving. However, no more than one other passenger under 21 is allowed except members of the same household.

Parents and guardians can use the Parent’s Supervised Driving Program guide to log their teen’s driving hours or use the free RoadReady app to track driving time. This app tracks a teen’s driving time until they meet the state’s minimum requirements.

Level 3 full provisional license requirements:

  • 16 to 17 years old
  • Has had a level 2 limited provisional license for at least 6 months
  • No convictions of moving violations or seat belt or cell phone infractions within the past 6 months
  • Completed and logged 12+ driving hours (Form DL-4B)
  • Pass a road test

Note that drivers under 18 with a learner’s permit or provisional license are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. Drivers under 18 must be enrolled in school and be making progress toward graduation or a GED to remain eligible for their Driving Eligibility Certificate, a requirement for the NC graduated license program. The North Carolina DMV is notified if a teen drops out of school and the teen’s driving privileges will revoked.

Teens who are suspended or assigned to alternative education for 10 consecutive days due to disciplinary action will lose their license for 12 months or until they again qualify for a Driving Eligibility Certificate.


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Step #1. Apply for a NC DMV Learners Permit in Person

You must apply in person for a learner’s permit in NC. For a level 1 limited learner’s permit, you must provide the following documents:

  • Driving Eligibility Certificate
  • Driver’s Education Certificate
  • Proof of identity and age
  • Proof of Social Security number
  • Proof of NC residency

The learner permit or provisional license NC fee is $21.50.

Your learner permit is issued from a central location. You will receive it in the mail in about 20 days. Until your permit arrives, you can use the Temporary Driving Certificate you received.

Step #2. Pass the North Carolina Learner’s Permit Test {Written & Road Signs Tests)

Before you can be issued a NC learner permit, you must pass a vision test, written knowledge test, and road signs test.

Step #3. Reapply for Graduated Learner’s Permits Every 6 Months

You will need to have your level 1 limited learner’s permit for at least 6 months, be at least 16, and have 60 or more logged driving hours before you can apply for a level two provisional license. This also requires showing proof of liability insurance, but you no longer require supervision while driving.

After another six months and with 12 hours of logged driving time, you’re ready to apply for a full provisional license. This requires passing the road test.

You will need to pay the $21.50 NC learner’s permit fee with each new level.

Step #4. Apply for a Driver’s License

Once you are 18, you can apply for a standard driver’s license without provisions. You can follow the steps in the section above!

Moving to NC Driver’s License Transfer Steps & Requirements

Moving to NC? DMV requirements give you 60 days of establishing residence to get a North Carolina driver’s license and register your vehicle in the state. Fortunately, transferring a license to North Carolina is an easy process.

What do I need to transfer my license to NC?

You will need to visit a North Carolina DMV location in person to transfer your license. Be prepared with the following documents:

  • Out-of-state license (or a document proving date of birth and identity)
  • Proof of Social Security number
  • Proof of North Carolina residency
  • Proof of liability insurance coverage
  • Proof of name change (if applicable)

The written and road tests in NC are waived as long as your out-of-state license is valid and unexpired. You will need to pass a vision test.

Your out-of-state license will become invalid once you are issued a North Carolina license.

Image of NC DMV exterior

Registering a Car in NC from Another State

After you move to NC, you have 60 days to not only get a North Carolina drivers license but also register and title your car. Here’s how to register a car in NC from out-of-state.

Visit a North Carolina license plate agency with the following:

  • MVR-1 Title Application
  • MVR-180 Odometer Disclosure (for vehicles under 10 years old)
  • Vehicle title or registration card (if title is held by a lender)
  • North Carolina driver’s license or a valid out-of-state license with a NC temporary driving certificate
  • Proof of North Carolina liability insurance

Note that you do not need an inspection to register your vehicle for the first time, but a NC vehicle inspection is required to renew your registration.

Be aware that you need to have the vehicle titled in North Carolina before it can be registered in the state.

The cost to title and transfer registration to NC includes the following fees:

  • Certificate of title fee: $56
  • Highway use tax: 3% of value up to $250
  • Plate fee: $38.75 ($39.75 in Randolph County and $53.75 in Durham, Wake, and Orange counties)
  • Regional registration taxes apply in Randolph, Durham, Wake, and Orange counties

NC DMV Locations & Appointments

It’s recommended that you make a NC DMV drivers license appointment to avoid long waits. You can make an appointment online by clicking here. You can select “First time North Carolina driver license” if you are a new driver over 18 or new to NC. You can make separate appointments if needed for the NC DMV driving test and written test if you must retake them.

NCDMV Contact & Important Links

NC Drivers License FAQ

How long is a North Carolina drivers license good for?

A NC driver license issued to an adult 18 to 65 is valid for eight years. Licenses issued to adults who are 65 and older are valid for five years.

How much does it cost to get your license in NC?

The NC driver’s license fee is $5.50 per year. Your license can be issued for five to eight years. The learner permit or provisional license NC fee is $21.50.

Can you get your license at 18 without a permit in NC?

You can get a North Carolina license at 18 without getting a learner’s permit first. However, you must be able to pass the road test.

Do you need insurance to get your license in NC?

NC DMC proof of insurance is required to get a driver’s license without restrictions. If you do not own or drive a registered vehicle, you can apply for a driver’s license that restricts you to driving fleet vehicles.

Can I register a car without a license in NC?

You must have a valid driver’s license to title and register a car in North Carolina.

Now you’re ready to get a license in NC for the first time or complete the simple steps to transfer your driver’s license to North Carolina. If you’re planning a relocation within the state or an interstate relocation, give us a call at Make a Move today for a free moving estimate from our friendly, dependable North Carolina movers!


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