If you’re an air traveler, REAL ID is going to get real serious for you within the next year.

On May 1, 2017, the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles began producing the state’s first REAL ID, an identification card that acts as your driver’s license and also meets the security requirements of the federal REAL ID Act.

REAL ID is optional and remains that way, but on Oct. 1, 2020, everything changes.

Simply, if you don’t have a REAL ID by that date, a non-REAL ID driver’s license by itself for identification purposes won’t be enough to fly or enter federal facilities.

The concern between now and then is that tens of thousands of North Carolinians have yet to upgrade their license to the federal standard, and those hoping to fly domestically next year would be prudent to not delay in obtaining the new ID.

The minimum five documents you’ll need — minus one if you have a U.S. passport, but plus one if you’ve had a name change that doesn’t match your birth certificate or immigration document — to obtain a REAL ID are not obscure, but will need some gathering. Visit ncrealid.com for a list of acceptable documents you’ll need to bring to your local N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles office.

The reason for the change in identification is understandable — the new standards were established by the federal REAL ID Act, passed in 2005 following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on our nation.

Because of that the process is not simple, and it shouldn’t be.

But it could be both time-consuming and problematic if you hesitate to navigate the new process soon.

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