North Carolina Driver’s License Requirements

To get a North Carolina driver’s license, you must complete required tests and present required documentation.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Jun 01, 2022
To get a
North Carolina
driver license, you must successfully complete knowledge, road sign recognition, vision, and driving tests and present required documentation to a
North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV)
Few things are as exciting as getting your driver’s license—but in North Carolina, the process does take quite a few steps. That’s why
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What are the requirements for a driver’s license in North Carolina?

New drivers in North Carolina must be at least 18 years old to apply for a driver's license. When you head to the NCDMV, you’ll need to bring the following:
  • Proof of identity and date of birth: valid US passport, US birth certificate, valid foreign passport,
    valid REAL ID
    , NC motor vehicle driver’s record, school documents (ID, report cards), US military ID, NC limited driving license, DHS documents, divorce decrees, etc. 
  • Social Security number of legal status documents: Social Security card, 1099, W-2, military record, DHS documentation
  • Proof of NC residence: any NC government document, vehicle registration, insurance policy, or title, voter registration card, military orders, utility bills, housing contracts, financial statements, school records, letter from a homeless shelter or halfway house.
Your name must match on all your documentation. If it does not, you must provide additional documentation (marriage license, divorce decree, legal name change) to further verify your identity. Check the
NCDMV website
for a complete list of documents you can use in your license application process.
New drivers with mental or physical conditions that could affect their driving must list them on their application and submit a completed
Form DL-78
from their doctor.

What are the requirements for young drivers? 

Applicants under 18 must apply for a limited learner’s permit as the first step in North Carolina’s
Graduated Licensing Program (GLP)
. This permit allows you to drive while supervised by a licensed driver who’s been licensed for at least 5 years.
To graduate from a limited learner’s permit to a limited provisional license, drivers must be at least 16 years of age and must have held a limited learner’s permit for at least 12 months. In addition, your supervisor must sign a driving log tracking the following:
  • Complete at least 60 hours of supervised driving practice with no more than 10 hours per week counting toward these hours
  • Include at least 10 hours of night driving in your 60 hours
You will need to bring this log with you to a DMV office to take a driving test. 
Once you’ve passed the driving test and paid the $20 fee, you will get a temporary provisional license to use until your permanent license arrives by mail. This permit allows you to drive unsupervised with no more than one passenger under 21 between the hours of 5am and 9pm unless you drive for work or volunteer fire, rescue, or emergency service. 
To get a full provisional license that removes driving-time and passenger-number restrictions, you must hold your limited provisional license for at least 6 months and be free from any moving violations during that time. In addition, you must complete a new driving log that indicates the following:
  • Completion of at least 12 hours of driving, 6 of which must be at night
Your log must be signed by a parent or guardian and you must bring it to the DMV along with your limited provisional license and payment for the $5 fee. You will then receive your temporary provisional license. Your permanent license will arrive via mail within 20 days.

Additional note for young drivers

You will lose your driving privileges if you drop out of school at any stage during this graduated process. If you are suspended from school or assigned to an alternative education location for more than 10 consecutive days because of disciplinary action, you will lose your license for 12 months or until you receive a Driving Eligibility Certificate or high school diploma.

What are the requirements for out-of-state drivers? 

New residents of North Carolina must exchange their valid out-of-state driver’s license for a North Carolina license within 60 days of becoming a North Carolina resident. You must also pass both a road sign recognition test and vision test and pay a $5 fee.

How to get a driver’s license in North Carolina

Road sign recognition test

You will be asked to correctly identify regulatory and warning signs by color and shape, and explain what they mean.

Vision test

To pass the vision exam, you must have 20/40 vision in at least one eye with or without corrective lenses.

Written test

The written knowledge test consists of 25 multiple-choice questions about North Carolina traffic laws and safe driving practices. You may only take the test once per day if you fail. To pass, you must answer at least 20 questions correctly.
To study for the test, you should use the
NC Driver Handbook
. The NCDMV also offers a free
official sample test
for you to practice on.

On-road driving test

You may complete the driving test on the same day as your vision and knowledge tests, or you can make an appointment for another day. 
For the test, you’ll need to bring your own legally registered vehicle plus: 
  • Valid identification
  • A learner’s permit (if applicable)
  • Proof of liability insurance coverage
  • Payment for the $5 fee
Bring all your documents to the North Carolina driving test. During driving test, your examiner will grade you on the following: 
  • Approaches to intersections, stop signs, and traffic signals
  • Quick stops
  • Backing 
  • Stopping, starting, and parking
  • Use of clutch (in vehicles with manual transmissions)
  • Turn signals and use of horn
  • Turning
  • Use of lanes
  • Following another vehicle
  • Passing and being passed
  • Yielding the right of way
  • Driving posture
  • Three-point turn
If you pass your driving test, you’ll receive a printed interim license from your examiner that allows you to drive until you receive your new license in about 20 days

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