North Carolina Drivers License Requirements

Americans love cars and they heavily depend on them. Having a drivers license is therefore almost a life necessity here in the United States. Obtaining one, however, can be tricky since the requirements vary from state to state. Official sites can be difficult to navigate, especially for foreigners. In an effort to make the application for a North Carolina drivers license as easy as possible we would like to provide you with some useful information below.


When moving to North Carolina you must obtain a North Carolina drivers license before you can register a vehicle.

New residents are encouraged to become familiar with North Carolina license requirements and traffic laws. They must successfully complete the written, road sign recognition, and vision tests to obtain a North Carolina driver license. You can find detailed information regarding North Carolina drivers license testing clicking on this link.

Step 1: Apply for a Driver’s License

All new residents of North Carolina who plan to operate a motor vehicle in the state must obtain a drivers license within 60 days of establishing a permanent residence. To apply, you must appear in person at one of the state’s drivers license offices and take the required tests. You can find the different drivers license office locations here.

You will need to bring 4 documents with you:

1. Proof of Residency

The proof of residency includes providing your name and current address. Listed below are examples of documents you can use:

– Military orders

– Immigration & Naturalization Service documents

– Matricula Consular issued by the Mexican consulate for North Carolina

– Correspondence from the Social Security Administration

– A pre-printed bank or other corporate statement (i.e. bank statement)

– Apartment lease (from an identifiable company), housing contract, or mortgage statement.

2. Proof of Age & Identity

You will need 2 documents from this category. One of those documents must be a Social Security Card or documentation issued by the U. S. Government indicating legal presence. If you are not eligible for a Social Security Card, you must provide documentation issued by the U. S. Government indicating your legal presence in this country.

Listed below are examples of documents you can use:

– Driver license

– Birth Certificate

– Original Social Security Card

– U.S. Military ID

– Valid, unexpired passport from any nation.

3. Proof of Liability Insurance

Your vehicle must be insured by a company licensed to do business in the State of North Carolina when registering it. This includes providing documents that show your name, the effective date of policy, the expiration date of the policy, and the date the policy was issued.

You may still apply for a license if you do not own a currently registered vehicle, but a restriction will be placed on your drivers license. It limits you to only driving “fleet vehicles.”

The following list shows examples of documents you can use:

– DMV form DL- 123

– An original liability insurance policy binder

– An insurance card with: your name, policy number, issue and expiration date.

Step 2: Vehicle Emissions and Safety Inspection

When you are moving to North Carolina from another state, you will be allowed to register your vehicle without an initial inspection. When your next annual registration renewal is due, you must have the vehicle inspected up to 90 days prior to the plate expiration date.

You can find several inspection station locations here.

Step 3: Title and Register a Vehicle

Upon moving to North Carolina from another state, you must register your motor vehicle at the expiration of the time granted by the reciprocity agreement between North Carolina and your prior state of residence (usually 30 days) or when gainful employment is accepted, whichever occurs first.

You should obtain a North Carolina drivers license prior to registering a vehicle.


When moving within North Carolina you will need to apply for a duplicate drivers license to notify the DMV of your change your address.

If you move to a county that requires “emissions inspections,” your vehicle will need to undergo a safety and emissions inspection up to 90 days prior to the next plate expiration date. Counties that require an emission inspection can be found here.

Step 1: Apply for a Duplicate License

To apply for a duplicate license you must go to a DMV Driver License Office or use the online service. The online service is only available if the DMV has your last image on file or your valid Social Security Number (SSN), Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or a U.S. Government document indicating legal presence on file.

For requesting your Duplicate License in person you need to bring your original license and pay a Duplicate License Fee of $10.00. Payment transactions at DMV Offices are limited to cash, money order or personal checks. Debit and credit cards are not accepted.

Step 2: Emissions Inspection (see above)


An acceptable drivers license from your country of residence must be presented at the time of rental. The drivers license must be valid for the entire rental period. If the drivers license is in a language other than English and the rental is in the United States an international drivers permit is recommended.

A valid drivers license issued from your home country must always be presented, whether or not you possess an international drivers permit. You will not be allowed to rent a vehicle with only an international drivers permit.

Generally the rental car companies require also a credit card (or debit card at participating locations) in the driver’s name and a passport.


Under the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, Geneva (1949) a German drivers license can be used to drive and/or rent a motor vehicle for up to one year while visiting the United states. The law enforcement authorities in North Carolina do not honor an International Drivers License. A valid license issued by a government agency from a home state or country is required to legally drive in North Carolina.

To simplify the procedure and avoid linguistic problems, it would be convenient to have both, a valid license issued by a government from a home state as well as an International Drivers License.

For more information, please contact one of our dedicated attorneys in the Charlotte, NC office of our firm.

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Best regards
und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs