Getting a learners permit is the first mandatory step toward obtaining a full unrestricted license in the majority of states within the country. The various motor vehicle departments design these drivers permit credentials within the nationally-accepted Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. The purpose of the GDL program is to gradually prepare novice drivers for the responsibility of driving in unrestricted settings. While the DMV learners permit credentials are manufactured for teenage drivers, adult motorists who are starting to drive may be able to obtain one, in most cases.

To successfully apply for a learning license, applicants will be required to meet several requirements, such as fulfilling the corresponding age criteria, passing the applicable tests and submitting several types of documents. These requirements may vary to a certain degree depending on the applicant’s age and citizenship status. After obtaining a learners license, beginner drivers will be restricted to driving under certain controlled circumstances, which will allow them to safely accrue the needed driving experience.

For more specific information about your state’s learner’s permit guidelines, visit your state’s page below:

Select a state to begin:
Select a state to begin:

Learners Permit Eligibility Guidelines

Novice drivers will successfully obtain a learning permit only if they meet the full set of requirements imposed by their state motor vehicle division. While the state drivers permit requirements may vary slightly from state to state, they will still include the following criteria in most cases:

  • Fulfill the minimum age requirement, which may vary from state to state.
    • For instance, while Tennessee requires you to be at least 15 years of age to apply for a permit, you can obtain one even at 14 years of age in South Dakota.
  • Be a state resident and lawfully present within the United States.
  • Be mentally and physically fit to operate a motor vehicle.
  • Have the knowledge necessary for safe driving practices.
  • Have parental permission to apply for a learner’s permit, if younger than 18 years of age.
  • Collect the necessary supporting paperwork.

Note: Certain states, such as Texas, will also require you to enroll in or complete a driver education program.

One of the most important learners permit requirements is obtaining the full set of identification paperwork, which will most likely include proofs of identity, birth date, lawful presence, state residency and Social Security status. As a principal identity proof, novice drivers can utilize a U.S. passport or a birth certificate, in most cases. This document can be used to prove the date of birth and the legal U.S. presence as well. If the applicant is a noncitizen or a temporary resident, he or she will be required to use the corresponding immigration document, such as a permanent resident card, an employment authorization document or a valid foreign passport with a visa.

Drivers permit applicants will then be required to obtain one or two proofs of state residency. To verify a state address, motor vehicle departments will accept documents bearing the applicant’s name and street address, such as utility bills, financial statements or homeowner documents. To finalize the paperwork, permit applicants will need evidence of their Social Security Number, such as a Social Security card or a tax statement. Drivers who are ineligible for an SSN will most often require a letter of denial from the Social Security Administration.

Note: Since the acceptable documentation may vary depending on the applicant’s circumstances, he or she is encouraged to contact a nearby DMV office to inquire about the exact documents that apply under his or her circumstances before making a visit.

How to Apply for a Learners Permit

If you are wondering how and where to get learners permit credentials, note that the state motor vehicle agencies process such requests in person, since they must immediately verify the submitted paperwork. The standard steps for getting learners permit credentials are outlined below:

  1. Visit a nearby DMV office.
  2. Submit the supporting paperwork, as outlined above.
  3. Fill out the corresponding application form.
    1. Have your parent or legal guardian sign the form or fill out an authorization form.
  4. Pass the eye test and the knowledge exam.
  5. Have your photograph and thumbprint taken.
  6. Pay the applicable licensing fees.

After you apply for learner permit, the presiding DMV agent will issue you a receipt, which may be used as a temporary driving permit until you receive the official learners license by mail. The validity of your new driving permit and whether or not you can renew it will vary depending on your state of residency. For instance, Wyoming issues renewable drivers permits with a validity of 12 months. Note that you will be required to hold your permit for a certain amount of time before obtaining an unrestricted driving license.

The Drivers Permit Test

Passing the state DMV permit test is one of the most important steps when applying for a learner’s license, since you must prove that you have the theoretical knowledge needed to safely operate a motor vehicle. The various motor vehicle divisions administer the drivers permit test through their licensing sites. In most cases, the learners permit test will include multiple-choice questions on topics such as road rules, traffic signalization and safe driving practices. The number of questions and the passing score may vary slightly from state to state. For instance, Virginia administers its knowledge test in two parts. First, you will have to answer correctly ten traffic signs questions before moving onto the second general knowledge test, which can be passed with a score of 80 percent of correct answers.

To prepare for the driving permit test, you will have to study the corresponding driving manual in detail, since it will provide you with thorough information on all relevant topics. However, you can greatly increase your chances of passing the driving exam on your first attempt by obtaining a DMV practice permit test. These practice exams are designed by third-party test providers to reflect the structure of the official test. Certain state DMVs also provide a practice exam through their websites.

Driving Permit Rules and Restrictions

When operating a motor vehicle with a learners permit, you will be required to abide by certain driving restrictions, imposed to allow you to obtain the needed experience in controlled situations. These driving permit rules may vary to a certain degree from state to state. For example, when driving with a permit in Washington, you must be accompanied by a driver who has been licensed for at least five years. The accompanying motorist must also be seated next to you on the front seat. You will also be prohibited from driving during night hours, which will vary from state to state. For example, West Virginia allows you to drive with a learner’s permit only between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Other learners permit rules also require you to avoid using a mobile device while driving, and to always wear your seat belt. Depending on your state motor vehicle laws, you may also be restricted from carrying passengers who are not your immediate family members. Note that these restrictions may be lifted in certain emergency situations. Therefore, contact your state motor vehicle department to obtain the full list of learner permit driving restrictions.

Learner Permit Fees

Arranging payment for the learner permit fee is the final step when applying for a drivers permit. If you are wondering how much a permit will cost, note that the fee will vary from state to state and may include a smaller testing fee as well. For instance, while South Dakota charges $28 for its learners permit fee and knowledge test combined, the Vermont DMV requires payment for a $20 drivers permit fee and a $32 knowledge test cost.

The acceptable forms of payment may also vary from state to state. Therefore, before making an office visit to apply for a learners permit, contact your state DMV to inquire about the most up-to-date licensing costs.

Last updated on Wednesday, March 4 2020.