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New drivers licenses cannot be obtained online or by mail. Instead, you must apply for a new license in person at a local DMV. While there, you must pass a vision screening, a written exam and a skills test. To make sure that you are prepared, download our informative online drivers license guide. Our guide contains everything you need to know to complete this application easily and quickly. In it, you will get in-depth details on how to complete other important licensing transactions, such as updating personal information on your license, renewing your license and replacing a lost one.

2. In Person at the DMV

To obtain a new drivers license at the DMV, you must submit identification documents and pass mandatory tests. A birth certificate or passport can verify your name and age, and a utility bill can prove your state residency. Generally, you must pass a written knowledge exam and a road skills test. You must also fill out a drivers license application form and pay the applicable fees. However, you may not know which forms to complete or if you are already eligible to take your exams. Arriving at the DMV unprepared may result in long wait times and potential mistakes, which could mean having to redo the process.


A Washington drivers license is available to eligible residents who are at least 16 years of age. In general, younger applicants may obtain learner’s permits after meeting certain educational requirements. While adult motorists are exempt from the need to undergo driver’s ed programs, certain WA DMV license tests must still be taken before they are issued a state driving credential.

Applications for a new drivers license must be processed by the state Department of Licensing (DOL). All motorists, regardless of age, must adhere to the same driving laws, and must be WA residents upon filing an application. As such, out-of-state drivers may only obtain a Washington DOL license after they establish residency in the state. To learn more about the procedures and requirements for acquiring a license to drive, read the sections below.

How to Apply for a Drivers License in Washington as an Adult (18 or Older)

Motorists may pre-apply for a drivers license online once they have passed all of the necessary exams. There are four procedures available to eligible applicants who are 18 years of age or older:

  1. Complete a driver education course, apply for a learner’s permit and pass the driving skills test
  2. Take the knowledge and driving skills tests. No education courses are necessary if both tests are passed
  3. Transfer your valid out-of-state license to Washington

Washington Driver’s License Requirements for Adults

Residents must be at least 18 years of age to apply for a full DOL driver’s license without taking certain tests or holding a permit.

Furthermore, the correct identification documents must be submitted to the state Department of Licensing for approval. For example, applicants must be able to prove their identity, residency status and Social Security Number (SSN). Thus, in order to be eligible for a new driver’s license, applicants must present one of the following documents:

  • Option one – You must provide one stand-alone document proving your identity. Acceptable documents include:
    • U.S. passport
    • Certificate of citizenship
    • Out-of-state driver’s license
  • Option two – If you cannot satisfy the first option, you must provide two forms of ID. Acceptable DOL license documents include:
    • U.S. passport or passport card, valid or expired for less than one year
    • Consulate ID
  • Option three – If you cannot satisfy the second option, you must provide one document from option two and two additional forms of ID. Acceptable additional forms include:
    • Certified birth certificate
    • Adoption papers
    • Foreign driver’s license
    • Marriage license
    • Government employee ID card
  • Option four – If you cannot satisfy the above three options, you may submit four documents from option three. However, be mindful that at least one of these documents must include your name and date of birth.

All documents submitted during a Washington drivers license application must be original copies. Moreover, motorists must provide their Social Security Number, if applicable. Furthermore, applicants who are at least 18 years of age must prove their residency status in WA, providing at least two documents that verify their address. Proof of residency may be verified through utility bills, USPS change of address letters, vehicle registration certificates, recent school transcripts or auto insurance policies.

Methods to Obtain a New Washington Drivers License for Adults

Depending on the method you use to apply for a WA DMV license, you may be required to take additional tests or education courses. Thus, you may choose from one of the below three options to apply for a license as an adult.

  1. Method 1
    1. Enroll in a driver education course.
    2. Apply for a learner’s permit.
      1. Pre-apply for a permit online. This option is only available to applicants with a Washington address under their names.
      2. Visit a DOL branch to complete the driver’s license application process. This must be done within 10 days of the start of a driver’s ed course.
      3. Provide your Social Security Number (SSN), if applicable.
      4. Present documents proving your identity and state residency.
      5. Pass a vision screening and have your photograph taken.
      6. Pay for any applicable fees.
    3. Schedule and take the driving license skills test.
    4. Print a temporary license online or obtain one from the DOL in person. A permanent new driver’s license will be mailed to you within 7 to 10 business days.
  1. Method 2
    1. Apply for a permit. (See above instructions)
    2. Pass the written knowledge test at an approved testing center.
    3. Practice with a licensed motorist, who must have at least five years of driving experience to qualify.
    4. Schedule and take the road skills test.
    5. Print or collect your temporary WA driver’s license.
  2. Method 3
    1. Pass the knowledge test.
    2. Submit proof of identity and state residency to a DOL branch.
    3. Provide your Social Security Number (SSN).
    4. Undergo a vision screening and have your photograph taken.
    5. Pay for any applicable new driving license
    6. Schedule and pass the road skills test.

Getting a Washington Drivers License as a New Resident

New state residents of the state must apply for a WA drivers license within 30 days of establishing residency. If you hold a valid out-of-state DMV license, you must surrender it to a Washington DOL branch during the application process. Then, you must complete the following steps to apply for a new drivers license in the state:

  1. Complete the driver’s license application form online or at a DOL branch.
  2. Provide proof of identity, state residency and Social Security Number, if applicable.
  3. Undergo a vision screening.
  4. Pass any applicable knowledge and road skills tests.
  5. Pay the DOL license

If you have a valid out-of-state DMV drivers license, you will not be required to pass any additional tests. However, if you hold an expired drivers license, you will be required to complete the knowledge and road skills tests before a Washington license can be issued to you. If you are moving from a foreign country, you will generally need to apply for a license as if a first-time motorist. On the other hand, citizens from British Columbia, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan are exempt from that rule.

How to Apply for a Drivers License in Washington as a Teen (Younger Than 18)

Motorists who are younger than 18 years of age must enroll in a driver education course before being issued with a permit, which is the first step for these applicants to obtain a Washington drivers license. For a full DOL license to be issued, young motorists must hold a learner’s permit for a set amount of time, then pass the mandated knowledge and road skills tests in the state.

Washington Driver’s License Eligibility Requirements for Teens

Applicants as young as 15 years of age are able to apply for an instructional permit in Washington, thus starting their process to obtain a new driver’s license. Furthermore, motorists must be at least 16 years of age to apply for a full DOL license. In addition, young applicants are required to take education courses if they are younger than 15-and-a-half years of age. Thus, it is important to note that driver’s license requirements can vary depending on the age of the applicant. For instance, keep the following eligibility criteria in mind:

  • Applicants who are between 15 and 15-and-a-half years of age must:
    • Present a certificate of enrollment to a DOL-approved driver education course
    • Provide parental consent on the permit application
  • Applicants who are between 15-and-a-half and 17 years of age must:
    • Pass the knowledge test
    • Provide parental consent on the permit application.

Young motorists must hold a learner’s permit for six months and have no traffic violations in order to become eligible for a full driver’s license in Washington.

Drivers Ed Requirements to Get a Drivers License in Washington

When applying for a new drivers license, motorists younger than 18 years of age may be required to undergo a driver’s ed program. In general, driver education courses include both classroom and practical elements. Moreover, these programs are only available through state-approved centers and must be completed before a learner’s permit can be issued. All driver’s license courses include the following elements:

  • 30 hours of classroom instruction.
  • Six hours of driving, one hour of which must be during the day.
  • One hour of behind-the-wheel observation.

In addition to the above DOL license requirements, teens must complete 50 hours of supervised driving along with a parent or legal guardian. Ten of the 50 hours must be completed at night.

Steps to Obtain a New Driver’s License in Washington as a Teen

Depending on your age, you may be required to take additional courses before you apply for a driver’s license in WA. In any case, motorists who are younger than 18 years of age must apply for a learner’s permit before being granted a license with full privileges.

Furthermore, be mindful of the following steps when applying for a permit and drivers license in Washington.

  1. Pre-apply for a permit online, if eligible.
  2. Enroll in a driver’s education course, if necessary.
  3. Take the knowledge test, if applicable. This is only required if you do not enroll in a driver’s ed course.
  4. Complete the permit application in person at a DOL branch.
    1. Present proof of identity.
    2. Have a parent sign the application form in person or complete a parental authorization affidavit.
    3. Provide your Social Security Number (SSN), if applicable.
    4. Take the vision test.
    5. Pay the permit fee.
  5. Complete 50 hours of driving experience.
  6. Pass the driving license skills test after holding the permit for six months.

Washington Drivers License Costs

The Washington DOL generally accepts cash, checks and most debit and credit cards for motorists to pay for the fees related to a new driver’s license. See below a breakdown of the permit and licensing fees in WA.

Last updated on Tuesday, December 4 2018.

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