All you need to know about applications for your WI boating license / card / endorsement.

Wisconsin requires a Boater Safety Course Certificate for boaters, and not a boating license approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The certificate is mandatory for all boat operators born after January 1, 1989; older boaters do not require the card.

Children under 10 years of age are not allowed to operate a motorboat. If you are over 10 years of age and under 16, you may operate a motorboat if accompanied by a parent, guardian or someone above 18 years of age designated by a parent or guardian. A person of 12 years of age or above may operate a motorboat if they have successfully completed a DNR prescribed boating safety course and possess a boating safety certificate issued by the Wisconsin DNR or another state. Boats not equipped with a motor have no age restrictions. Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to operate a personal watercraft. A person of 12 years of age but less than 16 is allowed to operate a personal watercraft provided they have completed the Boating Safety Course (stated above) which they must carry on board at all times even if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The boating laws of the state require that the person operating a boat should not be under the influence of intoxicants. The legal limit of the blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% and if arrested for a higher BAC, harsh penalties may be imposed on the operator, based on the severity of the offense as well as the previous number of such convictions.


The following persons are exempt from the above requirements:

  • Persons from another country visiting the waters of Wisconsin temporarily.
  • Persons with a Boating Safety Certificate equivalent from another state renting a boat in Wisconsin for a period of less than 60 days.


To obtain the Boater Education Safety certificate, you must complete a boater safety education course approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. All Wisconsin Recreational Safety Students are required to obtain a WI DNR Customer ID Number before the completion of the Boating Safety Education class.
In an approved course, students learn how to operate and maintain their boats, the legal requirements for boating, and what to do in emergencies. This ensures that boating remains a safe and fun experience.

There are various approved ways you can complete the course and obtain the card:

  1. You can attend the Recreational Safety Courses offered across the state (usually during March, April, May and June) or classes organized by the US Power Squadron to obtain this certificate.
    • The course duration is a minimum of eight hours.
    • The cost of course is $10.
  2. The Boater Education Card is either handed out at the end of class, or mailed to you within 45 days.
  3. Only the card issued after a classroom course is recognized in most other states, and by many insurance companies for insurance discounts.
  4. An online option is offered by Boat Wisconsin.
  5. This course may take up to 8 hours to complete; some options require you to complete the course in one sitting.
  6. Course materials are free. You may be charged a fee for exams or the card: check providers’ website for details.
  7. A temporary card may be printed after passing the online exam; the permanent card will be mailed to you.


The card is permanent. There is no need to renew it.


In case of loss or if the certificate is destroyed, it can be replaced by completing a Duplicate Safety Course Certification Form and submitting it to the nearest DNR Service Center either by mail or in person. If submitted by mail, 1-2 weeks will be required for delivery. There is a replacement fee of $2.75.


  • While liability insurance is not mandatory for boating in Wisconsin, it is a good idea to have liability insurance to tide over troubles if you or someone operating your boat is involved in a boating accident.
  • Read the course content for the Boater Safety Education Course.
  • See how to register your boat in Wisconsin.
  • Check the contact information of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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