First-time Wisconsin drivers license applicants who are 15-and-a-half years of age need to begin by applying for the first stage of the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program - the instruction permit for driving. To go through the DMV drivers license program, minors need to meet the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's (DOT) requirements at every stage, which will vary for each driving credential.
Did you know? You can avoid failing the written drivers test on your first try by taking our learners permit practice tests.
How to Apply for a Wisconsin Instruction Permit:
- Be at least 15-and-a-half years of age.
- Provide the required documentation.
- Pass a vision exam
- Pass a written test.
- Pay the WI instruction permit fees
Applying for a WI Instruction Permit
The Wisconsin instruction permit for driving is available to residents who are 15-and-a-half years of age and have enrolled in a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. The instruction learners permit is the first stage of the GDL program.
What is the Graduate Driver Licensing Program in Wisconsin?
Every new drivers license applicant must go through the three-stage Wisconsin Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program in order to get full driving privileges. The three stages are as follows:
- Instruction drivers permit - available to applicants who are 15-and-a-half years of age.
- Probationary drivers license - available to applicants who are at least 16 years of age.
- Unrestricted drivers license - available to applicants who are 18 years of age.
How to Get a WI Instruction Permit
Instruction Permit Requirements in Wisconsin
To get a learners permit in Wisconsin, you must meet certain requirements established by the Department of Transportation:
- Be at least 15-and-a-half years of age.
- Complete or be enrolled in a drivers education course.
- Have your parent or legal guardian sign the application form.
- Present proofs of U.S. citizenship, name and date of birth, identity, and Social Security Number.
- Pass the vision screening.
- Pass the written knowledge test.
Preparing for a Wisconsin DMV Written Exam
New driving permit applicants must pass a written knowledge test. The drivers permit written test examines the applicant's knowledge of traffic laws and road rules with questions taken from sections of the Wisconsin Motorists' Handbook. The WI DOT administers the knowledge test on a digital system with touch screens.
DMV learners permit applicants who are taking the written knowledge test have 45 minutes to answer the questions. Prepare yourself for the exam by taking our practice permit tests, which contain similar questions to those on the official written exam.
WI Drivers Education
In Wisconsin, drivers education is a requirement for all first-time drivers under the age of 18 applying for their learner's permit. To enroll in WI drivers ed, applicants must be a minimum age of 15 years and six months old. For drivers at least 16 years of age applying for a driver's license, completion of an education program is also required. A driving course can be taken in person or online through a trusted, third-party provider here.
Wisconsin drivers education allows for the Parent Supervised Driving Program (PSDP) option, which can be easily and conveniently completed with classroom instruction from an approved online program. While face-to-face courses are an option, they do not offer the same flexibility as online classes. Both an online driving course and an in-person program have the same curriculum that consists of 30 hours of theoretical instruction.
WI driving classes include information about state traffic laws, rules of the road, tips for safe driving techniques, alcohol and substance abuse education and instruction on how to share the road with other drivers. Upon completing a course, a drivers ed certificate will be issued to the student and must be submitted to the state Department of Transportation (DOT).
Wisconsin Instruction Permit Restrictions
Instruction learning permit holders need to follow certain restrictions set by the WI DOT. Drivers who obey the restrictions can advance to the next stage in the GDL program. The Wisconsin learners permit restrictions are as follows:
- You must be accompanied by a licensed supervisor seated in the front seat.
- The supervisor must have two years of driving experience.
- The supervisor must be a qualified instructor, parent, legal guardian or spouse who is 19 years of age or older, or any licensed person who is 21 years of age or older.
NOTE: Drivers who are at least 16 years of age are allowed to carry a second passenger besides the supervisor. The other passenger must be at least 25 years of age and must have a driving experience of at least two years.
Wisconsin Probationary Licenses
The probationary provisional drivers license is the second stage of the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. Drivers in Wisconsin who have a DMV drivers permit may advance to the next stage by following these requirements:
- Hold an instruction permit for at least six months.
- Present proof of a completed drivers education course.
- Have 30 hours of behind-the-wheel driving experience (with 10 hours at night).
- Have your parent or legal guardian certify your completion of 30 driving hours.
- Have no traffic violation for the last six months.
- Pass a driving skills test.
- Pay the required fees.
WI Probationary License Driving Restrictions
Probationary provisional license holders who are under 18 years of age need to abide by the following restrictions:
- You can drive alone, without supervision, from 5 a.m. to midnight.
- You can have two other passengers with you, one of which must hold a drivers license and have at least two years of driving experience. That same person may be a qualified instructor, a spouse who is 19 years of age or older, or any other person who is 21 years of age or older.
- You are allowed to drive alone from midnight to 5 a.m. only when driving to/from home, school and work. If you are driving anywhere else, you must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, a licensed driver with at least two years of driving experience, or any immediate family member.
NOTE: Your probationary drivers license restrictions will be extended for an additional six months if you are convicted of a moving violation, if you violate any restriction, or if your DMV drivers license is revoked or suspended.
Replacing a WI Instruction Permit
Drivers who have lost their instruction permit for driving can replace it at the nearest WI DOT office. For more detailed information on learners permit replacements, follow this link.
Locate a Wisconsin DMV
Wisconsin has many DOT offices throughout the state, where drivers can go to resolve driving matters. Use our WI DOT locations page to get the contact details of all the DOT branches in the state.