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How to get my driver’s license

JAN 02, 2017

driver license

How to apply for my driver’s license: collecting required papers

Start the process of getting your driver’s license from searching for the local DMV website with current information on your state requirements. Usually, state authorities require collecting a list of papers that verifies an applicant’s identity, SSN, residency, legal status and name change (if any).  In most cases, applying for a driver’s license requires 4 or 5 documents and the most common among them are the following:

  • Birth/citizenship/naturalization certificates
  • Passport
  • Military identification/state identification/health insurance/voter registration cards
  • Instruction permit/DL
  • Employee/school IDs
  • Tax forms
  • Medical records
  • Documents issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
  • Court orders
  • Utility bills
  • Bank statements
  • Rental documents
  • Adoption papers/marriage certificate/divorce decree
  • Certificates of divorce/annulment/name change

When obtaining the driver’s license, you need to present originals of the above mentioned papers or their certified copies. So do bother to visit a notary in order to get the copies in advance and check the documents date of expiry.

Also, an applicant has to submit a corresponding application form that often can be downloaded right from an official DMV website.

Before visiting your local DMV office, be sure to find current information about the location and schedule, since some DMV offices specify certain sites for holding DL tests and some of them don’t work on walk-in basis. Though you can’t get the driver’s license online, you are welcomed to make the appointment via a DMV online service if the office works on pre-apply basis. 

How to get my driver’s license: passing DMV exams

Prior to getting a driver’s license, an applicant has to go through several tests:

  • Knowledge exam
  • Vision screening
  • Road test

To get prepared for the knowledge exam, an applicant needs to download the Driver’s Manual (it is available on official DMV websites and on some useful web resources dedicated to passing DMV exams). Though you can’t get the driver’s license online, you have a chance to learn and practice the exam questions using your PC, smartphone or tablet. Use special online services and applications helping to strengthen the knowledge and to train before the testing – this will ensure passing the exam on the first try. During the exam an applicant is offered to answer a certain number of questions on the state traffic rules – in written or in computer-based form. As a rule, DMVs require to give 80% of correct answers to pass the test. 

Vision screening is necessary for confirming that an applicant’s vision is good enough to provide safe operation on roads. Usually, it is required to have visual acuity of at least 20/40. If the eyesight fails to meet state standards, the applicant will receive some restrictions binding him/her to wear glasses or corrective lenses. In some cases a driver with low vision may be restricted to daylight driving only. If the vision improves, there is a possibility to remove the restrictions by providing verifying medical reports. Though you are not allowed to obtain the driver’s license online, in some states you can remove the restrictions via the Internet if your vision test provider is enrolled in a special program.   

Also keep in mind that along with the knowledge and vision testing you will be photographed and fingerprinted.  

How to obtain my driver’s license: passing the behind-the-wheel exam

After passing the knowledge and vision tests, an applicant is granted with a Lerner’s permit that allows behind-the-wheel practicing. Without the permit it is prohibited to drive on public roads for training before DMV road exam.

Having the permit, an applicant can practice under supervision of an adult driver, who has required driving experience specified by the state authorities. It is important that usually the permit imposes some restrictions like driving without passengers (except a supervisor) or driving at certain times of day only. In fact, the restrictions vary greatly depending on applicant’s age, since many states have their Graduated Driver License programs for minors. Generally, you need to practice within a certain period of time (specified by local DMV requirements), and if you don’t commit any traffic violations, you will be admitted to the road exam.

The exam covers basic safe driving practices/traffic rules and is intended to test applicant’s behind-the-wheel skills – a DMV employee or a certified third-party instructor asks a driver to make certain maneuvers both on test sites and public roads. If you show confident driving skills and knowledge of traffic rules, you will get your DL soon after passing the exam (usually, it is sent by mail).