Photo by JESHOOTS for Pexels
Photo by JESHOOTS for Pexels Photo by JESHOOTS for Pexels

NEW YORK - Getting a driver's license is key to get around for many in the United States. Each state may have slightly different requirements to get a driver's license, but all processes are handled by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Here is a complete guide to getting your driver's license in the U.S.:

What are the Requirements and Eligibility Criteria for Getting a Driver's License in the US?

Each state has different requirements and eligibility criteria to get a driver license. You must check the rules of the state you are residing in. You can find your state's DMV here.

Overall, each state requires you to submit certain federal or state documents. For example, in New York you need to submit proof of name such as a social security card or a U.S. passport. This can change in other states.

Some states like New York, California, Illinois or Virginia allow undocumented immigrants, or people without legal immigration status in the U.S. to obtain a license, check out the list here.

While each state's DMV has different requirements to get a license, the category your license falls under can be different. There are three kinds of categories:

  • Standard
    • beginning May 7, 2025, not accepted to board a domestic (within the U.S.) flight or to enter some federal buildings
    • Has 'NOT FOR FEDERAL PURPOSES' on the front
    • can be used to board a domestic (within the U.S.) flight
    • has a white star in a black circle on the front
  • Enhanced
    • can be used to board a domestic flight (within the U.S.)
    • can be used to enter the U.S. at land crossings from Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean countries
    • has a U.S. flag on the front
    • costs an additional $30

Be sure to check with your state's DMV to make sure you meet the requirements for the kind of license you want to get. One common thread to get a license is that each state requires you to get a learner's permit and take a driving test before you can get a driver's license.

How to Apply for a Learner's Permit in the US

Getting a learner's permit is one of the first things any potential driver needs. It often requires a vision exam and a quiz. The quizzes are based on the rules of the road such as knowing what road signs mean or what to do in certain situations. Each state has a handbook and other materials to help you study for your quiz, for example here is California's list of resources. You must pass with a score of 80% or higher in order to get your learner's permit.

How to Prepare for the Driving Test in the US

The next step to get your license is the driving test. You must schedule an appointment with your local DMV in order to take it. Some states have driving schools to help you pass your test successfully.

What are the Steps and Process for Getting a Driver's License in the US?

Even though each state has different requirements, the process is the same.

  • Study your state's driver's manual and thoroughly learn the rules of the road.
  • Submit your learner's permit application and Fee. Make sure you submit all necessary documents.
  • Complete and pass the learners permit test.
  • Some states require you to complete a pre-licensing course. Check what your state requires and make sure you complete that.
  • Schedule your road test.

How to Renew or Replace a Driver's License in the US

You don't need to retake your learner's permit quiz or driver's license test in order you renew your license. In most cases, all you need to do is go to your local DMV or DMV website and submit certain documents such as proof of name or proof of address. Again, each state is different, so make sure you check with your local DMV to figure out what you need.

Bottom Line

Each state in the U.S. is different, but the process to get a driver's license usually stays the same throughout: learner's permit, driving test, driving license. Make sure you check what your local DMV requires and submit any required documents.

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