How Long Does It Take to Get a Driver’s License?

If you are planning on getting a driver’s license, it helps to know what to expect in regards to the time it takes. How long does it take to get a driver’s license?

It takes about 2 to 6 months to get a driver’s license if you are a first-time applicant. You have to obtain a learner’s permit first before you can get your permanent driver’s license.

It will only take you around 1 hour and 30 minutes to process your application. Once you’re ready, the written test is less than 10 minutes, and the driving test is about 20 minutes. What takes longer is the waiting time.

The steps for taking the driving test is as follows:

  1. Check the Requirements for a Driver’s License in Your State
  2. Schedule an Appointment for Your Driving, Written, and Vision Exams
  3. Submit All Necessary Documents
  4. Pay the Necessary Fees
  5. Take the Online or Offline Written Test
  6. Take the Vision Test, If Any
  7. Take the Driving Test
  8. Know the Results of Your Tests
  9. Get Your Picture Taken for the License

In most states in the U.S., the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) will require you to get a learner’s permit before getting a driver’s license.

The specific length of time to get your driver’s license in each state varies, so this may not be the case in certain U.S. states. Each state has its own rules and requirements regarding the issuance of a driver’s license.

Read on and learn more about how long it takes to get a driver’s license so you know what to expect.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Driver’s License?

It takes about 2 to 6 months to get a driver’s license if you are a first-time applicant. You have to obtain a learner’s permit first before you can get your permanent driver’s license.

It will only take you around 1 hour and 30 minutes to process your application. Once you’re ready, the written test is less than 10 minutes, and the driving test is about 20 minutes. What takes longer is the waiting time.

After you have passed the written and driving tests, the DMV will issue a temporary license. After a few weeks, you’ll receive your permanent driver’s license. You have to renew this license depending on the renewal policies of your state. Typically, most states require you to renew your driver’s license after eight years.

You have to refer to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to ensure they have the same renewal period because some states require you to renew after four years only. Make sure to renew your license before the expiration date. Driving without a valid license is illegal in the U.S.

Steps for Getting a Driver’s License

1. Check the Requirements for a Driver’s License in Your State

You can visit the DMV’s site online and find out these requirements. Download the form and correctly fill it out. This step will take you around 10 to 20 minutes.

2. Schedule an Appointment for Your Driving, Written, and Vision Exams

This early action will save you time and energy, instead of doing it on the spot. If you have set an appointment, you can go there before your time. But, if you request an appointment on-site, there may be a long queue of applicants before you.

When you schedule online, it would be easier and more convenient. Requesting an appointment online will take you around 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Submit All Necessary Documents

Before leaving your house, ensure that you have all the pertinent documents you need. If you’re under 18, your guardian should sign your application. He/she must also be physically present during your application.

If you’re applying for a permanent driver’s license, remember to bring your learner’s permit. The submission of requirements will take 20 minutes or less.

4. Pay the Necessary Fees

Together with the submission of your documents and requirements, you have to pay the required fee for your type of driver’s license. You can pay the fees when you submit your application and documents.

5. Take the Online or Offline Written Test

In many states, the written exam is online on the DMV’s computers. It would be best if you were computer literate. Your computer would usually show the results immediately after you have submitted your answer to the last question.

This step will take you around 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of license you are applying for.

6. Take the Vision Test, If Any

You can proceed to the vision test if your state requests it. Understandably, you have to pass this exam before you can continue to the driving test. When you can go ahead with the driving test, you may fail because of your vision. The vision test will take about 10 to 15 minutes – if there are no other applicants.

So, if you fail the vision test, you should play it smart by having your vision dysfunction treated first. You would only spend time, energy, and money to proceed with the driving test and fail.

7. Take the Driving Test

In some states, you can simultaneously take the written and driving tests. But in several states, you have to pass first the written test before proceeding to the driving test. Also, in several states, you have to complete the vision test successfully first.

The evaluator may allow you to use your car or one provided by DMV in the driving test. But, you may want to bring your vehicle and a licensed driver, in case you are allowed to use your vehicle. You can’t drive the car until you have a license. 

how long you have to wait to get your driver's license

The test drive may be inside the DMV’s designated area or in a nearby neighborhood. Generally, the examiner will assign the testing area. This test will last for approximately 20 minutes. 

You can refer to the link above to verify your state’s particular procedures. 

8. Know the Results of Your Tests

The examiner will reveal your test results as soon as you finish them, while the written test result is shown through the computer. For your vision test result, the eye specialist would inform you about it. The examiner will provide your driving test results.

In cases when you fail, you will have to schedule another test at a later date. So, you may have to wait for a designated time before you can apply again. 

9. Get Your Picture Taken for the License

You’ll need to take a new photo for your license. A DMV staff will take your picture, and then he will issue a temporary license or a learner’s permit, whatever you have applied for. Moreover, you may want to double-check the information in your driver’s license for any errors or misspelled entries.

The DMV will mail your permanent driver’s license to your residence. How long does it take to get a driver’s license in the mail? It takes about one to two weeks to get your driver’s license in the mail.

We have answered the question: “How long does it take to get a driver’s license?” Now, let’s proceed to some tips on how to shorten your waiting time to get your driver’s license.

Tips on Shortening Your Waiting Time to Get Your Driver’s License

1. Download the Form from the DMV Website in Your State

To avoid wasting some time filling out the form during your application, download the form at home and accomplish it before reporting for your scheduled tests.

2. Study Your State’s Driver’s Manual

Don’t waste your energy, time, and money by taking the test for granted. You should obtain a copy of your state’s driver’s manual and study it. The test questions will surely come from the manual. You may know some of the answers through experience, but it is better to be sure of your answers.

3. Prepare Your Documents Correctly

Preparing your documents beforehand will prevent you from wasting your time going back and forth because you forgot some documents or have not followed the instructions properly.

4. If You’re under 18, Bring Your Guardian

Remember to have your guardian accompany you to your local DMV. Please don’t waste your time by having to call him up and wait for him during your testing schedule.

5. Bring Your Driver and Car

You still don’t have your license, so a licensed driver must be with you to drive the car to the testing site. Should you fail the exam, he could drive you back home again. Bringing your vehicle can shorten your travel time as well.

6. Renew Your License Before It Expires

You have to renew your license before it expires, whether it’s a learner’s permit or a permanent license. It is quicker to do so than having to spend time paying fines and accomplishing additional paperwork.

Foreign Nationals and Renewals

For foreign nationals who would want to get a driver’s license in the U.S., you can refer to USAGov.

For renewals of licenses, you can access the details of your state’s requirements from the same site.

What Are the Requirements for a U.S. Driver’s License?

For applicants who are 18 years old and above, you must:

1. Submit the Application Form

You can fill out the form upon your application or download it from the DMV website in your specific state. Double-check that you have answered all the information asked.

Some of the data you would provide is your necessary personal information, such as complete name, physical and email address, age, height, weight, and other information the state may want to know about you. Remember to affix your signature as well.

If you’re under 18 years old, your guardian must come with you to sign your application. Filling out the form will take you a few minutes. Select the correct form too. It’s either for a learner’s permit or a permanent driver’s license.

2. Obtain a Learner’s Permit First

Most states require first-time applicants or 18 years old and above to obtain a learner’s permit first before getting a permanent license. Moreover, you must pass a written test about basic traffic rules and regulations of your resident state. The state has a driver’s manual that you can learn from, should you want to make sure you can pass the exam.

Remember to get your permanent driver’s license before your learner’s permit expires. But you can opt to renew your learner’s license instead if you feel you still need practice driving.

3. Hold the Learner’s Permit for Six Months Minimum or Log 30 to 50 Hours of Practice

The length of time depends on the specific rules set by the state. Some states only require two months for the learner’s permit. Refer to your local DMV office.

4. Provide Proof of Identity and Residency

You can present a valid ID or passport as proof of your identity, and your utility bills, business permits, or bank account’s address for your proof of residency.

Other Important Requirements:

  • Pass the written, driving, and vision tests conducted by the authorized agency or personnel
  • Pay the required amount for the driver’s license
how long will it take to get drivers license

For Applicants Younger than 18 Years Old

For applicants under 18 years old (14 to 17 years old), you must:

1. Obtain a Learner’s Permit First

At just 14 years old, you can obtain a learner’s permit in the following states: 

  • Iowa
  • Alaska
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Arkansas
  • Kansas 

Most states require you to hold your license for a minimum of six months to one year or log 30 to 60 hours of practice before getting your permanent driver’s license.

Some states, such as California, require you to complete educational driving courses before applying for a learner’s permit. However, before the state grants you a learner’s permit, you must initially pass a test about basic traffic rules and regulations specified in the state’s driver’s handbook.

2. Provide Proof of Residency and Identity

You can show your utility bills as proof of your residency and government-issued IDs for your identity. In this case, your student ID would suffice.

3. Pass the Written, Driving, and Vision Tests Conducted by Authorized Agencies or Personnel

To get your driver’s license, you have to pass all the tests and submit documents required by the state.

4. Pay the Necessary Fee for Your Driver’s License

Find out the traffic rules and regulations for your specific state.

Conclusion – How Long Does It Take to Get a Driver’s License?

So to recap, how long does it take to get a driver’s license? In most U.S. states, it can take 2 to 6 months if you are a first-time applicant. You have to obtain a learner’s permit first before you can get your permanent driver’s license.

However, it will only take you around 1 hour and 30 minutes to process your application. Once you’re ready, the written test is less than 10 minutes, and the driving test is about 20 minutes. What takes longer is the waiting time.

Therefore, the time you spend on getting your driver’s license will primarily depend on the number of applicants waiting in line. If you’re alone, you can accomplish it within an hour.