Documents to Apply For a Driver’s License

Woman asking what documents does she needs to apply for or renew a driver's license

Applying for your first driver’s license is usually a thrilling experience. However, if you don’t bring the right documents with you to the DMV, you may end up leaving disappointed. It’s vital that you present the correct paperwork and forms of ID, in order to get a driver’s license.

To apply for your first driver’s license or a new REAL ID compliant license, you must bring a certified copy of your birth certificate, as well as your Social Security card or Social Security number (SSN), and proof of residency.

Which documents are needed to get a driver’s license?

Previously, each state had their own regulations concerning which documents you need to provide when you apply for a new driver’s license. However, the REAL ID act, which will go into effect October 1, 2021, sets a national standard that every state must follow. Many states are already following the new regulations and issuing REAL IDs.

In order to get a new REAL ID compliant driver’s license, you will first need to show documents that prove your citizenship and identity. Second, you must present your Social Security card or another document containing your name and full SSN. Last, you will need two different documents showing proof of your current address.

You may also need to show proof of training or schooling through a driver’s education class or from a qualified adult. Depending on the state, you might need to provide a certification of training and evidence that you have had a provisional license or permit for a minimum of six months. Individuals 16 and older can get a driver’s license in the U.S., so if you are under 16, you will also need to provide proof that you qualify to get an under-aged license.

Which documents are acceptable to use as proof of ID?

Some states go beyond the REAL ID requirements and ask for additional documents, so it’s a good idea to check with your DMV office and see what they require. The following documents are all vital records and acceptable forms of ID to use when applying for a driver’s license.

Documents you can use to prove your identity and citizenship:

If you need a certified birth certificate copy, it’s easy to apply for one online and have it mailed straight to your home.

Documents that are acceptable as proof of residence:

  • Mortgage or rent statement
  • Utility bill
  • Pay stub

All documents showing proof of residence must be printed documents, have your full name and address, and be from within the last 30 days.

You may also need:

  • Parental consent – in most states, drivers under 16 must have a form of consent signed by their parents or legal guardians. You can get this form at the DMV.
  • Proof of driver’s education – if this is your first driver’s license or first in a new state, you may have to show proof that you have taken a driver’s ed course or have been taught by a qualified adult.

How to apply for a driver’s license

Each state has their own Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, which is a state-level agency responsible for issuing driver’s licenses. You must go to the DMV in person, and bring all of the correct paperwork and documents, in order to get your first driver’s license.

Some things to be aware of before you go to the DMV:

  • In most states, applicants must be at least 15 ½ years of age to apply for a provisional or “hardship” license.
  • The majority of states require a certification of schooling and a certification of driver’s education showing that the applicant has received a minimum of 25-60 hours of classroom time.
  • Nearly every state requires applicants to pass a vision exam.
  • There is an application fee to get a driver’s license, which varies by state.
  • Depending on the state, you may need to take and pass a written exam and/or a driving test.
  • The DMV will take your picture to use on your new license.
  • Some states require applicants to have held a provisional license for at least six months before applying for a regular license.

When you apply in person, if your application is accepted, some DMVs will provide you with a temporary paper license that you should keep until your new license comes in the mail.

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