How to Apply for Washington, D.C. Driver's License: Step-by-Step Guide (2018)

Learn what to expect, things you need, and how to get behind the wheel faster.
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On this page: Types of licenses How to apply Knowledge test Road test Replace or renew New residents

How Does It Work?

If you are a DC driver or want to become one, you will require a DC driver license. The procedure is pretty simple if you follow this step by step guide.

Get a learner permit

Allows you to practice driving under supervision.

Get a provisional license

Allows you to drive unsupervised with restrictions.

Get a Full (Adult) License

Allows you to drive with no restrictions.

Types of Driver's Licenses in Washington D.C.

For each license type there's a corresponding type of instruction permit
Washington D.C. Class D Driver's License
Class D
This is the usual kind of driver license to operate passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) less than 26,001 pounds for non-commercial use including motor-driven cycles, and passenger vans with up to 15 passengers. Read the D.C. DMV Driver Manual or take a free D.C. DMV practice test.
Washington D.C. Class A/B/C Driver's License
Class A/B/C (Commercial)
Class A is for operating vehicles with semi-trailers or trailers with two or more axles and any combination of vehicles with a GVWR greater than 26,000 pounds with the GVWR of the towed vehicle greater than 10,000 pounds. Class B is for any heavy straight vehicle with a GVWR greater than 26,000 pounds, and any vehicles towing another vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds. Class C is for transporting 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or hazardous materials. Read the D.C. CDL Manual or take a free D.C. CDL practice test.
Washington D.C. Motorcycle Driver's License
M Endorsement
To operate a motorcycle, you are required to have a valid driver license with a motorcycle endorsement. Read the D.C. Motorcycle Manual or take a free D.C. Motorcycle practice test.

How to Apply for Your Class R Driver License

To apply, you must pass a vision test, a knowledge test, provide documentation and take a road test. This is your plan depending on your age.

How to Apply for Your Junior Learner Permit

For all drivers under 21 the supervised learner's phase is the first step of The Graduated License Program (known as GRAD). DC DMV offers learners either a REAL ID or a Limited Purpose learner permit, depending on whether you have an SSN. Note that you may only drive accompanied by a licensed driver in the front seat at least 21 years of age. Your hours of driving are between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm when you drive with a DC DMV learner permit.

1PRINT AND FILL OUT THE DRIVER LICENSE APPLICATION

2APPLY IN PERSON

You can choose any DC DMV Service center to submit your application. There are no appointments for a Real ID learner permit application, but you can schedule one online if you apply for a limited purpose permit, but walk-ins are accepted as well.

3BRING REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION

You will need the proof of the following:

  • identity and age
  • your residency in DC (2 documents)
  • parental approval (if you are 16-17 years of age, bring this consent form filled by your parent or guardian)
  • SSN (If you apply for a limited purpose permit, fill out and submit this form, to certify the absence of SSN)

Use this interactive guide to choose all the documentation needed.

4PASS VISION SCREENING

You must have no less than 20/40 in the best eye, or no less than 20/70 in the best eye and at least 140 degrees of the field of vision with or without corrective lenses.

5PASS A KNOWLEDGE TEST

Note that you must arrive at least one hour before the service center closes to take the test on the same day. Practice online before you go. If you fail, you must wait 3 calendar days before you are able to take it again on the fourth day.

6PAY THE FEES AND HAVE YOUR PICTURE TAKEN

  • $ 10.00 for the knowledge test (pass or fail)
  • $20.00 learner permit

You can pay by VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Discover cards.

7RECEIVE YOUR TEMPORARY PERMIT

The DMV will mail you your permanent permit within 10 days. Your learner permit will be valid for two years and cannot be renewed. If you haven't obtained a driver license by the time that your permit expires, you will have to apply for a new permit.

If you turn 21 when you have a learner permit, you may immediately schedule a road test appointment. You do not need to provide a driving certification form or wait until you have had the permit for 6 months.

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How to Apply for Your Washington D.C. Provisional License

A provisional driver license is the intermediate stage of the DC DMV's Gradual Rearing of Adult Drivers (GRAD) Program. It allows you to drive alone at certain times.

  • September to June: Sunday to Thursday, 6 am - 10:59 pm; Friday and Saturday, 6 am - 11:59 pm
  • July and August: Every day, 6 am - 11:59 pm.

However, you may drive during restricted hours to or from work, a school-sponsored activity, a religious or an athletic event, or to a related training session in which you are a participant, sponsored by the District of Columbia, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for you, or if you are accompanied by a licensed driver (21+) sitting beside you.

  1. HOLD YOUR LEARNER PERMIT FOR AT LEAST 6 MONTHS

    Use this time to practice driving and make sure you don't have any violations that result in points awarded to your permit.

  2. PREPARE YOUR DRIVING LOG

    Complete Certification of Eligibility for Provisional License form, showing that you have practiced driving for at least 40 hours. You must also provide a photocopy of the driver license of the supervising driver who logged your driving hours on the form.

  3. SCHEDULE AND PASS THE ROAD TEST

    You can schedule online or by calling the Citywide Call Center at 311 or 202-737-4404. Be ready to provide your learner permit number and SSN.

  4. COMPLETE THE APPLICATION FORM

    if you have noted one or more medical conditions in the Medical Fitness section of this application, you must also fill out and submit a Medical/Eye Report.

  5. PASS THE VISION SCREENING AND HAVE YOUR PICTURE TAKEN

    You must have no less than 20/40 in the best eye, or no less than 20/70 in the best eye and at least 140 degrees of the field of vision with or without corrective lenses.

  6. PAY THE FEES
    • $10 - road test fee
    • $20- license fee

    You can pay by cash, check, money order, or credit card.

  7. GET YOUR PROVISIONAL LICENSE

    The DMV will issue you a temporary provisional license and mail you your permanent provisional license within 10 days. While you are waiting to receive it, you can check its mailing status online. If you are a US citizen, your provisional license will be valid for one year. Otherwise, the validity will depend on the length of your residency in the US.

If you turn 21 when you have a provisional license, you may immediately visit a DMV service center location to obtain a regular driver license. You do not need to provide a driving certification form or wait until you have had the license for 6 months.

How to Apply for Your Full License (17-21 Years of Age)

The final stage of the GRAD program is the Full License with Conditions stage. Before you turn 18, you will be able to drive with no more than 2 passengers under age 21, but follow the same curfew you had with your provisional license:

September to June: Sunday to Thursday, 6 am - 10:59 pm; Friday and Saturday, 6 am - 11:59 pm; July and August: every day, 6 am - 11:59 pm unless driving to and from work, a school-sponsored activity, a religious or an athletic event, or to a related training session in which you are a participant, sponsored by the District of Columbia, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for you, or if you are accompanied by an adult (21+) licensed driver.

When you turn 18, all these restrictions on your unsupervised driving are lifted.

1HOLD YOUR PROVISIONAL LICENSE FOR AT LEAST 6 MONTHS.

Make sure you don't have any violations that result in points awarded to your license. If you turn 21 you may immediately visit a DMV service center location to obtain a regular driver license. You do not need to provide a driving certification form or wait until you have had the license for 6 months.

2LOG SUPERVISED NIGHT DRIVING

Your driving supervisor should log the nighttime hours that you practice driving on this form. Provide that form to the DMV as proof that you have practiced driving at night for at least 10 hours.

3SURRENDER YOUR PROVISIONAL LICENSE

You can do it at any DC DMV Service center, no appointment required.

4PAY THE LICENSE FEE AND HAVE YOUR PICTURE TAKEN

$47.00 by check, money order, credit card, or cash (no cash is accepted at Brentwood Road Test/CDL Office).

5GET YOUR FULL DRIVER LICENSE

The DMV will issue you a temporary full driver license that will be valid for the next 45 days. The DMV will mail you your permanent license within 10 days. While you are waiting to receive it, you can check its mailing status online.

A REAL ID or Limited Purpose full driver license will be valid for 8 years or will depend on the length of your residence in the US.

How to Apply for Your Full Adult Driver License (21+)

1PRINT AND FILL OUT THE DRIVER LICENSE APPLICATION.

Make sure you don't have any violations that result in points awarded to your license. If you turn 21 you may immediately visit a DMV service center location to obtain a regular driver license. You do not need to provide a driving certification form or wait until you have had the license for 6 months.

2APPLY IN PERSON

You can choose any DC DMV Service center to submit your application. There are no appointments for a Real ID learner permit application, but you can schedule one online if you apply for a limited purpose permit, however, walk-ins are accepted as well.

3BRING REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION

You will need the proof of the following:

  • identity and age
  • your residency in DC (2 documents)
  • SSN (If you apply for a limited purpose permit, fill out and submit this form, to certify the absence of SSN)

Use this interactive guide to choose all the documentation needed.

4PASS VISION SCREENING

You must have no less than 20/40 in the best eye, or no less than 20/70 in the best eye and at least 140 degrees of the field of vision with or without corrective lenses.

5PASS A KNOWLEDGE TEST

Note that you must arrive at least one hour before the service center closes to take the test on the same day. Practice online before you go. If you fail, you must wait 3 calendar days before you are able to take it again on the fourth day.

6PAY THE FEES AND HAVE YOUR PICTURE TAKEN

  • $ 10.00 for the knowledge test ( pass or fail)
  • $20.00 learner permit

You can pay by VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Discover cards.

7RECEIVE YOUR TEMPORARY PERMIT

Note that you may only drive accompanied by a licensed driver in the front seat at least 21 years of age. Your learner permit will be valid for two years and cannot be renewed. If you haven't obtained a driver license by the time that your permit expires, you will have to apply for a new permit.

8PRACTISE SUPERVISED DRIVING

If you are 21 years of age or older, you may immediately schedule a road test appointment. You do not need to provide a driving certification form or wait until you have had the permit for 6 months.

9SCHEDULE AND PASS YOUR ROAD TEST

Walk-ins are not accepted. You can schedule online or by calling the Citywide Call Center at 311 or 202-737-4404. Be ready to provide your learner permit number and SSN.

10PAY THE FEES AND HAVE ANOTHER PICTURE TAKEN

$10.00 road skills test fee and $47 license fee paid by check, money order, credit card, or cash ( no cash is accepted at Brentwood Road Test/CDL Office).

11GET YOUR LICENSE

The DMV will issue you a temporary full driver license that will be valid for the next 45 days and mail you your permanent license within 10 days. While you are waiting to receive it, you can check its mailing status online. A REAL ID or Limited Purpose full driver license will be valid for 8 years or the duration will depend on the length of your residence in the US.

Washington D.C. Knowledge Test

Take a free practice test
What does the test include?
There are 30 multiple-choice questions for the applicants of 16-21 years of age and 25 multiple-choice questions for adults (21+). They test your knowledge of traffic laws, road signs, and driving safety rules. All the information is taken from DC DMV Driver Manual. You have 75 minutes to complete all the questions if you are 16- 21 years of age and 60 minutes if you are older than 21.
How many questions can I miss to pass the test?
You are required to answer 80% of questions correctly. It means you can miss 6 questions if you are younger than 21 years of age and 5 questions if you are older.
Where and when do I take the test?
You must take your knowledge test at any DC DMV Service center without an appointment. You should check the schedule of your center before you go, but note that you must be able to begin the test more than 1 hour before the service center closes for the day.
How to prepare for the test?
Study the D.C. DMV Driver Manual as all questions are based on the information provided in it. Take free practice tests available here. When you feel comfortable with your score, you are ready!
What common mistakes should I avoid?
The most common mistake comes from not knowing enough information out of the manual. This happens when people study solely with practice tests. Make sure you read the manual first. Another problem is rushing through questions. Take your time and remember what you have studied.
Can I take the test in any other language but English?
Yes. The test is available in Amharic, Arabic, Cantonese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese. Audio assisted tests are also available for those who need assistance with reading.
Is there a mobile Washington D.C. practice test app available?
Yes, and it's free and great for all your studying needs. You can get it at Google Play or App Store.
Can I use the driver's manual when I take the actual test at the DMV?
Absolutely NOT! This is not an open book test. The purpose of the test is to make sure you understand and apply the rules of the road. Moreover, the use of any kind of testing aid during the test will mean an automatic failure of the test.
What happens if I fail?
You will have to wait 3 full calendar days before trying again on the 4th day. Each time you will have to pay a $10 fee. If you fail the driver knowledge test 6 times within a 12-month period, you will not be allowed to take the 7th test until 12 months after you failed the 1st test.

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Road Test

Step-by-Step Guide
What to expect during DC road test
Road Test FAQ

The road skills test examines your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle and follow the rules of the road. You can test at the DMV Brentwood Road Test Office or with a third party.

Schedule your test online or by calling the Citywide Call Center at 311 or 202-737-4404. Be ready to provide your learner permit number and SSN.

Arrive at least 15 minutes before your appointment together with a licensed driver of at least 21 years of age. Note that if you have a learner permit and drive yourself to your road skills test appointment without being accompanied by a licensed driver, you will not be allowed to take your test for 6 months.

If you have to cancel or reschedule your test, call 311 or (202) 737-4404 at least 48 hours prior to your scheduled road test. Failure to cancel a scheduled road test within 48 hours will result in a cancellation fee. This fee will be collected the next time you arrive at a DMV center.

What to Bring

The vehicle you bring for the test should have the following:

  • front and rear license plates (if applicable), properly affixed to the bumper
  • a valid inspection sticker
  • a current registration card with a valid window registration sticker or current sticker displaying a valid expiration date affixed to the plates
  • functioning brake lights
  • turn signal lights and horn
  • windows that roll up and down and functioning doors with inside and outside door handles
  • inside rearview mirror and outside side (left/right) view mirrors properly placed, nothing hanging from the rearview mirror
  • a hand emergency brake between the driver and front passenger seats
  • good tires
  • no service or warning lights illuminated on dashboard, including low gas

Rental vehicles are allowed for road tests only if you are listed on the rental contract as an approved driver.

Before the Test
  • Be prepared to wait in your car for a considerable time, be patient. Some drivers reported 45 to 60-minute waits.
  • Your examiner will start by checking your signals, horn and lights.
  • You may need to show how to adjust your seat and the mirrors.
  • Don't forget to put your seatbelt on.
  • Note that the examiner will not allow you to take the test in a vehicle without a hand emergency brake between the driver and front passenger seats.
During the Test

    Your test will last about 15 minutes. You will drive around the neighborhood and show safe driving techniques. You are required to fulfil the examiner's verbal instructions.

    Don't forget to

    • Keep both hands on the wheel
    • Come to a complete stop at stop signs
    • Follow all the road signs
    • Keep in your lane, especially at a roundabout
    • Keep all the speed limits
    • Stop before a sidewalk
    • Yield and accept the right-of-way
    • Check traffic including pedestrians
    • Look in the mirrors when necessary

    You may be asked to show the following maneuvers:

    • Left and right turns
    • A three-point turn
    • Backing from the parking spot checking mirrors on the way
    • Parallel parking (very rarely)
End of the Test

Your examiner will fill in the test sheet and let you know if you passed or failed. If you pass, you will have to go back inside the testing center and fill in the application form.

If you fail the road skills test, you must wait 72 hours before you may take it again. If you fail the road skills test 6 times within a 12-month period, you will not be allowed to take the 7th test until 12 months after you fail the 1st test.

How to Replace or Renew Your Driver License in Washington D.C.

  • If you do not qualify for online renewal, you can always renew your license at any DC DMV Service center without an appointment.

    Plan of Action

    1. Verify your identity and age. Choose documents from this list for a REAL ID license or this list for a Limited Purpose license.

      If you have changed your name so that it no longer matches that on your documentation, you must have Social Security update your name, then you will verify the name change at the DMV with documentation selected from this list.

    2. Verify your residency in the District with documentation selected from this list.
    3. Verify your Social Security number or prove that you are ineligible for one. Choose documentation from this list.
    4. Pay the renewal fee of $47.00 by card, check, money order or cash (cash isn't accepted at the Brentwood Road Test and CDL Office).
    5. Get your temporary license. Your permanent license will be mailed to you within 10 days. While you are waiting to receive it, you can check its mailing status online.

    If your license expired more than 365 days ago, you will have to pass a knowledge test or complete a DMV-approved online traffic school course.

    If your license expired more than 545 days ago, you will have to pass both a knowledge test and a road test.

  • If the DMV finds you eligible to renew your license by mail, the DMV will mail you information and instructions along with the renewal notice. Just follow the instructions.
  • You may renew online if you meet the following requirements:

    1. Your REAL ID or Limited Purpose driver license is currently valid or has not been expired for more than 365 days.
    2. Your current name and address are on file at the DMV.
    3. You are younger than 70 years of age.
    4. You can provide your driver license number and the control number from your renewal notice. (If you don't have the control number from your renewal notice, provide your first name, last name, Social Security number, and date of birth.)
    5. You can pay the $47.00 renewal fee with a credit card (not American Express or Discover Card).
    6. You have no medical conditions that might impair your ability to drive.
    7. You did not renew online the last time.

    To renew online, visit this DMV webpage and follow the instructions. Note that you will be asked to take a short quiz about the rules of the road first. The quiz is not graded.

    Your new license will be mailed to you within 10 days and will be valid for 8 years.

New Residents: How to Get the Washington D.C. Driver's License

If you hold a driver license from another jurisdiction, you must convert it to a DC DMV driver license within 30 days after you become a resident of the District.
Out-of-state license Foreign license
Not sure if you are a resident of DC?
Are you a Washington D.C. resident?

Washington, DC defines a resident of the state as a person who meets either of the following requirements:

  • The person is domiciled in the District at any time during the taxable year.
  • The person is not domiciled in the District but maintains a place of abode in the District for at least 183 days of the taxable year.
Residing temporarily?
Are you visiting Connecticut

You don't have to convert your out-of-state license if you are:

  • an elected official of the US government or an employee on the staff of any such official.
  • appointed to the Executive Branch of the US government.
  • a Justice of the US Supreme Court.

I’ve Got a Valid Out-of-State License

Moving from another US state? Welcome to Washington DC!
Moving from another state?

You must transfer your license in person at any DC DMV Service center , no appointments are available. You must be at least 17 years of age to obtain a driver license. Otherwise, you will be issued a learner permit.

Plan of Action
  1. Fill out and submit a DC Driver License or Identification Card Application.
  2. Bring documentation to verify the following:
    • Your identity and age
    • Your DC residency
    • Your Social Security Number or prove that you are ineligible for one

    Use this interactive guide to choose all the documentation needed.

  3. Pass a vision test. You must have no less than 20/40 in the best eye, or no less than 20/70 in the best eye and at least 140 degrees of the field of vision with or without corrective lenses.
  4. Surrender your existing license.
  5. Have your picture taken
  6. Pay the license fee of $ 47.00

If your existing license from another state expired more than 90 days ago, you must pass both a written test and a road test.

driver's license in Washington D.C.

The DMV will issue you a temporary full driver license that will be valid for the next 45 days and mail you your permanent license within 10 days. While you are waiting to receive it, you can check its mailing status online.

I've Got a Valid Foreign License

Moving from another country? Welcome to Washington DC!

Plan of Action

  1. Fill out and submit a DC Driver License or Identification Card Application.
  2. Bring documentation to verify the following:
    • Your identity and age
    • Your DC residency
    • Your Social Security Numberor prove that you are ineligible for one

    Use this helpful interactive guide to choose all the documentation needed.

  3. Pass a vision test.
  4. Pass a knowledge test. You must arrive at least one hour before the service center closes to take the test on the same day. Practice online before you go. If you fail, you must wait 3 calendar days before you are able to take it again on the fourth day.
  5. Show your valid foreign license (you don't have to surrender it). If your foreign license is not in English, provide an English translation from your embassy or a certified English translation from a language translation company. If you cannot show the license, pass the road test.
  6. Have your picture taken.
  7. Pay the license fee of $ 47.00, the knowledge fee of $10.00, and if needed, the road test fee of $10.00.

The DMV will issue you a temporary full adult license that will be valid for the next 45 days. (However, if you have received a Notice of Action, Form I-797, from the USCIS, stating how much longer the processing of your application or petition will take, the DMV may extend the temporary permit for that amount of time or 18 months, whichever is shorter.)

While you are waiting to receive your permanent license, you can check its mailing status online.

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