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  • Applying for a New License (Teen Drivers) in North Carolina

    Applying for a Teen Driver’s License in North Carolina

    The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) uses a graduated driver’s licensing (GDL) process for teen drivers under 18 years old.

    Starting with driver’s education and taking you all the way to your unrestricted, full driver’s license involves several stages.

    Each of these stages is explained in detail below to help you fully understand the GDL process.

    New to North Carolina?

    If you have recently moved to North Carolina, you must transfer your out-of-state permit or driver’s license within 60 days of moving to the state.

    You must visit your local NC DMV office and:

    • Pass the written test.
    • Pass a road sign recognition test.
    • Pass the vision exam.

    You will receive your NC learner’s permit or driver’s license in the mail within 20 days. You will be given a temporary driving certificate to use in the meantime.

    Continue reading below for other steps you need to take to obtain your first NC driver’s license.

    NC Graduated Licensing Program

    If you are under 18 years old, getting licensed to drive begins with successfully completing a Driver’s Ed course. Once you complete your driver’s education class, you can begin the first stages of the graduated licensing (GDL) process.

    North Carolina’s GDL process consists of the following steps:

    • Limited learner’s permit.
    • Limited provisional license.
    • Full provisional driver’s license.

    Each step has its own set of eligibility requirements and restrictions, all in place to help you become and safe and responsible driver.

    Once you turn 18 years old, you can get your regular driver’s license with no restrictions, limitations, or provisions.

    NOTE: Your learner’s permit or driver’s license will be revoked if you stop attending school. In addition, if you are suspended from school for more than 10 days in a row, or you are assigned to an alternative school, your license will be suspended for 12 months. If you return to school or you can demonstrate hardship, you can have your permit or driver’s license reinstated.

    Age Requirements

    Each stage of the NC graduated license process has minimum age requirements:

    • Driver’s Ed enrollment: 14 1/2 years old.
    • Learner’s permit: 15 years old.
    • Limited provisional license: 16 years old.
    • Full provisional license: Eligible 6 months after getting your limited provisional license.
    • Regular driver’s license: 18 years old.

    North Carolina Learner’s Permit

    After completing Driver’s Ed, you can apply for your limited learner’s permit, which allows you to drive supervised by a license driver.

    To apply, visit your local Division of Motor Vehicles office with:

    • Your driving eligibility certificate, which you’ll get after you complete a driver’s education class.
    • 2 documents confirming your identity, such as your:
      • Original birth certificate.
      • Official school transcript signed by a representative of your school.
      • Unexpired passport.
    • 1 document verifying your Social Security number, such as your:
      • Social Security card.
      • W-2 form.
      • Military dependent card.
    • Your parent or guardian, to sign your application.
    • Payment for the $15 learner’s permit fee, payable by cash, personal check, or money order.

    To receive your permit, you’ll have to take and pass a:

    • Written knowledge test.
    • Road sign test.
    • Vision test.

    Learner’s Permit Driving Restrictions

    While driving with your North Carolina learner’s permit, you must follow certain driving restrictions:

    • You can only drive while supervised by your parent, guardian, or an adult approved by your parent or guardian.
      • They must have held a valid driver’s license for at least 5 years.
      • They must be seated in the front passenger seat.
    • You can only drive between 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the first 6 months.
    • All passengers must be wearing seat belts.

    You CANNOT use a mobile phone or related technology when you are driving, UNLESS you have an emergency and have to call:

    • 911, the police, the fire department, or an ambulance.
    • A hospital or doctor.
    • Your parent or guardian.

    Behind-the-Wheel Driving Practice

    You must have your learner’s permit for at least 12 months before moving on to the next stage of the GDL process, giving you time to practice your driving under supervision.

    During this time, you must:

    • Log 60 hours of supervised driving practice, including 10 hours of night driving. Be sure that you:
    • Maintain a clean driving record for the 6 months prior to applying for your provisional driver’s license. You cannot have any:
      • Moving violations.
      • Seat belt violations.
      • Mobile phone violations.

    Once you’ve held your permit for at least 12 months, logged the required hours, and have had no violations in the last 6 months, you can apply for your limited provisional driver’s license.

    Limited Provisional Driver License

    The next step in the North Carolina GDL process is to obtain your limited provisional driver’s license, which gives you more freedom, including the opportunity to drive without supervision.

    To apply, you must:

    • Be at least 16 years old.
    • Have held your learner’s permit for at least 12 months.
    • Have no moving violations, seat belt violations, or mobile phone violations in the last 6 months.
    • Have completed 60 hours of driving practice, including 10 hours at night.

    Apply for Your Limited Provisional License

    You’ll apply for your limited provisional driver’s license by visiting your local DMV office with:

    You must take and pass a road skills test (driving test) to receive your limited provisional driver’s license.

    Limited Provisional License Driving Restrictions

    The limited provisional driver’s license gives you more freedom than a learner’s permit, but you still must adhere to certain driving restrictions.

    You can drive unsupervised:

    • From 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    • Outside of these hours only for work or volunteer fire and rescue services purposes.

    You can have passengers in your car, as long as:

    • They are wearing seat belts or in child safety seats.
    • Only 1 passenger is younger than 21 years old (unless they are immediate family members or you are accompanied by a supervising driver).

    You may use a mobile phone or related technology ONLY in an emergency to call:

    • 911, the police, the fire department, or an ambulance.
    • A hospital or doctor.
    • Your parent or guardian.

    Behind-the-Wheel Driving Practice

    Before you can move on to your full provisional driver’s license, you must hold your limited provisional driver’s license for at least 6 months. During this time, you must:

    After 6 months, you can apply for your full provisional driver’s license if you complete your required practice and have no violations.

    Full Provisional Driver License

    Getting your full provisional driver’s license is the last stage of the GDL process in North Carolina.

    Before you can apply, you must have:

    • Held your limited provisional driver’s license for at least 6 months.
    • Completed 12 hours of behind-the-wheel driving practice, including 6 hours at night.
    • A clean driving record.

    Apply for Your Full Provisional License

    To get your full provisional driver’s license, you’ll need to take the following to your local DMV office:

    Full Provisional License Driving Restrictions

    With the full provisional driver’s license, you have no time or passenger restrictions, and you do not need a supervising driver.

    However, you are still restricted to using a mobile phone ONLY in an emergency.

    Full Unrestricted Driver License

    Once you turn 18 years old, you are eligible for a full, regular driver’s license.

    To trade your full provisional license for a regular driver’s license, you’ll need to take your provisional driver’s license to your local Division of Motor Vehicles office.

    Track your progress along the way with the North Carolina new driver's license checklist.