Applying for a New License (Drivers 18+) in Rhode Island
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As a first-time driver in Rhode Island, you must obtain an instruction permit before applying for your regular operator’s license (Class 10)―the only exception is if you’re a new resident who already has a valid, out-of-state license. Once you have an instruction permit, you can apply for your regular operator’s license.
If you already have a regular operator’s license, you may be more interested in one of the other kinds of licenses the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers:
- Chauffeur Licenses allow you to operate “for hire” vehicles.
- Motorcycle Endorsements (Class H) are endorsements to your regular operator’s license that allow you to operate motorcycles.
- Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs) include CDL permits and Class A, B, and C licenses and allow you to operate commercial vehicles.
NOTE: Rhodes Island uses a three-part graduated driver licensing (GDL) program for drivers younger than 18. If this applies to you, please visit our Teen Drivers section for information about limited instruction permits and limited provisional licenses.
Younger than 18―You must take a driver education course through the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI).
18 and Older―You aren’t required to take a driver education course, but taking a supplemental training course can greatly improve your chances of passing your tests.
You will take your written test at the Cranston DMV location. Be sure to call ahead and ask about hours and test schedules, as well as to make an appointment for your road test.
You’ll need to make basically the same preparations for both your written and road test days, so before heading out, be sure to:
- Contact the Cranston DMV locations to find out hours and test schedules for written tests or to make an appointment for your road test.
- Complete the Application for First License.
- Have your Social Security card.
- Have a signature document.
- Pass the vision, written, and/or driving tests.
- Have the appropriate fee in the form of cash or a personal check.
You must take the written test if you’re a first-time driver or a new resident with an out-of-state license that’s been expired for more than one year.
While you aren’t required to take a driver education course if you’re older than 18, taking a supplemental training course is a great way to prepare for your test. You can also study the Rhode Island Driver’s Manual.
NOTE: The DMV offers oral tests for applicants with special needs.
Once You Pass
You'll receive your instruction permit. Your examiner will provide details about how long you must carry the permit before you can take the road test and obtain your full operator's license.
If You Fail
You'll need to take the test again. Your examiner will provide information regarding the waiting period and possible fees.
Your driver education course probably provided a vehicle, and you may even borrow your parents’ or a friend’s car for the driving test; however, once you obtain your operator’s license and start driving, you need a vehicle.
Purchasing a vehicle can be an exciting experience if you’re prepared when you head to the car lots or private sellers. You can manage the pressures of car-shopping when you make sure you know what you need out of a car, how much money you’re able to spend, and whether or not you’re willing to by a used vehicle (and, if you are, getting a vehicle history report is a brilliant way to protect yourself against buying a dud).
Car insurance is mandatory in Rhode Island, so make sure the vehicle you test in and any other vehicle you own while you’re in the state meets Rhode Island’s minimum liability insurance requirements. Our Insurance Center outlines those requirements and helps you shop for the best car insurance rate.
You must take the road test if you’re a first-time driver, or a new resident with an out-of-state license that’s been expired for more than one year. You must make an appointment for your road test.
In addition to your instruction permit and any documents and fees listed above, you must also bring your own vehicle for the road test. The vehicle can actually belong to someone else, but if that person isn’t present you need a notarized letter stating you have permission to use the vehicle.
The vehicle must be properly registered with license plates and an inspection sticker (if the vehicle is older than two years old or has more than 24,000 miles). You must also provide proof of insurance. Our Insurance Center can help you make sure you meet the minimum requirements.
Once You Pass
You'll obtain your full Rhode Island operator's license. Your examiner will explain whether you get a temporary version (to carry until you receive a hard copy in the mail) or a permanent version.
If You Fail
You can make another appointment for 30 days from the day you fail.
While your examiner will let you know whether you'll immediately receive your operator's license or wait for it to arrive in the mail, it's always a good idea to keep the DMV informed of your most current mailing address.
You can drive in Rhode Island with your valid out-of-country license; however, it’s a good idea to obtain an International Driver's Permit (IDP) obtained from your home country. The IDP translates your out-of-country license to English and is easier for American officials to read.
How to Apply as a Non-Citizen
If you establish residency, you need to apply for a Rhode Island operator’s license. Follow the same process as described above, but once it’s time to show proof of identity you must present one of the following:
- A valid Canadian driver's license with date of birth, signature and photo.
- A current and valid foreign passport.
- A U.S. Naturalization certificate.
- INS form I-94.
- INS form I-688.
- INS form I-688B or I-766.
NOTE: A Social Security card is mandatory. If you don't own one, you must prove why you are ineligible. The DMV considers a valid foreign passport or any INS document that validates your legal presence as acceptable proof. Please visit the Social Security Administration for further information.
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We put a lot of effort into making our content helpful & accurate. Please let us know if you see something that isn't clear or correct; we are here to ease any frustrations you may have while navigating DMV topics. We are not a government agency, please reach out to your local DMV, insurance agent, or respective professional for further assistance on specific situations.