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  • Applying for a New License (Drivers 18+) in South Carolina

    Applying for a New Driver’s License in South Carolina

    You must obtain a South Carolina driver’s license from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to drive on public roads.

    Below, we’ve outlined how you can apply for a new South Carolina driver’s license, whether you’re a long-time resident, new to the state, or a non-citizen.

    New to South Carolina?

    South Carolina allows new residents to transfer out-of-state driver’s licenses and beginner permits.

    Full Driver Licenses

    You have 90 days after becoming a South Carolina resident to transfer your out-of-state license.

    You do have to pass the vision test, but you do not have to take the knowledge or road skills exams UNLESS your out-of-state license is expired for 9 months or longer.

    “Apply for Your SC Driver’s License” below explains the ID documents, fees, and other driver license application requirements.

    Driver Permits

    You can also transfer your out-of-state driver permit, but there are a few more requirements:

    • Like long-time SC residents, you must hold your new SC beginner permit for 180 days; however, the time you held your permit in your former state counts toward those days.
    • You must take and pass the vision and knowledge tests.

    Refer to “Getting Your South Carolina Learner’s Permit” and “Apply for Your SC Driver’s License” below for detailed information about ID documents, fees, and other driver license application requirements.

    Types of South Carolina Driver’s Licenses

    South Carolina provides the Class D license for drivers of regular passenger cars and trucks; during the permit phase, this is called a Class D beginner permit.

    If you need another type of license, check out one of the following pages:

    • Teen Drivers:
      • Learn how to work your way through South Carolina’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) program, including the requirements for driver permits.
    • Motorcycle Riders:
      • Check out age, training, and testing requirements to obtain a motorcycle license in South Carolina.
    • Commercial Drivers:
      • Find out state and federal requirements for obtaining and keeping your SC commercial driver’s license (CDL).

    SC Driver’s License Eligibility Requirements

    To drive legally in South Carolina, you need a SC driver’s license UNLESS:

    • You’re a military member or dependent with a valid out-of-state license.
    • You’re a student at an SC school, college, or university and you hold a valid out-of-state license.

    Eventually, minors obtain a Class D license, too; however, they must first work their way through the state’s GDL process. Visit our Teen Drivers section for more details.

    Getting Your SC Learner’s Permit

    Regardless of age, you must obtain an SC driver’s permit before applying for a new driver’s license.

    We explain how to apply for your learner’s permit below under “Apply for Your SC Driver’s License” but understand that:

    • You must hold your permit for a full 180 days.
      • You can apply for your license on the 181st day (or anytime after).
    • You’ll use the permit to practice driving with a licensed driver who’s 21 years old or older. The driver must:
      • Have at least 1 year of driving experience.
      • Sit in the front passenger seat.

    Read the full driver license application process below to find out how to get your driver’s permit and then your license.

    Apply for Your New SC Driver’s License

    In accordance with the Real ID Act of 2005, the SC DMV began requiring what it calls additional “credentials.” These credentials make driver licenses and ID cards more tamper-resistant and help prevent fraud and identity theft.

    New Driver's License Credentials

    Before outlining the license application process, take note of the following facts:

    • There are 3 levels of security:
      • Level 1: You can see the new features with your own eyes.
      • Level 2: You need a magnifying glass or ultraviolet (UV) light to see the new features.
      • Level 3: Only forensics specialists can see the new features.
    • Your driver’s license appearance has changed.
    • Your ID requirements and fees have not changed.
    • Drivers don’t need to replace current driver’s licenses until they expire.
    • You cannot revert back to an old driver’s license once you have a new credential license.

    The SC DMV provides a thorough New Credential FAQ section, as well as visual examples of the state’s new driver's licenses.

    New South Carolina Driver's License Application

    To apply for your Class D driver’s license, you must first obtain a learner's permit. Visit your local SC DMV office and:

    • Provide the required identification documents. The SC DMV provides a complete list of accepted documents, including proof of:
      • Name and date of birth (e.g., U.S. birth certificate, passport, etc.).
      • Social Security number (e.g., Social Security card, military identification card or dependent card, etc.).
      • Citizenship (e.g., U.S. birth certificate, passport, etc.).
      • Residency (e.g., current employment records, state or federal tax records, etc.).
      • Legal name change, if applicable (e.g., marriage license, divorce decree, etc.).
    • Complete any applicable forms. These forms will vary depending on your situation. You can contact your local SC DMV for details. These forms include:
    • Pass your vision exam.
      • Bring any required corrective lenses.
    • Pay the $2 written exam fee.
    • Pass the written exam.
      • The South Carolina DMV doesn’t require Driver’s Ed for adults; however, you can prepare for the exam by studying the state’s driver handbook and taking some practice tests.
      • You DO NOT have to take the written exam if you’re from a country that has established a formal reciprocity agreement with SC.
        • Read “Non-Citizens and SC Driver’s Licenses” below for details.
    • Pay the $2.50 permit fee.

    Once you obtain your beginner permit and hold it for 180 days, you can apply for your full Class D driver’s license, which means passing the driving test (see below).

    Passing the Driving Test

    To begin:

    • Make an appointment by contacting your local DMV office.
    • Bring your beginner permit and a licensed driver.
    • Be prepared to pass your vision test again.
    • Provide a properly titled, registered, and insured vehicle.
    • Take and pass your road skills exam.
      • You DO NOT have to take the driving exam if you’re from a country that has established a formal reciprocity agreement with SC.
        • Read “Non-Citizens and SC Driver’s Licenses” below for details.
    • Pay the $25 license fee.

    If you have a beginner’s permit and fail the driving test:

    • On your 1st attempt or 2nd attempt, you must wait 2 weeks before trying again.
    • On your 3rd try or subsequent attempt, you must wait 60 days before the next attempt.

    If you’ve had a Class D-level driver’s license in the past and fail the driving test:

    • On your 1st attempt or 2nd attempt, you must wait 1 week before the next attempt.
    • On your 3rd try or subsequent attempt, you must wait 60 days before the next attempt.

    Once you pass your driving test, your DMV examiner will inform you when you’ll receive your new SC driver's license.

    New South Carolina driver’s licenses stay valid for 10 years; you’ll need to renew your license by your birthday within the 10th year.

    Third-Party Driver Examiners

    Some third-party programs are authorized to administer DMV tests; however, applicants must understand that even if these programs are authorized, the DMV still reserves the right to require its own examiners to administer tests, as well.

    Learn more at the One Stop Driver Training and Testing Programs website.

    Non-Citizens and New SC Driver’s Licenses

    South Carolina uses the label “international customer” for non-citizens, and considers the following applicants international customers:

    • U.S. protectorate citizens.
    • Immigrants.
    • Asylees.
    • Refugees.
    • Any non-immigrant granted temporary entry into the U.S.

    Certain SC DMV locations handle non-citizen SC driver licenses. Check the SC DMV’s list of International Customer Offices.

    As an international customer, you’ll follow the same application process as U.S. citizens (including possibly obtaining a beginner permit; see below), except you’ll have some different document requirements.

    The South Carolina DMV provides an International Customer Checklist (Form MV-94) to download from its website, which explains requirements for both immigrants and non-immigrants applying for a new SC driver's license.

    All applicants will need to show proof of:

    • Identity.
    • Birth date and place.
    • Residency.
    • Up-to-date authorization to work, study, or live in the U.S.
    • Social Security card OR a letter from the Social Security Administration stating you aren’t allowed to work in the country.
    • Legal name change documents, if applicable.
    • Liability car insurance (if you must take the road skills test).

    Driver's License Driving Test

    You DO have to take the knowledge and driving tests and obtain and hold a beginner permit for 180 days IF one of the following applies to you:

    • You cannot present a valid driver license from your home country.
    • Your home country does not have formally established reciprocity with the United States (see the list below).

    You DO NOT have to take the knowledge exam or driving tests if:

    • Your out-of-country license credential is valid (unexpired).
    • You’re from a country that has formally established a reciprocity agreement with South Carolina. These countries include:
      • Canada.
      • Mexico.
      • France.
      • Germany.
      • American Samoa.
      • Guam.
      • Puerto Rico.
      • Virgin Islands.
      • Federated State of Micronesia.
      • Republic of Marshall Islands.
      • Republic of Palau.
      • Northern Mariana Islands.

    You must meet the same ID document requirements as those listed above.

    Your new South Carolina driver's license expiration date depends on:

    • How long you’re authorized to be in the United States.
      OR
    • The expiration date on your employment authorization document.
    • You must take the knowledge and road skills driving test if your license expires and you didn’t renew it within 9 months.
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