Applying for a New License (Teen Drivers) in Washington
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Applying for a Teen License in Washington
The process for getting a teen driver's license or learner's permit is handled by the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL). Teens will be guided through a series of steps in order to ensure their safety and responsibility during this first adventure behind the wheel.
If you are 18 years old or older and looking to get a driver's license for the first time, please visit our page dedicated to obtaining an adult driver's license in Washington.
New Washington residents with a valid license from another state must get a Washington intermediate license within 30 days after moving to the state. Teens under 18 with a valid driver's license will have it transferred to an intermediate license, and you will be required to adhere to all of the associated driving restrictions (please see “WA Intermediate License Driving Restrictions" below).
To transfer your license:
- Visit a local driver licensing office.
- Submit your out-of-state driver's license.
- Provide another document proving your identity.
- Provide proof of Washington residency.
- Give your Social Security number.
- Pass a vision exam.
- Pass a written knowledge exam and a driving test, if your previous license is expired.
- Pay the $35 application fee and the $54 license fee.
If you have a learner's permit from another state, contact the DOL to determine whether your previous state's requirements meet those for Washington to allow you to transfer your permit for a WA instructional permit. You may call them at (360) 902-3900.
In order to ensure that teen drivers get the training and education they need to drive safely and responsibly, the state of Washington has joined most others in the nation by implementing a graduated driver's licensing (GDL) program designed to give teen drivers increasing amounts of responsibility and driving privileges based on age and experience.
In Washington, the GDL program consists of taking driver's education, obtaining an instruction permit, and receiving an intermediate driver's license, before receiving a full driver's license without any restrictions.
Driver's training is required in order for teens to receive an instruction permit and driver's license in Washington. You may enroll in a Driver's Ed course at 15 years old.
Any state-approved driver's education course in Washington must consist of:
- 30 hours of classroom instruction (2 hours maximum per day).
- 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training (maximum 1 hour per day). You must FIRST have an instruction permit before you are allowed to begin this portion.
- 1 hour of behind-the-wheel observation.
- 50 hours of practice driving outside of the class, with 10 hours being driven at night. If you wish, you may use the DOL's Intermediate License Logbook to track your hours.
In order to get your instruction permit at 15 years old, you must be enrolled in Driver's Ed. If you have not yet enrolled, you must wait until you are 15 1/2 years old to obtain your instruction permit.
- Instruction Permit: 15 years old if enrolled in driver's education.
- Instruction Permit: 15 1/2 years old without enrollment driver's education.
- Intermediate Driver's License: 16 years old.
- Unrestricted Driver's License: 18 years old.
You may apply for an instruction permit in Washington if you are:
- 15 years old, as long as you are enrolled in a driver's training program. Your written knowledge exam will be waived.
- 15 1/2 years old, if you are NOT yet enrolled in a driver's training program. You will be required to take the written knowledge exam at the DOL.
Note that you MUST complete driver's training before you can get a driver's license, and you MUST have an instruction permit in order to complete the behind-the-wheel portion of your driver's training course. Therefore, it's probably easiest and most beneficial to enroll in driver's training and then get your instruction permit after.
If you do choose to enroll in Driver's Ed and get your permit at 15 years old, you must apply for your instruction permit within 10 days of enrollment.
You have two options to apply for your permit:
- Pre-apply for your instruction permit online using the WA DOL's online application portal. The DOL recommends this option, as it will save time when you do go to the DOL to submit the rest of your paperwork.
- Complete and fill out the application at the driver licensing office.
When you're ready, go to your local driver licensing office and:
- Present proof of identity (e.g. U.S. passport, certified birth certificate, Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization).
- The DOL provides a full list of acceptable documents and how many to bring of each type.
- Proof of enrollment in Driver's Ed, if applicable.
- NOTE: Some schools will electronically submit proof of enrollment straight to the DOL; in this case, you will not need to bring in a certificate of proof yourself.
- Submit a Parental Authorization Affidavit (Form DLE-520-003), along with your parents' proof of identity and relationship to you.
- Pass a vision test.
- Pass a written knowledge exam, if NOT currently enrolled in Driver's Ed.
- You will be asked to schedule a separate appointment for your knowledge exam, as the DOL must first receive your permit application before allowing you to test. Please visit the DOL's page on knowledge tests for details and testing locations.
- Get your picture taken.
- Pay the $25 application fee (cash, check, money order, MasterCard/AMEX, and some Visa debit cards are acceptable).
Your instruction permit will be valid for 1 year, and you may renew it once if need be. During this time, you must complete an additional 50 hours of behind-the-wheel practice with your parent or guardian, with 10 hours being driven during nighttime hours. The WA Department of Licensing provides an Intermediate License Logbook with which you may track your hours and submit as proof of practice.
You need to hold your permit for a minimum of 6 months and be at least 16 years old before you can apply for your intermediate driver's license.
Washington Instruction Permit Driving Restrictions
With your WA instruction permit, you are allowed to drive only:
- When accompanied by a licensed driver who has been licensed for at least 5 years.
- While you have your instruction permit with you.
After you have turned 16 years old, you're eligible to apply for your intermediate driver's license. You can do this either online or in person. First, be sure that you have:
- Held your instruction permit for at least 6 months.
- Completed 50 hours of behind-the-wheel practice.
- Driven at least 10 hours at night.
You may not:
- Have had any traffic violations within the last 6 months before applying for your intermediate license.
- Have been convicted of any drug- or alcohol-related violations while driving with a permit.
When you're ready, make an appointment to take your road test at any driving test location. You must pass your road test first before applying for your intermediate WA driver's license.
To apply for your intermediate license online, you will need your parent or guardian present. They'll be required to answer questions verifying that you've completed your mandatory behind-the-wheel practice time.
You'll also need:
- Your instruction permit.
- The last 4 digits of your Social Security number.
- A Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit/debit card.
- A printer and/or an e-mail address.
When you and your parent/guardian are ready, log into the DOL’s online licensing service and begin. Print and keep the receipt for your license when you've finished – it will act as your temporary license until you permanent one arrives.
Your intermediate license will be mailed to you within 4 weeks, and will feature the same photo that is currently on your instruction permit. If you don't receive your intermediate license within 30 days, please contact the WA Department of Licensing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apply in Person
You may also apply for your license in person at your local driver licensing office. Go to your local branch and:
- Provide your instruction permit (this can also function as your proof of identity).
- Give your Social Security number.
- Present a signed certificate of completion for a driver training course.
- Some schools submit electronic notice of completion to the DOL; if this is the case for you, then you will not need to submit a paper copy.
- Submit a signed Parental Authorization Affidavit (Form DLE-520-003).
- Your parent/guardian must either sign this in the office with you, or have it signed and notarized if they are not able to accompany you.
- Pass a vision test (may not be applicable if you passed one for your instruction permit).
- Pay the $35 application fee and the $54 licensing fee (cash, check, money order, MasterCard or AMEX, and some types of Visa debits cards are accepted).
You'll receive a temporary license before you leave the driver licensing office. Your permanent intermediate driver's license will be mailed to you within 10 days. If you haven't received it after 30 days, visit the driver licensing office again.
WA Intermediate License Driving Restrictions
With your intermediate license, you must adhere to the following rules at all times:
- You may not drive while using a wireless device in any capacity, unless you need to report an emergency. This includes talking on cell phones, texting, and emailing.
- For the first 6 months, you may not carry any passengers under 20 years old who are not members of your immediate family.
- For the second 6 months, you may only carry up to 3 passengers under 20 years old who aren't immediate family members.
- For the first 12 months, you may not drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless licensed driver at least 25 years old accompanies you.
- The only exception is if you are traveling for agricultural purposes with farm supplies or products.
Once you turn 18 years old, all restrictions will drop off of your license. You will not need to obtain a new license—your intermediate license will automatically be considered a full unrestricted driver's license.
Share your progress with your friends when you follow the new license checklist.
In order to get a motorcycle endorsement as a teen in Washington, you must:
- Be at least 16 years old.
- Have a valid WA driver's license.
- Complete a state-approved motorcycle rider course.
- The motorcycle rider course will include both the knowledge test and the on-cycle skills exam required for your endorsement.
Since you are a new rider and first-time applicant, you will be required to take the Basic Rider Course, which costs $125 plus other fees determined by your course provider.
Your parent or guardian must sign a parental permission form providing their consent for you to enroll. To sign up, please visit the DOL's list of approved motorcycle training schools.
Apply for Your WA Motorcycle Permit
Before you get your endorsement, you may choose to obtain a motorcycle permit to practice riding. Just remember that riders under 18 years old MUST still take a Basic Rider course to obtain a motorcycle endorsement, regardless of whether you choose to get a permit or not.
To obtain a motorcycle permit:
- Present your Washington driver's license.
- Submit a Parental Authorization Affidavit (Form DLE-520-003) with your parent/guardian's signature providing consent. Your parent/guardian must also provide proof of identity.
- Pass the written motorcycle knowledge exam.
With your permit, you may not carry any passengers on your vehicle with you, and you may only ride during daytime hours. Your permit is valid for 90 days only, and you may renew it 1 time for an additional 90 days as long as you passed the knowledge test within the last 180 days, and you haven't had more than 1 permit within the last 5 years.
Apply for your WA Motorcycle Endorsement
After you've passed your motorcycle rider course, go to your local WA driver licensing office within 180 days of passing and:
- Present your WA driver's license.
- Turn in your motorcycle permit, if applicable.
- Present your certificate of completion from your Basic Rider course. This will also prove that you passed a knowledge exam and an on-cycle skills test.
Your endorsement will be added to your existing Washington driver's license, and you will have to follow all of the same restrictions for teen drivers under 18 years old (see “WA Intermediate License Driving Restrictions" above).
You are required to carry car insurance in Washington in order to legally drive. Depending on what stage of the GDL program you are in, you may be covered under the auto insurance of your supervising driver, or you may be required to be added to a family policy or have a policy of your own.
WA Instruction Permit Insurance
During the permit phase of your licensing process, you are most likely covered by the insurance policy of your parent, guardian, or supervising driver. If so, the person driving with you must always carry proof of insurance on them for the entire time you're practicing in the vehicle.
However, this may not always be the case, so be sure to have your supervising driver check their policy before you get behind the wheel. If you aren't covered, you'll have to be added to their policy, or have someone else supervise you who is qualified to do so.
WA Intermediate License Insurance
Once you obtain an intermediate driver's license in Washington, you'll need to either:
- Have your parent add you to the family policy.
- Obtain your own insurance policy.
Both of these scenarios will likely be expensive, as teen drivers are seen as higher liability risks than experienced adults. This is a major reason why you should shop around for the best rates for either yourself or your family. There may be an opportunity to qualify for a discount when a teen driver is added to a family policy, so explore as many options as you can find to save yourself and your parents money.
For more information, please visit any of our following insurance guides for teens and parents:
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