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  • Applying for a New License (Drivers 18+) in Washington DC

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    1) Choose Your License

    Whether you’re a teen, a first-time applicant, or a new DC resident, if you want to learn how you can legally operate a regular passenger vehicle in the District of Columbia, you’re in luck. Here, we explain how to first obtain a learner permit (all applicants must get them) and how to move on to your regular DC driver’s license.

    Make sure you’re aware of the other types of licenses in which you may be interested. The DC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers:

    • Full driver's license (Class D).
    • Special Licenses to operate taxis or become a chauffeur.
    • Motorcycle Endorsements (Class M) that go on your regular driver’s license and allow you to operate motorcycles.
    • Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs) which include permits and Class A, B, and C licenses in order to operate commercial vehicles.

    NOTE: If you’re an applicant who must participate in the Gradual Rearing of Adult Drivers (GRAD) program, you’ll find more thorough information pertaining to your application process in our Teen Drivers section.

    2) Take a Driver’s Education Course

    Driver’s education isn’t a requirement for any DC drivers; however, taking a supplemental course like the one our sponsor offers will help prepare you for your knowledge test.

    3) Prepare for the Test

    The DC Driving Manual provides everything you need to know about applying and studying for your tests. You can even get some extra practice in when you take a few practice tests.

    4) Locate a DMV Service Center

    DMV Service Centers handle license applications and testing. You may want to call ahead for hours and test schedules once you’re ready to take your knowledge test, and you must make an appointment when you’re ready to take your road skills test.

    5) Make Test-Day Preparations

    Because DC requires all drivers to first obtain learner permits, your exact test-day preparations will vary depending on your age and how long you’re required to (or want to) keep your learner permit.

    Once your ready to take your test, be prepared to:

    • Call ahead for hours and schedules (unless you’re taking the road skills test, in which case you must make an appointment).
    • Present the DC Driver’s License Application.
    • Present all required documents (including proof of identity, proof of DC residency, your Social Security number, and proof of your ability to drive).
    • Pass the vision exam.
    • Pass the knowledge test (or road skills test).
    • Pay the appropriate fees.
    • Get your picture taken and receive your permit (or driver’s license).

    NOTE: You may visit any DMV office to obtain your permit, except for the Adjudication Services, Brentwood Road Test Office and Inspection Station.

    6) Take the Knowledge Test

    In addition to gathering up all the paperwork, legal documents, and fees before you head out, be sure to also study. The DC Driving Manual covers the rules for driving, parking, and handling traffic, as well as everything you need to know about signals, signs, and markings. Supplemental education courses are also great ways to learn the rules and prepare for the test.

    The knowledge test is available in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.

    NOTE: For applicants with special needs, DMV Service Centers also offer the knowledge test in both audio and visual with touch screen formats.

    Once You Pass

    Once you pass the knowledge test, you’ll receive your learner permit.

    7) Get a Car

    Any driver education course you took may have provided a vehicle for instruction, and you may even use a DMV Service Center vehicle when you take your road skills test; however, once it’s time to hit the streets with your driver’s license, you’ll need your own set of wheels.

    Shopping for a vehicle isn’t tough when you prepare yourself. Think about what you need in a vehicle―great gas mileage, low payments, extra room? Remember that purchasing a well-kept used vehicle can provide all these things, too, and getting a vehicle history report makes shopping for used cars even easier.

    8) Get Car Insurance

    If you plan to drive in DC, you must have car insurance. The State has minimum liability insurance requirements in place, and our Insurance Center not only helps you make sure you meet those requirements, but also helps you shop for the best car insurance rate.

    9) Take the Road Skills Test

    You must make an appointment for your road skills test; the DMV doesn’t allow walk-ins.

    In some cases, the DMV Service Center provides vehicles for testing. Otherwise, you can bring your own vehicles as long as:

    • You can show proof of registration and insurance. (Visit our Insurance Center for details.)
    • The vehicle has a valid inspection sticker and license tags.
    • The vehicle is in good working order with two rearview mirrors and a functioning emergency brake, brake lights, signals, and driver’s side window.

    Once You Pass

    Once you pass the road skills test, you’ll immediately receive your license. There is no waiting period.

    10) Receive Your License in the Mail

    In DC, you don’t receive your license in the mail; your DMV Service Center immediately processes your license once you pass the road skills test. Of course, it is your responsibility to inform the DC DMV of your current mailing address.


    If you’re a non-citizen with a valid out-of-country license, you can drive in DC for a short time. You must also possess an International Driver’s Permit issued by your home country. Make sure to carry both documents with you whenever you drive.

    How to Apply as a Non-Citizen

    Before continuing, note that you can’t apply for a DC driver’s license if you have visitor visa status. You can only apply for a DC driver’s license if you’re a non-citizen who has at least 6 months left in the United States, or you’re a non-citizen who already has a valid, out-of-country license.

    1. Call ahead or make an appointment with the Georgetown Service Center. (This is the only Driver Service Station that handles non-citizen licenses.)
    2. Complete the DC Driver’s License Application.
    3. Provide proof of your identity, date of birth, and duration of stay/status in the United States. (The DMV provides a list of acceptable documents.)
    4. Provide proof of your Social Security number, or a letter from the Social Security Administration stating you don’t have one or are ineligible.
    5. Provide proof of DC residency.
    6. Pass the vision test.
    7. Pass the knowledge test and road skills test. (You don’t have to take the road skills test if you already have a valid out-of-country license.)
    8. Pay the required fee. (These will vary depending on your license status.)
    9. Get your license.

    NOTE: You don’t have to relinquish your out-of-country license.

    For more information about non-citizen drivers in DC, visit the DC DMV’s information on non-citizen drivers and converting out-of-country licenses.

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