Applying for a New License (Drivers 18+) in Wisconsin
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If you’re a teen fresh to the world of driving, or brand-new to the state, you’ll have to apply for a driver’s license. Wisconsin offers the following types:
- Regular Class D driver’s license (all new drivers must first get a probationary license for two years).
- Commercial Driver Licenses.
NOTE: A driver’s ed is required for under-18s.
Younger Than 18― A driver education class is absolutely required before you can apply for a license. But you’ll learn lots in it, and it will help you pass the road test.
18 and Older― Adults aren’t required to take any classes, but enrolling in a supplemental course isn’t the worst idea ever. You’ll probably learn more accurate information from a class instructor than from whomever you practice driving with, so it’ll be easier to pass the road test on the first try.
Drivers with out-of-state licenses are not required to take the written test unless your license has expired for longer than eight years. If that is the case, you'll need to pass the traffic sign test, the written test, and the behind-the-wheel driving test.
DMV offices don’t offer appointments for the written test, only for the road.
Before you go in, make sure you have these original (no copies!) documents:
- Proof of Identity (must have a photograph or your signature, such as a military ID or Social Security card).
- Proof of citizenship.
- Proof of name and date of birth.
- Proof of residency, if over 18.
Some items in these categories overlap. For instance, you can use a birth certificate to prove both your citizenship and your name/date of birth.
Also be prepared to:
- Fill out an application.
- Successfully complete a vision test.
Fees (Cash or Check only):
- Regular Class D: $28.
- Probationary License: $28.
- Instruction Permit: $35.
If you’re new to Wisconsin and over 18, you won’t have to take the road test unless your license has expired more than eight years. Generally, you won’t have to take any test except the vision screening. You’ll also have supply all the above documents. You’ll have to give up your old license.
If you’re a new resident under age 16, you’ll have to have a driver’s ed class.
Studied the driver’s handbook a thousand times? Taken a supplemental class? You’re ready for the written exam, which really isn’t written at all, but a computer touch-screen test that tells you immediately whether or not you got the answer right.
Those switching an out-of-state license for a Wisconsin license will not be required to take the written or driving test unless your license has been expired more than eight years.
Tests are available in the following languages:
You’ve passed the written test, now you need to practice. At this point, you might be considering a car purchase.
Used cars offer the most features for your dollar. If you go this route, get a Vehicle History Report first. A VHR tells you whether the title’s flood or salvaged or has been in a huge accident. For one fee, you get access to all the cars you want; you just need the VIN.
After you find a suitable car, shop for car insurance. Get several quotes. Do this before you buy the car; some cars cost more to insure, depending on age and make.
Ask for good driver or student discounts (for students, the agent will want to see a report card with at least a B average). If you’re over 18, see if you can get a break for taking a driver’s ed class.
Schedule a road test at a DMV office. Bring your insured, registered car and a qualified driver. Fee: $15.
Once You Pass
You’ll get a license in the mail and be issued a temporary license.
If You Fail
You may take any test up to five times within a one year period. Ask the tester when you can retake the road test.
If you’ve failed five times, you’ll need special permission. You must show the DMV official what has been done to improve the chance of success on any further testing tries.
The license should arrive in the mail within 14 days. If it doesn’t, call at (608) 266-2353 and use the automated system to check on its status.
Any licensed driver from a foreign country that's part of the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, or the Convention on the Regulation of Inter-American Motor Vehicle Traffic, can legally drive in Wisconsin for one year.
Carrying an International Driver Permit is recommended.
Foreign visitors whose country is not included in either convention may be required to apply for a Wisconsin driver's license while visiting. If you think you need to apply, call Wisconsin's DMV at (608) 266-2353.
You will follow the exact steps as a Wisconsin resident. The DMV reserves the right to request additional documentation.
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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.