What is a Hardship Driver's License?

By: Staff Writer July 6, 2012
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Depending on your state, you may be eligible to apply for a hardship license, or what is also referred to as a hardship permit or a restricted learner's permit. Not all states offer hardship licenses for teen drivers; usually, these licenses are restricted to rural states.

In a nutshell, a hardship license is only available to teens who are 14 or 15 years old (the exact age varies by state), who, under normal circumstances, are too young to apply for a regular driver's license, and who qualify for hardship status.

The exact criteria for hardship status varies by state, but in general you must have one of the following reasons for applying:

  • Need the driver's license to drive to and from school. There may be a mileage minimum attached to this requirement. The school can't be just around the block. It must, depending on state, be a minimum number of miles away from your home.
  • Need the driver license to drive to and from work. Some states may require that the job entails a minimum number of hours. Wyoming, for example, mandates that applicants work a minimum of 10 hours per week.
  • Need the hardship license to work for your parent's business (farming is common for this requirement).
  • Need the license for long-term medical reasons. In most cases, routine medical visits do not qualify.

Hardship License Application

When applying, be prepared to provide proof. You must back up your reason for needing the license. You will have to provide job or school attendance verification, along with the regular hardship license application.

In most instances, the license application requires notarization.

Hardship License Restrictions for Teen Drivers

The hardship license does not give you free reign behind the wheel. Depending on your state, you will be held to some or all of the following driving restrictions:

  • Valid only for pre-authorized locations (school or work).
  • Passengers limited to family members only.
  • A mileage limitation to each drive. Tennessee, for example, imposes a limitation of 25 miles per way.
  • Valid only during daylight hours.

For information about the availability of hardship licenses in your state, check our section for teen drivers, refer to your state's driver's handbook, and contact your local DMV.

Have you or someone you know ever needed a hardship license?

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