Apply for a License (Drivers 18+) in Iowa

COVID-19 Effects on Licensing Services

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state DMVs nationwide have closed driver licensing offices, extended license and registration expiration dates, and/or limited the transactions they are processing. If possible, residents should use the MVD's online services to complete any relevant transactions. Follow the MVD's most recent updates for the latest information.

SUMMARY: How to Apply for an Iowa Driver's License

You will need to apply for a driver's license in person at an Iowa DOT office. You will need to provide various documents, pay the required fee, and pass the vision, written, and driving exams.

This page will help you apply for your first driver's license from the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT).

NOTE: If you're younger than 18 years old, you will need to complete the graduated driver's license (GDL) program. See our page on Applying for a New License (Teen Drivers) in Iowa for more information.

REAL ID Requirements in Iowa

The Iowa DOT complies with the REAL ID Act of 2005, meaning it provides first-time driver license applicants with REAL ID-compliant driver licenses. REAL ID driver’s licenses meet the federal identification requirements required for tasks such as entering federal buildings and boarding domestic commercial flights.

New applicants will automatically receive a REAL ID. (Options differ for renewals and replacements.) For more details, visit the DOT's guide to REAL ID licensing.

New to Iowa?

Just Moved?

Find all the information you need to finish your moving requirements with the DMV.

If you've just moved to Iowa and have a valid (or recently expired) driver's license from your previous state, you will be able to obtain an IA driver's license without having to pass the driving and written knowledge tests.

You will need to bring all documents and payment as outlined below as well as surrender your out-of-state driver's license.

If your out-of-state driver's license is invalid or has been expired for longer than 1 year, you will need to pass the written test.

Non-U.S. Citizens

If you're not a U.S. citizen, you will only be eligible for an IA driver's license if your legal stay in the country is for at least 30 days. If you are authorized for employment, you MUST have a Social Security number (SSN).

You will be required to:

  • Pass all DMV tests (vision, written, and driving).
  • Pay the fee.

NOTE: The length of your driver's license will depend on the length of your stay in the United States.

Types of Driver's Licenses in IA

The IA DOT offers various types of licenses depending on your age, driving experience, and type of vehicle you will be driving. These include:

Apply for an Iowa Driver's License

To be eligible for a non-commercial driver's license, you must be at least 18 years old, or have completed the GDL program.

You will need to visit your local IA DOT office and:

  • Submit proof of your identity, date of birth, and lawful U.S. presence, such as your:
    • U.S. passport.
    • U.S. citizenship certificate.
    • Foreign passport with print out of I-94.
  • Provide proof of your name change (if applicable), such as your:
  • Give proof of your Social Security number (SSN), such as your:
    • Social Security card.
    • Pay statement.
    • Social Security Administration (SSA) 1099 form.
  • Submit proof of your Iowa address, such as your:
    • Utility bill.
    • Bank statement.
    • Insurance card (valid).
  • Pass the DMV tests:
    • Vision.
    • Written.
    • Driving.
  • Pay the fee of $4 per year of validity.
    • Your driver's license will be valid for up to 8 years.

To find out exactly what documents you will need to bring, visit the IA DOT website.

DMV Driver's License Tests

Before the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) will issue you your driver's license, you must pass both a written knowledge and a driving test.

The written exam will test you on your knowledge of local traffic laws, safe driving practices, and road signs. Questions will be based on information found in the Iowa Driver's Manual.

Pass The Written Test With Ease

The MVD provides a basic practice test to help you prepare for the written exam. If you want to ensure passing on your first attempt we suggest using an online practice testfrom our certified partner.

The driving test will test your ability to drive your vehicle safely on public roads. You will need to provide your own working and registered vehicle and have insurance coverage.

NOTE: You will need to show a registration receipt and insurance card.

If you fail either of the exams, ask when you will be able to re-take the test again, as there may be a waiting period.

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