Drivers Permits in Iowa
COVID-19 Effects on Licensing Services
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state DMVs nationwide have closed office locations, 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.
Getting Your Iowa Learner's Permit
According to the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), driving or riding in a vehicle is the most dangerous activity a teen can do. In an effort to save the lives of Iowa's teen drivers, the state has initiated a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program where teens must reach certain milestones prior to getting a driver's license.
On your path to your Iowa driver's license, your first step is to obtain your learner's permit (or learner's permit). Below you will find all the relevant information, including behind-the-wheel driver training requirements and how to pass your written exam on your first attempt by using an online practice test.
If you need additional information, you can always call the DOT at (800) 532-1121.
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 to Iowa?
If you're new to Iowa and you have an Iowa learner's permit from your previous state, you can transfer it as long as it meets Iowa's requirements (listed below) and:
- You are at least 16 years old.
- You hold the learner's permit for 12 months consecutively before applying for an Iowa license.
- You have completed an approved Driver’s Ed course.
- Your driver record has been free of accidents and moving violations for 6 months.
- You have completed at least 20 hours of supervised driving time (see details below).
Apply for an Iowa Learner's Permit
To get your learner's permit in Iowa, you must be at least 14 years old. The permit is valid for 4 years and expires on your birthday. Your learner's permit must be held for a minimum of 6 months before applying for a driver's license.
Here's what you'll need to bring to your local Driver’s License station:
- Written consent from your parent or legal guardian. You can do this by either:
- Having your parent/guardian accompany you when you apply.
- Downloading the Parent's/Guardian's Written Consent Form (Form 430018), having your parent or guardian sign it, and having it notarized. (This form is available from the DOT.)
- Proof of identity (e.g. valid and unexpired U.S. passport or passport card, certified copy of a birth certificate) and Iowa residency.
- Verification of Social Security number (SSN) (e.g. Social Security card, Social Security Administration 1099 Form, pay stub with your SSN on it.).
- The agent may be able to verify your SSN electronically, but bring your documents just in case.
- Payment for the $6 fee.
The DOT offers a complete guide to required documents.
Taking the Written Learner's Permit Test in Iowa
The Iowa learner's permit test is based on information about Iowa traffic laws, road signs, and safe driving techniques contained in the Iowa Driver’s Manual. In addition to this exam, you'll also need to take and successfully pass a vision test.
Driver's Ed in Iowa
Once you have your learner's permit in your possession, you're required to complete an Iowa-approved Driver’s Education course. Your course must be taught by a public or private high school, or by a state-licensed driver's education school. Unfortunately, the DOT does not recognize an approved online Driver's Ed course for Iowa at this time.
Your Driver's Ed course must consist of:
- 30 hours of classroom instruction, including 4 hours of substance abuse education.
- A minimum of 20 minutes on railroad crossing safety, and information on organ donation.
- 6 hours laboratory instruction; 3 hours must be behind the wheel in a vehicle. Simulators may be used for the remaining time.
For more information, please refer to our Driver’s Ed in Iowa page.
Behind-the-Wheel Training Requirements
In addition to Driver's Ed, you're required to complete 20 hours of behind-the-wheel supervised driving during your permit phase before getting your intermediate driver's license. This must include at least 2 hours of driving practice between sunset and sunrise. Your supervising driver will need to download the Parent's Supervised Driving Program, which includes the driving log to track your hours. You can also download the RoadReady app to track your hours as well. Bring this log with you when you apply for your license.
Note that once you get your intermediate driver's license, you'll need to complete an additional 10 hours of driving practice.
Iowa Learner's Permit Driving Restrictions
During the learner's permit phase of the GDL, you must adhere to certain driving restrictions:
- You must have your learner's permit in your possession at all times while driving.
- The amount of passengers you can carry is limited to the number of seat belts in your vehicle.
- You must always be accompanied by a supervising driver.
- A supervising driver is defined by being one of the following:
- A parent/guardian or immediate family member over 21 years old.
- A driver education teacher.
- A driver over 25 years old with written permission of parent/guardian.
Replacing Your Learner's Permit in Iowa
You may obtain a new driver's permit once your current permit expires, or replace one that has been lost or stolen by visiting an Iowa driver license station and presenting the documents mentioned above. For more information, please refer to our Replacing a Lost License page.
Your Next Step: Get Your Intermediate Driver's License
Upon completion of all the steps mentioned above, you'll be a proud owner of an Iowa learner's permit. Now it's time to experience what life on the road is really like. Your next step in the GDL is to get your intermediate driver's license. For more information, please refer to our Teen Driver’s License page.
Please be aware of your surroundings whenever you're in the driver's seat. That way, our roads will be much safer for everyone.