Apply for a License (Under 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.
Applying for a Teen Driver's License in Iowa
Getting a driver's license for the first time is an exciting and emotional time for any teen. If you're under 18 years old, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) requires you to go through the graduated driver's license (GDL) process in order to get your FIRST driver's license.
This page outlines the steps you need to take and the different types of permits you need before you can obtain your full, unrestricted driver's license.
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, you can transfer your out-of-state learner's permit, intermediate driver's license, or full driver's license to an Iowa learner's permit or driver's license.
To transfer your out-of-state permit or license for an Iowa intermediate license, you must:
- Be at least 16 years old.
- Have held your out-of-state learner's permit or intermediate driver's license for the last 12 months.
- Have completed an approved Driver's Ed course.
- Not have any accidents or moving violations on your out-of-state driving record within the last 6 months.
- Have practiced driving for at least 20 hours, including 2 hours at night.
- Written consent from your parent or guardian.
To transfer your out-of-state driver's license or intermediate license for a full privilege Iowa driver's license, you must:
- Be at least 17 years old.
- Have held your out-of-state driver's license or intermediate license for the last 12 months.
- Have completed an approved driver's education course.
- Not have any accidents or moving violations on your out-of-state driving record for the last 12 months.
- Have completed 10 hours of driving practice, including 2 hours at night.
- Written consent from your parent or guardian.
Bring your out-of-state permit or license to your local DOT driver licensing office, along with your parent or guardian to provide written consent. You'll need to pay the appropriate licensing fee (see below).
Iowa Graduated Driver's License Program
The number of accidents involving teen drivers is quite alarming. In an effort to minimize the risks associated with new drivers on the road, Iowa has implemented a GDL program, in which prospective teen drivers must meet certain milestones before obtaining a driver's license.
Many of these important milestones are age- and experience-related. If you're under 18 years old, you'll need to complete each of the following steps to obtain your full IA driver's license:
- Instruction permit.
- Driver's education.
- Minor school license (optional).
- Intermediate driver's license.
- Full privilege driver's license.
Each stage of the GDL process has the following minimum age requirements:
- Instruction permit/learner's permit: 14 years old.
- Minor school license: 14 1/2 years old.
- Intermediate license/provisional license: 16 years old.
- Full privilege driver's license: 17 years old.
Iowa Learner's Permit
If you're at least 14 years old, you're eligible to apply for your instruction permit, also known as a learner's permit. Visit your local Iowa DOT office and:
- Provide primary forms of identification, proof of residency, and proof of your Social Security number. For more information, visit the Iowa DOT website.
- Pass the written test and vision exam.
- Submit a completed Parent's/Guardian's Written Consent (Form 430018).
- Pay the $6 permit fee.
You also have the option of obtaining a minor school license at 14 1/2 years old which allows you to drive unsupervised to and from school. For more information, visit the Iowa DOT website.
To help you study for the written test, the MVD offers a basic practice test. If you want to step up your studying game try a comprehensive online practice test from our certified partner. They're designed to help you pass on your first attempt.
Learner's Permit Driving Restrictions and Practice
While you have your instruction permit, you can:
- Only drive while supervised by an adult, such as:
- Your parent or legal guardian.
- An immediate family member who is at least 21 years old.
- Your Driver's Ed teacher.
- An adult who is at least 25 years old and has written permission from your parent or guardian.
- Not carry more than 1 passenger who is a minor without adult supervision, unless they are a family member.
Before moving on to your provisional license, you're required to complete at least 20 hours of supervised driving practice, including 2 hours at night. 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.
Taking Driver's Ed in Iowa
Before applying for your Iowa intermediate license, in addition to your behind-the-wheel practice, you must complete an approved Driver's Ed course that consists 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 of laboratory instruction.
For more information about Driver Education, please refer to our Driver's Ed in Iowa page.
Iowa Provisional License
If you're at least 16 years old, you can get an intermediate license if you have:
- Completed a state-approved driver's education course.
- Have held your instruction permit for at least 1 year and a clean driving record for the last 6 months, consecutively.
- Completed 20 hours of driving practice, including 2 hours at night.
Visit your local Iowa Department of Transportation office with:
- Your Iowa instruction permit.
- Your parent/guardian, OR a completed Parent's/Guardian's Written Consent (Form 430018).
- Your completed driving log from the Parent's Supervised Driving Program.
- Payment for the $8 minor's restricted license.
For more information about what other documents you may need, contact the IA DOT directly.
Intermediate License Driving Restrictions and Practice
Once you have your Iowa intermediate license you can only drive under the following conditions:
- Without supervision from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
- Between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. only with a licensed driver who is a parent/guardian, immediate family member older than 21 years old, or designated adult over 25 years old.
- You can drive during these hours without supervision for work or school purposes, only if you have a Waiver of Intermediate Driver's License Hour Restriction (Form 431170). This form must be carried in the vehicle at all times.
You cannot use any electronic communication device, such as a smart phone, cell phone, tablet or entertainment device while driving.
Before moving on to your full Iowa driver's license, you must completed 10 hours of supervised driving, including 2 hours between sunset and sunrise.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of fatal accidents among young drivers. Help keep yourself and other safe by always keeping your eyes on the road. Learn more about the dangers of driving distracted in our Distracted Driving awareness section.
Full Unrestricted Iowa Driver's License
In Iowa, you can get your unrestricted Iowa driver's license if you're at least 17 years old and you:
- Have held your intermediate license for the last 12 months.
- Have a driving record free of incidents for the last 12 months.
- Have written approval of parent/guardian.
- Have met the required supervised driving time of 10 hours, with 2 hours between sunset and sunrise.
If you're 18 years old or older, you do not need to meet these requirements.
Bring your provisional license to your local driver licensing office, along with payment for the $4 per year license fee.
Our new license checklist can help you keep track of the major steps along the way.