Drivers Permits in Illinois

Getting Your Illinois Learner's Permit

While getting a driver's license is an exciting experience for any teen, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for people 16 to 19 years old. That's why many states such as Illinois have implemented a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program to combat this alarming statistic. During the GDL process, teens must achieve certain milestones prior to getting their driver's license.

In Illinois, the GDL is managed by the Secretary of State (SOS). The first step in the GDL is to get your instruction permit, which is commonly referred to as a learner's permit.

Illinois REAL ID Driver's Permits

The Illinois SOS has begun issuing federally-compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses in addition to non-compliant driver’s licenses. As of May 3, 2023, the REAL ID will function as federal identification for domestic travel and entry into federal and military buildings—your standard license will not after this date. You can choose to receive either a REAL ID or non-compliant ID upon application—details are outlined below. For more, see the SOS' guide to REAL ID licensing.

New to Illinois?

If you're new to Illinois and have a learner's permit from your previous state, your permit may transfer to Illinois, but it depends on your out-of-state driving experience and driver's education requirements. To find out if you meet the GDL requirements for Illinois, you can contact the SOS at (800) 252-8980.

Learner's Permit Age Requirements

Illinois has established age-related requirements for obtaining an instruction permit.

If you are 15 through 17 years old, you need to:

  • Be currently enrolled in a state-approved driver's education course.
  • Provide proof that you're a maximum of 30 days away from beginning a driver's education course.

Your Driver's Ed course must include 30 hours of classroom instruction as well as 6 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction. Driver's Ed can be taken either at a high school or from a certified provider. Online Driver's Ed is not approved for Illinois at this time. For more information regarding driver's education, please refer to our Driver's Education page.

If you are 17 years and 3 months old or older, you may apply for a learner's permit without taking Driver's Ed.

Apply for an Illinois Learner's Permit

The documents you'll bring with you to the SOS will differ slightly based on whether you want your eventual driver's license to be a REAL ID-compliant one, or a non-compliant license. The process is the same, but you'll bring some extra paperwork with you for the REAL ID (you'll only need to bring it once).

Q: Which license should I get—REAL ID or non-compliant?

A: When deciding on a license, consider whether or not you want to use your license to board an airplane. After May 3 2021, you will NOT be able to use a standard (non-compliant) license as your proof of ID an airport. Only the REAL ID will be accepted. If you prefer a non-compliant license, you'll need to bring additional proof of identification (like your passport).

When you're ready to visit your local Driver Services office, you'll need to be accompanied by your parent or legal guardian (for consent) and bring the following documents:

  • Proof of your:
    • Identity/date of birth.
    • Social Security number.
      • The agent may be able to verify your SSN electronically, but bring your documents just in case.
    • Signature.
    • Residency:
      • 2 documents for a REAL ID license.
      • 1 document if you want a non-compliant license.
  • Proof of enrollment in Driver's Ed.

For a guide to acceptable proofs, check out the SOS' list of acceptable document requirements.

Taking the Written Knowledge Exam in Illinois

Once you have submitted the required documents, you're ready to take the written permit test/knowledge exam. The exam is composed of questions regarding traffic sign identification and road rules featured in the Rules of the Road Review Course Workbook.

You'll need to:

  • Successfully pass the written permit test.
  • Pass a vision screening.
  • Pay the $20 fee.

You'll receive your learner's permit before you leave the SOS. Your permit's validity varies based on age:

  • If you're under 18 years old, your permit is valid for 2 years and you must hold it a minimum of 9 months before you can apply for an initial driver's license.
  • If you're 18 years old or older, you'll receive an Illinois learner's permit that is valid for only 1 year.

Behind-the-Wheel Driving Requirements

As part of the GDL requirements, you'll need to complete 50 hours of supervised practice driving with 10 hours driven at night. During this time, you must always be accompanied by a driver who is at least 21 years old and has a driver's license for the type of vehicle you are in.

Illinois Learner's Permit Driving Restrictions

During this learner's permit phase of the GDL, you may only drive:

  • With 1 passenger in your front seat, and only as many passengers in the back seat as there are seat belts.
  • With your learner's permit in your possession.
    • Failure to carry it will result in losing your eligibility for a driver's license until you are 18 years old.

And you may never drive:

  • Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., Sunday-Thursday. *
  • Between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., Friday and Saturday. *
  • While using a cell phone at any time, unless you are in an emergency or need to report one. You are also never allowed to text and drive in any situation.

* NOTE: These are state-imposed restrictions. Your local curfews may vary. Please follow local curfew hours unless otherwise directed by law enforcement.

Replacing Your Learner's Permit in Illinois

If you need to replace your instruction permit, you must apply in person at a local driver services office. Bring the documents mentioned above, along with $5 for the learner's permit replacement fee.

If your permit was stolen, or you are a dependent of an active duty Armed Forces member, this fee can be waived. For more information, please refer to our page on replacing a lost license or permit in Illinois.

Your Next Step: Get Your Initial Driver's License

With your Illinois learner's permit in your possession, it's time to start honing your driving skills. While you're on the road, it's vital to be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Your next step in the GDL process is to get your initial driver's license, for more information please refer to our IL Teen Driver's License page.

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