Drivers Permits in South Dakota

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 DPS' online services to complete any relevant transactions. Follow the DPS' most recent updates for the latest information.

South Dakota Learner's Permits

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) requires all drivers under 18 years old to satisfy each requirement of its graduated driver license (GDL) program.

The first step of the process is getting your learner's permit.

On this page, you'll find information about how to apply for your South Dakota learner's permit and what you need to do to move on to your restricted minor's permit.

REAL ID Requirements in South Dakota

The South Dakota DPS 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. Without a REAL ID, you'll need to bring your passport or birth certificate for such activities after October 1, 2021.

New applicants will automatically receive a REAL ID. For more details, visit the DPS' guide to required REAL ID documents.

Apply for a SD Instruction Permit

You must be at least 14 years old to apply for an instructional permit in South Dakota. To apply, you'll need to visit your local South Dakota DPS office and:

  • Complete an application form.
  • Have your parent or guardian complete a Parental Consent Form, if you're younger than 18 years old.
  • Show proof of your identity, such as your:
  • Show your Social Security card, a W-2, or a 1099 to prove your Social Security number (SSN).
  • Provide 2 documents to prove your SD residency and physical address, such as:
    • A school report card.
    • A pay stub.
    • The residency documents of your parent or guardian, if you do not have any of your own. If you use your parents' documents you must provide a signed and notarized Consent for Use of South Dakota Address.
  • Pass your vision test.
  • Pass the written test.
  • Pay the $28 permit fee.

Taking the Written Exam

The written exam is a requirement in order to get your instruction permit. The test contains questions about rules of the road and safe driving practices.

Be sure to read the South Dakota Driver Manual in preparation, and take some time to pass an online practice test.

You can take the permit exam 1 time per day. If you fail the written exam, you must wait until the next business day to retake it. You are allowed to fail the test 3 times before you must re-apply for your learner's permit, including paying all required fees again.

SD Learner's Permit Driving Restrictions

With your South Dakota instruction permit, you may ONLY drive between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. while accompanied by a driver who:

  • Is at least 18 years old.
  • Has been licensed for a minimum of 1 year.
  • Is seated directly next to you.

Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., you can only drive if your parent or guardian is supervising in the seat next to you.

South Dakota Driver's Ed

One way to learn how to become a safe driver is by taking a South Dakota driver’s education course.

If you decide NOT to attend a driver's education course, you are required to:

  • Hold your instruction permit for 180 days.
  • Take a driving test before being eligible for your restricted minor's permit.

If you DO take driver's education, you will:

  • Only need to hold your instruction permit for 90 days before you can obtain a restricted minor's permit.
  • Be exempt from the South Dakota driving test if:
    • You receive a score of at least 80% in your Driver's Ed course.
    • You completed your course no more than 1 year ago.

Next Step: Restricted Minor's Permit

To be eligible for a restricted minor's permit in South Dakota, you must have:

  • Held your instruction permit for at least 180 days (or 90 days if you passed a DPS-approved Driver's Ed course.)
  • NOT been convicted of any traffic violations within the past 6 months.

To apply, you must visit your local SD DPS office and:

  • Bring your parent or guardian, if you're less than 18 years old.
  • Show proof of your identity, such as your:
    • U.S. birth certificate.
    • U.S. passport (valid).
    • Citizenship documents.
  • Show your Social Security card, a W-2, or a 1099.
  • Provide 2 documents to prove your residency and physical address in South Dakota, such as:
    • Your school report card.
    • A pay stub.
    • Your parent or guardian's proof of residency, if you have none. If you use your parents' documents you must provide a signed and notarized Consent for Use of South Dakota Address.
  • Pass the driving test OR submit a signed certificate of completion for an approved Driver's Ed course showing you scored at least 80% (must be no more than 1 year old).

Your SD restricted minor's permit will be valid for 5 years, and is free to upgrade from your instruction permit.

The next of the GDL process is to obtain your full operator's license. Please visit our Applying for a New License (Teen Drivers) in South Dakota page for more information.

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