Apply for a License (Drivers 18+) in Tennessee
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 DDS' online services to complete any relevant transactions. Follow the DDS' most recent updates for the latest information.
Applying for a Tennessee Driver's License
To obtain a driver's license, you must apply in person at a TN DOS office. You will need to pass a vision screening, knowledge test, and driving exam. You will need to provide various documents and pay the required fee.
This page has instructions on applying for a driver's license from the Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS) Driver Services Division (DDS).
NOTE: If you are younger than 18 years old, you will need to complete the graduated driver license program. See our Applying for a New Teen License in Tennessee page for instructions.
Tennessee REAL ID Driver's License
The TN DDS issues federally-compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses in addition to non-compliant licenses. As of October 1, 2021, only the REAL ID will function as federal identification for domestic travel and entry into federal and military buildings—a standard license will not after this date.
You have the choice to apply for a non-compliant license or upgrade to a REAL ID license. For more detail, visit the DDS' guide to REAL IDs.
New to Tennessee?
Find all the information you need to finish your moving requirements with the DMV.
If you have a driver's license from another state, you must have it transferred to Tennessee within 30 days of becoming a resident.
To obtain your driver's license, you will need to visit your local Tennessee DOS office and:
- Surrender your out-of-state driver's license.
- Pass a vision screening.
- Present the following documents (originals only):
- Proof of your legal status in the U.S. (e.g. U.S. birth certificate, permanent resident card, U.S. citizenship certificate).
- Proof of your Social Security number.
- Proof of your name change, if applicable (e.g. marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order).
- 2 documents proving your TN address (e.g. utility bill, bank statement, paycheck stub) issued within the last 4 months.
- Have your photograph taken.
- Pay the $28 fee.
If your out-of-state driver's license has been expired for longer than 6 months, or if you have a driver's license from another country, you must pass the knowledge and driving tests also.
NOTE: You will not be eligible for a TN driver's license if your out-of-state driver's license is suspended or revoked.
Types of Driver's Licenses
The Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS) has different classes of driver's licenses depending on what type of vehicle you will be driving. Tennessee issues REAL ID-compliant identifications.
- Regular driver's license: Class D.
- Commercial driver's license (CDL): Class A, B, and C.
- Motorcycle license: Class M.
- Hardship license: Class H.
- For drivers 14 years old in certain hardship situations.
- Instruction permit: Class P.
- Used to practice driving before obtaining a full driver's license.
Apply for a TN Driver's License
To be eligible for a driver's license in Tennessee you must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Tennessee issues REAL ID-compliant identifications.
NOTE: You will be denied a driver's license if you are:
- Addicted to alcohol or narcotics.
- Physically or mentally unable to operate a vehicle safely.
- Unable to show proof of your financial responsibility, if required.
To obtain a Tennessee driver's license, visit your local TN DOS office and:
- Provide proof of your:
- Legal U.S. status (e.g. U.S. passport, work authorization card, U.S. birth certificate).
- Identity (e.g. U.S. birth certificate, marriage license, U.S. citizenship certificate).
- TN residency (2 documents issued within the last 4 months).
- Social Security number.
- Name change, if applicable (e.g. divorce decree, marriage certificate, court order).
- Pass the following DMV tests:
- Vision screening.
- Knowledge exam.
- Driving test. (You will need to make an appointment to take this test.)
- Pay the $28 fee.
Unless otherwise indicated, your driver's license will be valid for 8 years at a time.
Knowledge and Driving Tests
To obtain your TN driver's license, you will need to pass both a written knowledge exam and driving skills test.
Before attempting your driving test, you must first pass a knowledge exam, which will consist of questions about:
- Traffic signs and signals.
- Local road rules.
- Safe driving techniques.
- Drug and alcohol use.
If you fail the knowledge exam, you will need to wait 7 days before you can re-take it.
Pass The Knowledge Exam On Your First Try
Driving Skills Test
You must make an appointment with the TN DOS for your road test. You can do this either:
- By calling (866) 849-3548 or (615) 532-2281 (hearing impaired).
You will need to bring your own vehicle for the test, which must be in good working condition and properly registered. Your examiner will grade you on your ability to control and maneuver the vehicle on public roads and follow local traffic laws.
You will be given an automatic fail if you:
- Violate any traffic law.
- Do not follow directions given to you by the examiner.
- Perform any dangerous actions while driving.
- Are responsible for an accident.
If you fail your driving test, your examiner will let you know how long you must wait before you can take it again.
For more information, see the TN Driver Manual.