Applying for a New License (Drivers 18+) in Wisconsin
Getting a New Driver's License in Wisconsin
The Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and Division of Motor Vehicles make it easy to apply for your new WI driver's license, whether you're a resident, you've just moved to the state, or you're a non-citizen.
Wisconsin REAL ID Licenses
The Wisconsin DMV now issues federally-compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses in addition to non-compliant driver's licenses. REAL IDs allow you to use your license for domestic travel and entry into federal and military buildings. For more details on WI REAL IDs, see below.
New to Wisconsin?
Find all the information you need to finish your moving requirements with the DMV.
You're required to apply for your Wisconsin driver's license within 60 days of establishing residency.
Your application process is the same as outlined below under “Apply for Your WI Driver's License"; however, there are a few special considerations based on whether your current license is valid/expired or suspended/revoked.
WI License Eligibility Requirements
As long as you don't have outstanding license suspensions, revocations, or cancellations, you can apply for a WI driver's license. If you do have any of these issues, find out how to resolve them in our Suspended License section.
You do not need a WI driver's license if:
- You are a foreign tourist* and have a valid driver's license OR international driving permit (IDP).
- This exception is good for 1 year, after which you must obtain a WI license.
- You are a member of the Armed Forces or a military dependent stationed in Wisconsin.
- You are employed by an out-of-state company and in Wisconsin for job training or other business.
Learn more about driving as a foreign tourist with a probationary license.
How to Get Your WI Driver's License
When applying for your license, make sure you're prepared for each part of the process.
Application & Proofs of ID
To apply for a Wisconsin driver's license, visit your nearest WI DMV with a completed Driver License Application (Form MV3001) and proofs as outlined below.
NOTE: The WI DMV provides a list of acceptable proofs, and we've provided examples of each type below. *
Be prepared to present proof of:
- Your name and date of birth (e.g.,certified birth certificate, employment authorization card, etc.).
- Identity (e.g., Social Security card, military discharge papers, etc.).
- Social Security number (e.g., Social Security card, pay stubs showing your entire SSN, etc.)
- U.S. citizenship OR permanent legal presence, conditional resident status, or temporary visitor status. (e.g., valid U.S. passport, valid I-551, etc.).
- Wisconsin residency (e.g., utility bill dated within the last 90 days, mortgage or rental agreement, etc.).
- Any legal name change (e.g., marriage certificate, divorce decree, etc.).
Again, the WI DMV provides complete lists of acceptable documents; the examples we've provided above are only examples.
* NOTE ON REAL ID DOCUMENTS
The DMV's list covers proofs valid for both REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and non-compliant versions. Read REAL ID Driver Licenses below for more information on those licenses.
Vision & Knowledge Exams
Once you provide all the required documents, you must:
- Pass the vision screening.
- The DMV might refer you to an eye specialist if you don't pass. This might lead to a license with certain vision-based restrictions.
- Pass the knowledge exam (no appointment required).
- Knowledge tests are computerized and take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
- You can have 5 attempts in 1 year; after that, you need permission from the DMV to continue testing.
WI Instruction Permits
Once you pass your vision and knowledge exams, you'll receive an instruction permit.
You'll need to hold the permit for at least 7 days; this is to give you time to practice driving for your skills test.
You can only practice driving with a:
- Driving instructor who is at least 19 years old.
- Parent, guardian, or spouse with a regular Class D driver's license who is at least 19 years old.
- Friend or other acquaintance with a regular Class D driver's license who is at least 21 years old.
NOTE: If you have a valid foreign driver license and passed the knowledge test, you can skip the instruction permit.
Driving Skills Exam
After 7 days, you can schedule your driving exam. You must make an appointment for the exam.
When you pass, you'll receive a temporary paper license with your photo valid for 45 days; your permanent license arrives in the mail within 10 business days.
Class D Probationary and Full Licenses
Regardless of age, all new drivers receive a probationary WI driver's license first.
Because you're not a minor, you have NO probationary license-specific restrictions, EXCEPT that any driving record points you incur after your first conviction for a traffic violation are doubled. Note that if you tally 12 points or more within 12 months, your probationary license will be suspended for 6 months.
Your probationary license is valid for 2 years from your next birthday; after that, you'll renew your probationary license for a full Class D driver license. Full licenses are valid for 8 years from your birthday in the year of issue.
Fees for Your WI Driver License
WI DMV driver license fees are as follows:
- Instruction permit: $35.
- Instruction permit renewal: $35.
- Class D probationary license: $28.
- Class D license: $34.
REAL ID Driver Licenses
As mentioned above, you can apply for a REAL ID-compliant WI driver license; these licenses require additional kinds of identification documents.
The state's Acceptable Documents for a Wisconsin Driver License guide outlines all documents that satisfy the state's stricter REAL ID requirements.
Here are some facts about the REAL ID law and Wisconsin's REAL ID-compliant cards:
- Wisconsin's REAL ID became effective January 14, 2013. Federal agencies will require REAL ID cards for federal purposes (i.e. entering federal buildings, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft, etc.).
- The WI DMV now mails all permanent driver licenses as part of the REAL ID safety measures.
- REAL ID-compliant licenses are marked with a star in the upper right-hand corner.
- REAL ID licenses have the same fees as regular Class D licenses.
- You are not required to apply for a Real ID license; you can use a valid U.S. passport or other federally accepted identification documents for federal purposes.