How to Get a Washington D.C. Learners Permit

You must be at least 16 years old to apply for a Washington D.C. learner’s permit. Learn more here!
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Pat Roache
To apply for a Washington D.C. learner’s permit, you must be at least 16 years old. To receive your permit, you must first pass a vision test and a knowledge test, and pay $30 in fees.
  • You must be at least 16, a D.C. resident for at least six months, and ineligible for a social security number to apply for a D.C. DMV Limited Purpose learner permit.
  • Visit a D.C. DMV Service Center to take your vision and knowledge tests.
  • Upon receiving your learner’s permit, you can begin practicing driving between the hours of 6 am and 9 pm while accompanied by a licensed adult over the age of 21 in the front seat.

How to get a Washington D.C. learner’s permit

The first step in the process of getting a D.C. DMV learner permit in the District of Columbia is pretty simple—just turn 16 years old. This is the earliest that you can head to the DMC and  submit your application. However, you can actually begin preparing for the more complicated steps in the process before your 16th birthday.
The
D.C. DMV Driver’s Manual
is available free online to help you study for the knowledge test you’ll take to get your permit. In addition to the manual, the D.C. DMV also offers
free practice tests
you can use to increase your odds of passing on the first try.
If you are not eligible for a social security number, then you must also have lived in the District for at least six months. At that time, you’ll be able to apply for a D.C. DMV Limited Purpose learner permit—it’s the same thing as a D.C. DMV learner permit, but it’s not REAL ID compliant.
A final note on eligibility to apply for a learner permit: if you have outstanding debts with the District of Columbia or any unpaid fines for moving violations in other jurisdictions, you won’t be able to apply for a D.C. learner’s permit.

What to bring to the D.C. DMV Service Center

Once you’re 16 and you’ve studied enough to feel prepared for your written test, it’s time to begin the real process of getting your D.C. DMV learner permit. First, fill out a
Driver’s License or Identification Card Application
. Whether you're applying for a REAL ID permit or a Limited Purpose permit, the application is the same.
Next, gather the documents you’ll need to prove your identity, residency, social security status, and parental consent. These may differ depending on the type of permit you’re applying for. To simplify things, we’ve created a table that tells you exactly what you need in each instance.
Documentation required for REAL ID D.C. DMV Learner Permit
Documentation required for Limited Purpose Learner Permit
Proof of identity and age
, such as a birth certificate, passport, or certificate of naturalization
Proof of identity and age
, such as a birth certificate, passport, or consular card
TWO documents that show
proof of current District of Columbia residency
, such as utility bills, a lease agreement, or official mail
TWO documents that show
proof of current District of Columbia residency
, such as utility bills, a lease agreement, or official mail
TWO documents that
prove residency in the District of Columbia for at least six months
, such as utility bills, a lease agreement, or official mail
Parental consent form
to obtain a learner permit
Parental consent form
to obtain a learner permit
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With your completed application and appropriate documents in hand, it’s time to head to your local
D.C. DMV Service Center
. Hand your documentation to your clerk, and you’ll be charged a $10 fee—this gets you in the door for your knowledge test.
But first, you’ll take your vision test. If you need to wear contacts or glasses to pass the screening, you’ll also be required to wear them anytime you drive. This will be noted as a restriction on your license.
With your vision test complete, it’s time for your
knowledge test
. You’ll be asked questions to test your knowledge of traffic laws, road signs, and basic driving safety rules. You’ll have 60 minutes to complete the test, and you must achieve a score of at least 80% to pass the knowledge test. Not to worry—if you fail your test, you can take it again in three days.
Now it’s time for your license photo. Feel free to get all gussied up ahead of time, but know this—you’ll probably still come out looking like a potato. It’s nothing personal—the DMV cameras hate us all.
Last but not least, it’s time to pay the $20 learner’s permit fee. Once processed, you’ll be issued a temporary permit that’s good for 45 days. You should expect to receive your actual permit by mail in about 10 business days. If you’re as excited as we think you’ll be, you can track the mailing status of your permit
through this link
.
MORE: How education level affects car insurance

Washington D.C. learner’s permit regulations

All learner’s permits come with rules and regulations, but the District of Columbia’s are a touch stricter than most. Your permit allows you to drive only between the hours of 6 AM and 9 PM. In addition, you must always be accompanied by a licensed adult who’s at least 21 years old in the front passenger seat.
When you get your D.C. DMV learner permit, you’ll not only be able to begin practicing driving but you’ll also be enrolled in D.C.’s
GRAD Program
. This program will take you through the steps you’ll need to complete to move from a learner’s permit to a provisional license, and then on to a full
District of Columbia driver’s license
.
Note that even with a full license, you’ll still be a part of the GRAD Program. Restrictions ease up as you work your way through the program, but they’re not completely removed until you turn 18. And even though you don’t have restrictions on when you can drive or who can be in your car after you turn 18, you’ll still be considered a part of D.C.’s GRAD Program until you turn 21.
MORE: How to get cheap car insurance for young drivers
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