How to Get a Virginia Learner’s Permit

First-time drivers in Virginia will need to apply for a state learner’s permit before hitting the roads. Here’s what you need to know.
Written by Kathryn Mae Kurlychek
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
In the Old Dominion State, you’re eligible to apply for your learner’s permit once you’ve hit 15 years and six months of age. But age isn’t the only requirement—you’ll also have to fill out forms, pay a permit fee, and pass a vision and knowledge exam. 
For most people, getting their first driver’s license is a major step toward earning more freedom and independence. In Virginia, teenagers may qualify for their learner’s permit (which is the first part of the process) shortly after turning fifteen. 
But if you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. In this guide, we’ll be going over what it takes to get your learner’s permit in Virginia—and what you’ll have to do once you get it. 
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How to get a Virginia learner’s permit

In Virginia, you must be at least 15 years and six months old to qualify for a learner’s permit. But your age isn’t the only requirement you’ll have to meet!
Generally speaking, there are three steps to applying for your Virginia learner’s permit. The first is completing the necessary documents, the second is paying any applicable fees, and the third step is taking your permit test. All three of these steps can be accomplished in person at your local DMV. 
First things first—you’ll need to get your hands on an
Application for a Virginia Driver’s License
. If you’re under the age of 18, make sure to have your parent or guardian put their signature on the form. Be sure to use your full legal name on any documents you fill out, as using nicknames or abbreviations will invalidate your application.
Next comes the
fees
. The good news is, the fee for a Virginia learner’s permit is just $3
The third and final step is taking your permit test. Virginia issues two permit tests: a
vision test
to make sure you meet the state’s vision requirements for safe driving and a
two-part knowledge test
. The knowledge test covers information regarding Virginia traffic laws, road signs, and safe driving techniques. 
Most of the information included on the knowledge test can be found in the
Virginia Driver’s Manual
—so you’ll want to study up on relevant topics ahead of time. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles website also has a
study guide
to help first-time test-takers prepare for the exam. 

What to bring to the DMV

Once you’ve completed your driver’s license application, have collected parental consent, and have brushed up on your knowledge of Virginia traffic laws, the next stop on the road to your learner’s permit is the DMV. We recommend
scheduling an appointment
online before you go in to reduce your waiting time. 
Before you head out, make sure to bring the following documents with you:
  • One form of ID 
  • One proof of legal presence
  • Two proofs of Virginia residency
  • Your Social Security card (if you don’t have the card but know your Social Security number, you can verify it electronically at the DMV). 
Not sure which types of documents qualify for each category? Don’t worry—the Virginia DMV makes it easy for you by outlining a
list of acceptable documents
that satisfy each requirement. 
MORE: What is the Virginia driver improvement program?

Virginia learner’s permit regulations

With your Virginia learner’s permit in hand, you’re ready to hit the wide-open roads—but there are a few rules and regulations to keep in mind as you practice your driving skills. 
The first is that you cannot drive without adult supervision. In Virginia, that means you must be accompanied by an adult at least 21 years of age or older who is also a licensed driver. The exception comes for siblings and guardians only—in that case, they must be 18 years or older. 
The second is a curfew. Driving with a learner’s permit between midnight and 4 a.m. is prohibited
If you’re wondering, are there any exceptions to these rules? The answer is yes, actually, there are. Drivers who hold a Virginia learner’s permit can drive alone in the following circumstances: 
  • You’ve held your learner’s permit for at least nine months
  • You hold a valid Virginia Driver Training Certificate (DTS-B) signed by your parent or legal guardian
  • You are 16 years and three months old or older
Note that all three requirements must be met in order to waive your learner’s permit restrictions. Meeting just one or two out of the three won’t cut it—and if you’re caught driving outside of these restrictions, it could inhibit your ability to receive your unrestricted license. 
Speaking of your unrestricted license—you’ll need to hold your learner’s permit for a certain amount of time before you can apply for your
first-time Virginia driver’s license
:
  • If you’re under 18: You’ll need to hold your learner’s permit for at least nine months. During that time, you must pass and complete a state-approved driver’s education program and keep a log of your driving hours. A minimum of 45 driving hours must be completed (15 of which must occur in nighttime conditions) and the log must be signed by a parent or legal guardian. 
  • If you’re over 18: You’ll only need to hold your learner’s permit for 60 days (about two months) or until you’ve successfully completed a state-approved driver’s education course while holding your permit. 
MORE: How to get cheap car insurance for young drivers
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