What paperwork do you need to obtain or renew a driver's license?

Getting your driver’s license for the first time can be exciting, but questions may arise about what you need to do. If you are getting the driver’s license for the first time, you must know that you will need to provide several documents to demonstrate your identity.

Among the most important driver’s license document requirements, you will need a certified copy of your birth certificate and your Social Security Card or Social Security Number.

What are the document requirements to get a driver’s license?

Document requirements for the driver’s license vary depending on your state. Generally speaking, however, most states will require that you prove your identity, your parent’s identity, and your place of residence.

You can also submit any documents that show you’ve received formal schooling or training that qualifies you to drive. In some states, you may be required to submit certification of training, proof of need of a license, and proof that you’ve held a provisional or trainee’s license for at least six months prior to submitting the application.

What do I need to apply for a driver’s license?

In the United States, you can get a driver’s license at 16 years of age. Many young people are quick to get their driver’s license, as it gives them more independence and can come in handy when applying for part-time jobs too. Whether you are 16 or older, if you are getting your driver’s license for the first time, you will need several documents to get it.

To be certain about the requirements needed to get a driver’s license in your state, be sure to check with your nearest DMV office. However, to successfully get your driver’s license, you will always need:

These are additional documents that your state may require to grant you a driver’s license:

  • Proof of identity: besides the birth certificate, you may be asked to bring a second document to demonstrate your identity. This can be a U.S. passport, or government photo ID. In the case that your place of residence has changed, do remember to update your vital records first before heading to the DMV. If you don’t have a copy of your birth certificate, you can easily apply online for one and receive it by mail.
  • Proof of residence: if this is your first time getting your driver’s license, you are required to provide proof of residence. Your parents or legal guardians should help you gather these documents. In most cases, a lease or a utility bill should suffice.
  • Parental consent: if you are 16 years of age, a great majority of states will require that your parents or legal guardian(s) sign a form of consent, which is available at the DMV office
  • Other: if you are not a state resident or have recently moved, you will be required to provide additional documents such as certification of schooling, certification of driver’s education, etc. These requirements change by state and you are advised to contact your local DMV for further details.

Other circumstances in which you need to gather all of these documents to obtain your driver’s license are:

  • You are a U.S. citizen that has recently relocated to a new state
  • Your current driver’s license is lost or stolen
  • Your current driver’s license is expired or about to expire

Going to the DMV to get your license

The Department of Motor Vehicles, DMV, is the state-level agency that manages driver licensing. To get your driver’s license for the first time you need to go to the DMV in person, will all the respective documents.

Please note the following:

  • You must be at least 15 ½ years of age in order to apply for a provisional license or a license. Depending on the state the minimum age might be higher or lower
  • A great number of states do require a certification of schooling as well as a certification of driver’s education with a minimum of 25-60 hours of classroom time
  • The majority of states will require that you pass a vision exam
  • You need to pay the application fee
  • You will need to pass the theory exam
  • If applicable, you will need to pass a driving exam
  • You will need to have your picture taken

Once you have followed all necessary steps and provided all the required documents, most DMVs will issue a temporary driver’s license until your current one is sent to you by mail. In some states it is possible that you are required to hold a temporary 6-month provisional license before the issue a complete driver’s license.