How to Get A Driver’s License in Illinois (A Complete 2024 Guide)

How to Get A Driver’s License in Illinois (A Complete Guide)

Freedom. Independence. Growing up. 

Words that you usually connect with getting your driver’s license

However, when it’s finally time to get it, you might be confused about where to begin. And it doesn’t help that each state has its own requirements.

This is why, here, we’re going to focus on how to get a driver’s license in Illinois. We’ll list all the steps in detail, so you won’t be left with any questions. 

Plus, we’ll also help those that are above 18 that are getting their license for the first time. 

There’s something for everyone here. 

Now, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive right in!

Illinois Driver’s License Requirements

Like most states, Illinois makes sure everyone with a driver’s license is prepared to operate a motor vehicle. That’s why it enacts a Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) program.

This means you won’t get all your driving privileges at once. You must go through 3 phases before you’re allowed to drive freely along Illinois’ roadways.

Here are the 3 phases of the GDL program in Illinois:

  • Instruction permit
  • Initial driver’s license
  • Full driver’s license

As you can see, you’re not going to get your license in a matter of days. You will need to invest time and energy from one phase to another.

But we all know it’s more than worth it when you get your license.

So, let’s see what you need to do to complete each stage.

How to Get an Instruction Permit in Illinois

Bet you can’t wait to turn 15 — after all, that’s when you become eligible for an instruction permit. 

And here’s what you need to do to get one:

  1. Gather the required documents. These must confirm the following to the Illinois Secretary of State:
    • Your legal name
    • Your written signature
    • Date of birth
    • Social Security Number
    • Proof of residency 

NOTE: You can find a list of acceptable documents for each requirement here. It’s best to check it out because some IDs aren’t valid, such as a college or university ID card, personal mail, or hunting license.

NOTE II: If you are a U.S. citizen but don’t have a Social Security Number, you must apply for a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL).

  1. Show proof of enrollment in a state-approved driver’s education course. You can choose to undergo face-to-face classes through a public high school or an approved third-party provider. 

NOTE: You don’t need to be done with your driver’s ed before applying for your permit. You can be in the middle of taking it or are scheduled to begin within the next 30 days. 

  1. Go to a Secretary of State Facility. You can find a complete list of locations here.

NOTE: It’s crucial to check this list, even if you have a preferred facility. Some offices require you to make appointments, while others don’t. The list also shows the services that the facility provides.

NOTE II: For applicants who are applying for a TVDL, you can only visit the following facilities:

  • Bloomington
  • Carbondale
  • Champaign
  • Chicago North
  • Chicago West
  • Dekalb
  • Des Plaines
  • Macomb
  • Rockford Central
  • Springfield (Dirksen Parkway)
  1. Bring your parent or legal guardian with you to give consent to your receiving a permit. 
  1. Complete the application form. You can find this form at the facility. 
  1. Pass a vision test.
  1. Pay the $20 permit fee. 

NOTE: If you receive your license before your permit expires (2 years), you won’t have to pay a separate fee.

  1. Pass the written exam.
  1. Have your picture taken.
  1. Receive your temporary instruction permit. Your permit card will be mailed to you within 15 days. 


Now you can practice driving!

However, with an instruction permit, your driving privileges are restricted. Here is a list of your restrictions:

  • You cannot drive between 10 pm to 6 am from Mondays to Thursdays. These hours change from 11 pm to 6 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • You cannot drive alone. A licensed driver, 21 or older, must supervise you each time you operate a motor vehicle.
  • You cannot use a mobile phone or other texting devices while driving. It applies even if your gadgets have hands-free features.

How to Get an Initial Driver’s License in Illinois

The next phase is to get your initial license. This is when you’re either 16 or 17 years old.

If so, keep the following things in mind as you work your way towards it.

  1. Complete your driver’s education course. This includes 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training.
  1. Earn the required practice hours. Besides the 6 hours included in driver’s ed, you must log 50 hours of driving, with 10 hours done at night. 
  1. Hold your instruction permit for at least 9 months without any driving violations.
  1. Go to a Secretary of State facility. Make sure to check online to see whether or not you need to make an appointment before your visit.
  1. Present the following documents during your visit:
    • Your instruction permit
    • Proof that you’ve completed a driver’s ed course
    • The log for your driving hours. Your parent, guardian, or driving supervisor should use this form to document it.
    • A consent form signed by your parent or legal guardian
    • Valid IDs. The acceptable ones are listed here.
  1. Pass the driving test.

NOTE: You must bring your own vehicle for this, which must have proof of registration and insurance. A licensed driver must also be with you to take you to and from the testing site.

  1. Get your temporary initial driver’s license. Your permanent card arrives through the mail after 15 days.

Driving with an initial license allows you to drive unsupervised. But it isn’t the full driver’s license yet. You’ll still have the following restrictions:

  • You cannot drive from 10 pm to 6 am from Mondays to Thursdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, the hours change from 11 pm to 6 am. 
  • For 12 months (or until you turn 18, whichever comes first), you cannot have more than one passenger younger than 20 unless they’re family members. 
  • You still cannot use any mobile or text devices while driving.

How to Get a Full Driver’s License in Illinois

You made it to phase 3! 

Just a little more, and you can get your full driver’s license. 

Now, all there’s left to do is turn 18 years old, surrender your initial license, and get your temporary driver’s license (the official card will arrive within 15 days). 

You won’t even have to pay an additional fee if you get your license before your permit expires (2 years). However, if it has, the cost varies depending on your age:

  • If you’re 18 to 20 — $5 
  • If you’re 21 to 68 — $30

With that, the state automatically lifts the restrictions except for the use of mobile phones. However, once you turn 19, that is lifted as well.

And with that, you are now a fully licensed driver in Illinois. 


How to Get a Driver’s License in Illinois at 18+

Not everyone gets their driver’s license as soon as they’re eligible. If you’re already 18 or older and it’s your first time applying, you will have to go through the following steps:

  1. Complete a 6-hour adult driver education course (if you are below 21 years old only).
  1. Visit a Secretary of State Facility and fill out an application form. Remember that some facilities may require you to make an appointment first. Check the complete list of locations to be sure.
  1. Submit the following documents:
    1. Certificate of Completion for your adult driver’s ed
    2. Your legal name
    3. Your written signature
    4. Date of birth
    5. Social Security Number
    6. Proof of residency 

NOTE: You can find a list of acceptable documents here.

  1. Pass a vision test.
  1. Pass the written test.
  1. Pay the licensing fee. You’ll only spend $5 if you’re 18 to 21 or 69 to 80. Otherwise, it’ll cost you $30.
  1. Pass the driving test.
  1. Have your picture taken.
  1. Receive your temporary license. You’ll receive your license card through the mail after 15 days.

And that’s it!

It’s everything in one go already. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Still got questions? Then let’s answer some of the most frequently asked ones. 

Can I get my license at 18 without a permit in Illinois?

Yes, you can. However, you must go through the entire process, which involves the following: 

  • Taking an adult driver’s ed course
  • Presenting the necessary documents
  • Passing a vision, written, and driving test

Is the Illinois DMV by appointment only?

It depends on which Secretary of State facility you’re visiting. Some are by appointment only, while others are not. It’s best to check the complete list of facilities to know what you need to do.

How do I change my out-of-state driver’s license to Illinois?

You must undergo the entire process of obtaining a full Illinois driver’s license. You must also surrender your out-of-state license.

How many questions are on the driver’s test in Illinois?

Illinois’ written test has 35 questions, either multiple choice or true or false. You must get a score of 80% or higher to pass. 

To prepare, you can read the Illinois Rules of the Road Manual. You may also consider taking practice exams online. 

What happens if you fail your driving test 3 times in Illinois?

You have 3 chances to pass the driving test to get your license in Illinois. However, you must wait two weeks between each attempt. Each one also requires a $7 retesting fee.

If, after three tries, you still haven’t passed, you will need to restart the application process.

The Wrap Up

And there you have it — a complete, step-by-step guide on how to get a driver’s license in Illinois. 

As you can see, if you want to start driving at the young age of 15-17, you’ll have to go through the full GDL program. 

If not, you can get a full driver’s license right away if you’re already 18+.

Whatever the case, you now have all the information you need. You now know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. 

So what are you waiting for?

Go and get started today!

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