How to Get A Driver’s License in New Mexico (A Complete 2023 Guide)

How to Get A Driver’s License in New Mexico

Welcome to your complete guide on how to get a driver’s license in New Mexico. 

In this article, we’ll give you ALL the information — from start to finish. We’ll walk you through the Graduated Licensing System and show you how to complete each stage. 

We’ll even answer some of the most frequently asked questions. 

We have it all for you here. 

So let’s begin!

New Mexico Driver’s License Requirements

In New Mexico, you can work towards your driver’s license as young as 15 years old. However, you’ll need to undergo the Graduated Licensing System. 

This means that before you get your full driving privileges, you must complete three stages:

  • Stage 1: Getting an instruction permit
  • Stage 2: Getting a provisional license
  • Stage 3: Getting an unrestricted license

Now, the process is slightly different if you’re over 18 and applying for the first time. We’ll also cover that under ‘Getting an Unrestricted Driver’s License in New Mexico’

But for now, let’s go through each stage.

How to Get an Instruction Permit in New Mexico 

First things first — your instruction permit. 

Here’s how to get it: 

  1. Enroll in a state-approved driver education course OR a driver’s ed school that the MVD contracts (these can issue instructional permits).

NOTE: You don’t have to complete the course before moving to the next steps. However, we suggest that you complete it ahead so you will be prepared for the knowledge exam. 

  1. Gather documents that can prove the following:
    1. Your identity (1)
    2. Your Social Security Number (1)
    3. Your residence in New Mexico (2)

Click here to see a list of documents you can submit.

NOTE: You can only get a standard driver’s license (instead of a REAL ID-compliant one) if you can’t provide proof of your SSN.

  1. Schedule a written test appointment
  1. On your visit, submit the following:
    1. The documents you gathered in step 2
    2. A completed application form signed by your parent or legal guardian (you can find the form at the MVD office)
    3. Documentation from your driver’s ed school proving that you enrolled or completed the program — this can either be a certificate of completion OR an instructional permit referral card
  1. Pass the following tests:
    1. Vision test
    2. Knowledge exam

NOTE: If you enrolled in an MVD-contracted school, you may also take the knowledge exam there. 

  1. Pay the $10 instruction permit fee. 
  1. Receive your instruction permit.

And that completes stage 1. 

Now you can begin practicing behind the wheel. Just ensure that a responsible adult driver is always supervising you.

In New Mexico, a responsible adult driver must meet the criteria – must be at least 21 years old and have had their license for 3 years or longer.

How to Get a Provisional License in New Mexico

Before you can qualify for stage 2 – provisional license – you must first comply with these prerequisites:

  • You must be at least 15 1/2 years old
  • You’ve had your instruction permit for a minimum of 6 months
  • You’ve completed a driver’s ed program that includes a 3-hour DWI component 
  • You accumulated 50 hours of supervised driving experience, with 10 hours done at night
  • You have a clean driving record (no moving convictions or drug/alcohol violations within 90 days of your provisional license application)

If you qualify, then here are the steps to get your provisional license: 

  1. Prepare the following:
    1. Your driver’s ed certificate of completion 
    2. A filled-up driving log (proof of 50 hours of supervised driving experience) signed by your parent or legal guardian
    3. Your valid instruction permit
    4. The vehicle with registration and insurance documents
    5. Proof of identity
    6. Proof of New Mexico residence
    7. Proof of a valid Social Security Number

Not sure what documents to use? Click here to find out!

  1. Schedule your road test.
  1. While there, get an application form and fill it out. Don’t forget to have your parent or legal guardian sign it. Submit it along with the other documents mentioned above. 
  1. Take and pass the road test.
  1. Pay the $18 provisional license fee.
  1. Get your provisional license.

Two down, one to go!

With a provisional license, you will be allowed more driving freedom. But you still don’t have full driving privileges. 

That means you’ll have to comply with these restrictions:

  • You cannot drive unsupervised between midnight and 5 am, except in the following situations:
    • Another licensed driver (21 and older) is with you
    • You have a signed statement from your parent or guardian that it is for a family or medical necessity
    • You’re driving to or from work, school, or religious activity (all these require a signed statement)
    • You’re experiencing a medical emergency
  • You can only have one passenger under 21 (unless they’re your immediate family)

How to Get an Unrestricted Driver’s License in New Mexico

When you have a provisional license, getting an unrestricted one is easy. All you need to do is go to a DMV office and have it exchanged.

Just make sure you comply with the prerequisites:

  • You’ve held your provisional license for at least a year
  • Your driving record is clean (no moving convictions OR drug/alcohol violations within 90 days of your unrestricted driver’s license)

But what if you’re an 18+-year-old getting your driver’s license for the first time? 

In New Mexico, the process is much quicker as you can go straight to an unrestricted driver’s license. 

Here are the steps: 

  1. Complete a None of the Road course if you’re under 25 years old. 

NOTE: You’ll need to create an account and pay $25 to take it.

  1. Make an online appointment to visit an MVD office.
  1. Go to your chosen MVD office and bring proof of identity, residence in New Mexico, and a Social Security Number.

You can find a complete list of acceptable documents here.

  1. Pass the following tests:
    1. Vision screening
    2. Knowledge exam
    3. Road test
  1. Pay the appropriate licensing fee:
    1. $18 for a 4-year license
    2. $34 for an 8-year license
  1. Receive your unrestricted driver’s license.

Congratulations — you’ve completed everything!


For even more information, let’s go over some frequently asked questions. 

How long does it take to get a driver’s license in NM?

Getting an unrestricted driver’s license might take 2 years if you’re undergoing the New Mexico Graduated Licensing System. However, if you’re over 18 when you start the process, you can complete everything in a few weeks.

How do I transfer my driver’s license to New Mexico?

New residents of New Mexico don’t have to go through the entire driver’s license application process to get a state-issued credential. However, you still have several things to do.

  1. Ensure your out-of-state license is valid. You cannot complete your application if it’s suspended or revoked.
  1. Decide whether you want a standard license or a REAL ID-compliant one.
  1. Go to an MVD office with the necessary documents. These may vary depending on the license type you want.
Required Documents for…
A Standard Driver’s LicenseA REAL ID-Compliant Driver’s License
Proof of identity
Proof of residence in New Mexico
Proof of Social Security Number
Proof of identity
Proof of residence in New Mexico
  1. Pass a vision test.
  1. Surrender your out-of-state license.
  1. Pay the required licensing fee:
    1. $33 for a 4-year license
    2. $49 for an 8-year license

NOTE: The amount includes the $15 fee for a DWI record check.

  1. Get your temporary credential. You can use that with your voided out-of-state license to operate a vehicle. Your New Mexico driver’s license will arrive by mail.

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

The knowledge exam has 25 items. You must get at least 18 correct to pass it.

It usually takes around 15 to 30 minutes to finish the test. This means that you must be at an MVD office an hour before it closes so that you can still take it. 

How long is the New Mexico driving test?

A driving test usually takes 20 to 30 minutes. Once it begins, the examiner observes you and takes off points for incorrect maneuvers.

Minor mistakes might not cause you to fail, though committing several will result in a lower score. However, some driving behaviors cause automatic failure, including:

  • Not being able to start your vehicle.
  • Not using your seat belt.
  • Causing an accident.
  • Exceeding the legal speed limit by more than 15 mph
  • Refusing to follow the examiner’s instructions.
  • Attempting to pass the test by bribing your examiner.

Is parallel parking on the New Mexico driving test?

Yes, you will be asked to parallel park in your New Mexico road test. 

Parallel parking is one of the more challenging driving maneuvers, and having to demonstrate it during your driving test can add pressure to an already stressful situation. This is why it’s important to practice before the test. 

What happens if you fail the permit test 3 times in New Mexico?

You must wait 6 months before retesting if you fail the knowledge test 3 times. The timeline begins on the date of your first failed written exam.

The Wrap Up

And there you have it — all the information you need on how to get a driver’s license in New Mexico. 

It might look like a lengthy process, but it’s manageable. Take one step at a time, and soon enough, you’ll be officially licensed in New Mexico. 

So what are you waiting for?

Go and get started today!

Good luck!

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