Each state has a different process to get a driver’s license.
This can make it very confusing.
But if you’re from Pennsylvania, then you’re in luck.
Today, we’re going to focus on the driver’s license requirements for the state.
We’re going to walk you through ALL the steps.
Plus, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions, such as:
- Can a non-citizen get a driver’s license in PA?
- How much does a PA driver’s license cost?
- How many questions are on the permit test in PA?
- And much more!
So are you ready to begin your complete guide on how to get a driver’s license in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania Driver’s License Requirements
Like most states, Pennsylvania follows a Graduated Driver License (GDL) program.
If you’re between 16-17 years old, you don’t get your driving privileges right away.
Instead, you have to go through three phases:
- Phase 1: Obtaining a Learner’s Permit
- Phase 2: Securing a Junior Driver’s License
- Phase 3: Getting an Unrestricted Driver’s License
With this, you’ll be more than ready to drive unsupervised when the time comes.
So, let’s look at the steps involved in each phase.
How to Get a Learner’s Permit in Pennsylvania
No matter your age, you have to start with a learner’s permit.
So here’s how to get that:
- Download a copy of the Non-Commercial Learner’s Permit Application (Form DL-180) and fill out the necessary fields.
- Go to a medical professional and undergo a medical exam. Have the physician, physician assistant, certified registered nurse practitioner, or chiropractor fill out the health provider section on the application form.
- Gather the following documents:
- A completed Form DL-180
- A completed Form DL-180TD signed by your parent or legal guardian (if you’re below 18 years old)
- Your Social Security Card
- 1 proof of identity and date of birth
- 2 proofs of Pennsylvania residency (if you are over 18 years old)
|NOTE: The necessary paperwork varies between U.S. Citizens and Non-U.S. Citizens. |
Click the links to see which ones you can use.
- Decide which Driver License Center you want to go to.
- On your visit, do the following:
- Bring a parent or legal guardian with you (if you’re below 18 years old). Remember, they should have proper identification.
- Submit the documents you prepared in Step 3.
- Pass an eye exam (if you didn’t already in your medical exam visit).
- Pass the knowledge test.
- Pay the $41.50 fee for your initial permit and four-year license. If you’re 65+ years old, you will need to pay $31 for an initial permit and a two-year license.
|NOTE: You can use debit or credit cards, checks, or money orders. Driver’s License Centers do not accept cash.|
- Receive your learner’s permit.
And you’ve completed phase one!
A learner’s permit allows you to gain driving experience. However, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Your permit remains valid for one year.
- A licensed driver who’s at least 21 must ALWAYS supervise you. He must carry the same or a higher-class driver’s license.
- You cannot drive between 11 pm and 5 am unless for employment, volunteer, or charitable services. However, you must present the appropriate documentation.
- You cannot have more passengers than the number of seatbelts in your vehicle.
- If you receive 6 or more points or get a high-speed conviction, your permit will be suspended for 90 days.
How to Get a Junior Driver’s License in Pennsylvania
Yes, everyone needs a learner’s permit.
However, only those between 16½ to 17 years old need a junior driver’s license.
And this is where phase 2 comes in.
So here are the requirements and steps to get a junior driver’s license in PA:
- Hold your learner’s permit for 6 months or more.
- Accumulate 65 supervised driving hours, which must include the following:
- At least 10 hours at night
- At least 5 hours in bad weather
- Schedule your road test online or by calling 1-800-423-5542 or 717-412-5300.
|NOTE: You can also schedule a road test right when your learner’s permit is issued. However, the scheduled date will have to be at least 6 months after. |
Alternatively, you can take your road test at a DOT-certified third-party testing center. If so, you have to pay an additional fee.
- On the day of your test, arrive at your testing location with the following:
- Your valid learner’s permit.
- A parent, legal guardian, or person who is at least 21 years old.
- A filled-out and signed Form DL-180C to confirm you have enough supervised driving hours.
- A completed Form DL-180TD.
- A vehicle to use, with papers for insurance and registration.
- Take and pass the road test.
- Have your photo taken.
- Receive your junior driver’s license.
|NOTE: If you took the road test at a third-party center, you must go to a Driver License Center to have your photo taken and receive your junior driver’s license.|
While you can already drive unsupervised, the DOT still imposes several restrictions on your driving privileges.
These are as follows:
- You cannot drive between 11 pm and 5 am unless for employment, volunteer, or charitable services. But you must present the appropriate documentation.
- You cannot have more than one passenger under 18 for the first six months unless they are immediate family members. The DOT increases the limit to three after the first six months.
|NOTE: The restriction does not apply if you have a parent or a guardian in the vehicle with you. |
Also, you will not get the passenger limit increase if:
You were partially or fully responsible for a crash.
You have a driving violation conviction.
- All your passengers, regardless of age, must buckle up.
- If you receive 6 or more points or get a single high-speed violation, your junior driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days.
How to Get an Unrestricted Driver’s License in Pennsylvania
Your junior driver’s license automatically turns into an unrestricted one when you turn 18 years old.
However, you can get it before your 18th birthday if you meet the following requirements:
- You’ve had your junior license for at least a year.
- You have a clean driving record.
- You underwent an approved driver’s education course.
If so, here’s what you have to do:
- Download and complete Form DL-59 (Application for Change from a Junior Driver’s License to a Regular Non-Commercial License).
- Send the copy to this address:
P.O. Box 68272
Harrisburg, PA 17106-8272.
- Receive an updated card through the mail. To drive without restrictions, you must carry it with your junior driver’s license.
You completed all 3 phases of the PA GDL program!
What if you get your first license at 18+ years old?
The process is slightly different — and much quicker.
Here are the steps:
- Get a learner’s permit (see the above section for the steps.
- Gain driving experience. For 18+ years old, you are no longer required to wait 6 months or gain 65 hours of practice before taking the road test.
- Schedule your road test with any of the available schedulers:
- Calling 1-800-423-5542 or 717-412-5300
- At a DOT-certified third-party testing facility. You have to pay a fee to take the test here.
- Go to your road test with a licensed driver and a vehicle to use. You must also bring the following:
- Your valid learner’s permit
- Your vehicle’s insurance and registration papers
- Have your photo taken.
- Get your unrestricted driver’s license.
|NOTE: You have to go to a Driver License Center to have your regular driver’s license issued if you took it at a third-party testing center.|
Yes, the process is a lot quicker.
But you also have to wait longer before you can apply.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can A Non-Citizen Get a Driver’s License in PA?
If you can show proof of lawful presence, you can apply for a REAL ID driver’s license or ID card.
You must also be able to provide these documents.
If you have a valid foreign driver’s license, you may use it in PA for up to 1 year — or until the foreign license expires, whichever comes first.
Can You Get a Pennsylvania Driver’s License Online?
Pennsylvania only processes permit and driver’s license applications submitted in person. That means you must visit a Driver’s License Center as part of the process.
How Much Does a Pennsylvania Driver’s License Cost?
First-time permits and 4-year licenses cost $41.50.
But if you’re getting a first-time permit and are already 65+ years old, you have to get a 2-year license for $31.
Then, you have to pay a fee for your medical exam.
That is about your only expenses — unless you take your driving test at a third-party facility or complete driver’s ed.
Can I Get My License at 18 Without a Permit in Pennsylvania?
No. In PA, even applicants who are 18 or older must secure a permit first before they can get a driver’s license.
That said, they no longer have to hold it for 6 months or complete the 65-hour driving practice.
How Long Must You Wait to Get Your License in Pennsylvania?
Older applicants (18+) can get a license as soon as possible.
However, those undergoing the GDL program may complete the process after a year and a half OR two years (it depends on how old you were when you applied for your permit).
How Many Questions Are on the Permit Test in Pennsylvania?
There are only 18 questions in Pennsylvania’s permit test. These focus on safe driving practices, road signs, and traffic laws.
What ID Do I Need to Get a Driver’s License in Pennsylvania?
All applicants should present one document proving their date of birth and identity.
For those 18+ years old, they should also have two proofs of their residence in Pennsylvania.
However, the required documents for citizens and non-citizens may be different. You should know what you can or cannot use before you visit a Driver’s License Center.
These documents should be original copies. Photocopies are NOT allowed.
The Wrap Up
And that is how to get a driver’s license in Pennsylvania.
It wasn’t so bad, right?
Sure, you may have to go through 3 phases if you’re between 16-17 years old.
But with this step-by-step guide, it will be a whole lot easier to get through it all.
So keep these details in mind, and you’ll be on your way to getting a regular driver’s license in no time.