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

How to Get A Driver’s License in Washington

Getting your first driver’s license is an exciting time.

However, if you’re unfamiliar with the process, it might seem overwhelming. 

Where do you start?

What do you do next?

When should you do this and that?

This is where we come in.

We’ve gathered all the essential information on how to get a driver’s license in Washington. We put everything in one comprehensive guide.

Plus, we even answer some frequently asked questions. 

So are you ready to learn how to get your WA driver’s license? 

Let’s begin!

Washington Driver’s License Requirements 

Teens in Washington State must undergo a 3-step process to get their full driving privileges. This includes the following:

  • Instruction Permit
  • Intermediate Driver’s License
  • Standard Driver’s License

Yes, it sounds like a lot of work. 

But don’t worry — we’ll go through the steps with you.

How to Get an Instruction Permit in Washington

Let’s begin with your Instruction Permit. 

There are two ways to do this. 

One is to enroll in a state-approved driver training program. If you take this route, you can get your driver’s license before you turn 18 years old. 

If so, complete the following:

  1.  Be at least 15 years old. 
  1. Create an account with License eXpress to pre-apply and get your WDL number.
  1. Enroll in an approved driver training school
  1. Provide the school with your WDL number. 
  1. Complete your instruction permit application in your License eXpress account or visit a DMV office (schedule an appointment here). You must do this 10 days (at most) before your driver training program begins. 
NOTE: If you want a photo in your permit, you will have to complete your application in person.

If not, then you can complete it online — but you must bring proof of identity when you go to a DMV office to get your driver’s license.  
  1. Pay the instruction permit fee of $25. 
  1. Wait for your instruction permit to arrive in the mail. This will take around 7 to 10 business days. While waiting, you can print the temporary instruction permit in your License eXpress account. 

Your second option is to take the knowledge exam. With this, you can only get a driver’s license after you turn 18 years old. 

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Be at least 15½ years old. 
  1. Create an account with License eXpress to pre-apply online. Alternatively, you can begin your application by visiting a DMV office.
  1. Schedule an appointment online to take your knowledge test.
  1. Pay the required fee. It typically costs $25 but may vary between locations. Don’t forget to contact your testing site to confirm this.
  1. Take and pass the knowledge test.
  1. Complete your application online or at a DMV office (you must schedule an appointment). 
NOTE: If you want your permit to have your photo, do the following: 

Present documents proving your identity (use this page to see what you can use)
Have your photo taken

If you don’t want a photo, you can just complete the application online. However, you’ll have to present proof of identity when you get your driver’s license. 
  1. Pay the $25 instruction permit fee. 
  1. Receive your permit in the mail 7 to 10 business days after you complete your application (whether in person or online). You can log in to License eXpress and print your temporary instruction permit while waiting.

One stage down, two to go!

Now, having a permit means you can practice driving. However, always observe these restrictions:

  • Always have your instruction permit with you.
  • A licensed driver with at least five years of driving experience must be in the front passenger seat.
  • All your passengers (if any) must wear a seat belt.
  • Never use your phone while behind the wheel unless calling 911

Remember, your permit is only valid within Washington State. If you’re crossing state lines, it’s best to find out whether or not the state you’re visiting will honor it.

How to Get an Intermediate Driver’s License in Washington

Once you turn 16, you become eligible to apply for an Intermediate Driver’s License — that means you’re ready for stage two!

Remember, this is only for those who took option 1: enroll in a state-approved driver training program. Option 2 is for those who are getting their driver’s license at the age of 18. 

That said, here are the steps:

  1. Complete your driver trainer program.
NOTE: Remember, your school’s curriculum must meet Washington State’s minimum requirements:

30 hours of classroom instruction
6 hours of behind-the-wheel training
  1. Have your Instruction Permit for at least six months.
  1. Have a clean driving record during the six months immediately before your application. However, you cannot have any violations involving alcohol or drugs while using your permit (even if it was more than six months ago).
  1. Earn 40 supervised driving hours, 10 of which must be after sunset. 
  1. Make an online appointment for your knowledge and skills test. 
  1. On your visit, pay the knowledge and skills test fee. This will vary per location, so make sure you ask before getting there. 
  1. Take and pass both the knowledge and skills tests. 
NOTE: For your skills test, the vehicle you use must be in good working condition, as well as has auto insurance, registration, tab, and plates. 
  1. Apply for your Intermediate Driver’s License through one of these channels:
  1. OPTION ONE: Online (only available for those with photo Instruction Permits)
    1. Have your parent or guardian give online permission for you to get a license.
    2. Pay the $81 licensing fee.
    3. Get your Intermediate Driver’s License by mail within seven to ten days. You can print your receipt and use it as a temporary license.
  1. OPTION TWO: In person (you must take this option if you don’t have a photo permit OR want an Enhanced Driver’s License)
    1. Ensure your driving school has uploaded your exam scores and program completion.
    2. Use Washington State’s online appointment scheduler to schedule a visit to a driver licensing office.
    3. Go to your appointment with a parent. If they can’t come, you must have a notarized copy of the Parental Authorization Affidavit Form.
    4. Present proof of identity and your Social Security Number (click here to see what documents to bring).
    5. Present proof of Washington State residency and citizenship (only required for those applying for an Enhanced Driver’s License).
    6. Pass a vision screening.
    7. Have your picture taken.
    8. Pay the licensing fee — $81 for a standard license and $116 for an Enhanced license. 
    9. Receive your temporary Intermediate Driver’s License and wait for your official one in the mail. 

And just like that, you’re done with stage two! 

Now you can drive unsupervised, but always keep these restrictions in mind:

  • You cannot have passengers under 20 years old during the first six months unless they’re immediate family. For the next 6 months, you can have three passengers under 20 who aren’t immediate family.
  • You can only drive between 5 am and 1 am, except for the following instances:
  • You’re with a licensed driver who’s at least 25 years old.
  • You’re transporting farm products or another agricultural purpose.
  • You cannot use wireless devices (such as a cell phone) while driving (even with hands-free features) unless during emergencies.

Keep in mind that, after 1 year of safe driving, your passenger and nighttime restrictions will be removed. 

How to Get a Standard Driver’s License in Washington

If you carry an Intermediate Driver’s License, getting a Standard one is only a matter of time.

The DMV lifts all restrictions when you turn 18, and it becomes a regular driver’s license.


Easy peasy!

Hold up…

What if you’re already 18 or older when you start the process?

Well, the steps are similar, but it will take less time.

To ensure nothing falls through the cracks, we’ve outlined that for you too!

Here are the steps:

  1. (OPTIONAL) Take the knowledge test and get a permit. The steps for this are outlined in the “how to get an instruction permit” section above. 
  1. Make an appointment to take your knowledge test (if you didn’t already take it) and your skills test. 
  1. Take and pass the knowledge test (if applicable) and your skills test. Remember, you must bring a vehicle that has auto insurance, valid registration, and is in good working condition. 
  1. Pay for your knowledge (if applicable) and skills test. Prices will vary on your testing location. 
  1. Apply for your standard driver’s license in your License eXpress account if eligible. You are eligible if you have:
    1. A Washington State instruction permit with a photo
    2. No suspensions or revocations 
  1. If not eligible for an online application, you must apply for a license at a DMV office by doing the following:
    1. Decide whether you want a Standard License or an Enhanced one.
    2. Schedule your visit using the online appointment scheduler.
    3. Provide proof of identity, SSN, citizenship, and WA residency (the last two are only for an Enhanced license). 
    4. Pass a vision test.
    5. Have your photo taken. 
  1. Pay the appropriate licensing fee — $81 for a standard license (online and in person) and $116 for an Enhanced license (in person only).
  1. Get your temporary license OR (if online) print the receipt. Wait for your official one to arrive in the mail within 7 to 10 business days.

And you’ve finished! 


FAQs About How to Get A Driver’s License in Washington

Got some questions?

Let’s answer the most common ones below…

How Soon Can You Get a Driver’s License in Washington?

Washington State has Graduated Driver Licensing laws that apply to applicants under 18. Because of that, it might take you as much as three years before getting full driving privileges.

That said, you can get an intermediate license at 16. This will allow you to drive unsupervised but with some restrictions. 

If you’re getting a first-time license and you’re already over 18, you can get your full license in several weeks.

What Documents Do I Need to Get a Driver’s License in Washington State?

You only need to present proof of identity and a Social Security Number (if you have one) to get a standard driver’s license. However, if you want an Enhanced credential, you must also provide documents confirming your citizenship and residence in Washington State.

You can use the WA DOL document guide to see what to bring

How Much is a Driver’s License in Washington?

A standard driver’s license costs $81. That includes the $35 application fee, $9 issuance fee per year (a WA license remains valid for five years), and the $1 technology fee. 

However, certain situations may require you to spend more:

  • Getting an Enhanced Driver’s License (the licensing fee becomes $116 as the issuance fee is now $16)
  • Getting a permit ($25)
  • Testing fees (depends on the testing center)
  • Getting an ID Card ($55 for 6-year validity or $73 for 8-year validity)

For all the driver’s license fees, you can visit this page

How Hard is the Washington State Driving Test?

In 2019, the Seattle Times found that Washington State ranks first in the states where drivers have the most challenging experience getting a license.

Of those who took the knowledge test, only half passed on their first try. Of those that proceeded to take their driving test, only 77% passed on their first attempt.

But don’t worry — if you study hard and make sure to put in the driving practice, you should be able to pass both tests. 

Does the Washington Driving Test Require Parallel Parking?

Yes, expect your examiner to ask you to demonstrate how to parallel park. So it’s best to practice this maneuver while preparing for your driving test.

Can a Foreigner Get a Driver’s License in Washington State?

Yes, as long as they can prove residence. However, they can only get a standard license. 

Only U.S. citizens can apply for an Enhanced Driver’s License.

The Wrap Up

Now you have all the information you need on how to get a driver’s license in Washington. 

The WA DOL makes sure that the process is as easy as it gets. This is why they offer an online option. 

So make sure you pick the path you want to take and follow the steps we outlined for it. 

Best of luck!

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