Licensing Process

To get your driver’s license in Illinois, you’ll move through three licensing stages. As you progress, you’ll also need your parents’ permission at each step.

Instruction Permit – 15

When you turn 15, teens may apply for an instruction permit with the written consent of your parent or legal guardian. Upon enrolling in an approved driver education course, passing a written driver’s knowledge test  and a vision test, you’ll be issued an instruction permit.

With an instruction permit, teens may only drive under the supervision of a licensed parent or adult age 21 or older, who must be riding in the front passenger seat. The number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of seat belts in the back seat. You’re required to practice driving for at least 50 hours, including 10 hours at night, before moving on to the initial licensing phase. Illinois does not allow you to drive between 10 p.m.-6 a.m. Sunday-Thursday nights or between 11 p.m.-6 a.m. Friday-Saturday nights.

Initial Driver’s License – 16

When you turn 16 and have driven conviction-free on an instruction permit for at least nine months, you can apply for an initial driver’s license. Your parent or legal guardian must certify that you have completed a minimum of 50 hours of practice driving, including 10 hours at night. Successful completion of a state-approved driver education course must also be provided, plus proof of qualified enrollment in or graduation from an accredited high school or GED program (certain exclusions apply). Your parent must either accompany you to the Driver Services facility to sign an application form or have their signature notarized on an authorized form. You’ll be required to pass a behind-the-wheel test before your initial license is issued.

With your initial license, you’re allowed to drive alone, but must follow certain restrictions. Illinois does not allow teens with initial licenses to drive between 10 p.m.-6 a.m. Sunday-Thursday nights or between 11 p.m.-6 a.m. Friday-Saturday nights — some of the riskiest driving hours for teens. For the first 12 months of licensing or until you turn 18, whichever comes first, you may drive with no more than one passenger under age 20, unless the additional passenger is your sibling, step-sibling, child or step-child. After this period, the number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of seat belts in the back seat. Keep in mind that until you reach the age of 18, Illinois law authorizes your parents or legal guardian to withdraw their consent for you to drive. Listen to their direction and respect their knowledge.

Full License – 18

When you turn 18, you’re eligible for a full, unrestricted license if you’ve held a conviction-free initial license for at least six months.

As of July 1, 2014 in Illinois, everyone ages 18-20 who did not attend driver’s education, must complete a 6-hour driver training and education course before applying for a driver’s license. These courses are offered by driving schools certified by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. For more information about these courses, visit cyberdriveIllinois.com.

In all instances, all teen drivers and their passengers must wear seat belts. Additionally, teens under age 19 are prohibited from using a cell phone or any type of hand-held communication device — including texting — while driving, except for calling 911 or other emergency purposes.

Now is a good time to set up a parent-teen driving agreement to help you and your parents establish expectations related to both their rules and those of the state.

Licensing Authority

The Illinois Secretary of State Office is in charge of licensing for all drivers in Illinois. All written exams and behind-the-wheel tests required for your driver’s license can be performed at any Driver Services facility. High schools participating in the Cooperative Driver Testing Program (CDTP) may also conduct licensing tests.

Please check in advance for locations, hours, fees and acceptable forms of identification you’ll need to present when applying for each stage of licensing. Study materials to help you get ready for the exams are also available.

  • Parent-Teen Driving Agreement – Signing a formal agreement with your parents helps in multiple ways.
  • Driver-ZED – Offered by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Driver-ZED is a computer-based program to help you practice driving on your PC.