Wisconsin DMV Handbook and Regulations FAQ

Those planning on applying for their Wisconsin driver’s license are advised to pick up an official copy of the Wisconsin Driver’s Handbook at their earliest convenience. All of the questions on your written knowledge exam will cover information contained in the handbook. You may also wish to add a practice test to your study routine to increase your chances of passing on the first try. The following FAQ may also help you anticipate what to expect from the experience of dealing with the DMV in general.
How old do I need to be before I can apply for my Wisconsin driver’s license?
In Wisconsin, you must be a minimum of 15 ½ years of age before you may begin the application process and qualify for your learner’s permit.
What do I need to bring with me when I arrive at the DMV to apply?
As is the case with every state, your application for Wisconsin driving privileges cannot be processed until you present the proper documents. Make sure you bring:
  • Proof of your legal name and date of birth (such as a birth certificate, state ID, or military ID).
  • Proof of your United States citizenship.
  • Proof of your identity.
  • Proof of your residency in the state of Wisconsin (such as a bank statement, utility bill, or rental agreement).
  • Proof of insurance for your vehicle.
  • If you are under 18, proof of your enrolment in a state-recognized driver’s education program.
If I’m under 18, do I need to bring my parents to the DMV with me when I apply?
Most people find it easiest to simply bring their parents with them when they arrive at the DMV to apply for their license. Your parent or legal guardian will need to show consent by signing your application. However, you may not be required to bring a parent with you if you can show proof of auto insurance.
Do I need to take and pass a physical in order to get a Wisconsin driver’s license?
No. In Wisconsin, you are not required to take a physical before you can drive. However, you will be asked a number of routine medical questions. You will also be required to take a vision test and receive a passing score. Should you fail the vision test, you’ll need to visit a DMV-approved eye doctor and return with a medical report before your application can be further considered.
Does Wisconsin have a graduated driver’s licensing (GDL) program in place? What are the stages and what are the age requirements for each one?
Yes. Like many states, Wisconsin does expect young drivers to pass through a GDL sequence on their way to full, unrestricted driving privileges. These stages are as follows:
  • First you obtain an instructional permit, for which you are eligible at 15 ½ years old.
  • Next, you’ll have your probationary license, for which you are eligible at 16 years old.
  • Finally, you’ll earn your unrestricted license, for which you are eligible at 19 years old.
Does Wisconsin require teen driver’s to take driver’s education?
Yes. If you are a teen driver, you are required to enroll in and pass a DMV-recognized driver’s education course. In order to meet state requirements, the course must include 30 hours of classroom instruction, 6 hours of hands-on behind the wheel training, and 6 hours of supervised in-car observation. The classroom portion of the course can be completed online if you like. It’s also important to note that all drivers under the age of 18 will require verification of their driving hours via an adult sponsor.
Once I have my Wisconsin learner’s permit, what’s next?
Once you have your learner’s permit, it’s time to get your hands-on driving practice. You will be required to complete 30 hours of supervised training (with 10 of those hours being completed at night) under proper supervision. Your supervising driver must not only hold a standard unrestricted license, but have at least 2 years of driving experience. They must also be a parent or guardian, a qualified driving instructor at least 19 years of age, or any other licensed driver that is at least 21 years old and has written authorization from your parent. You must receive your first behind-the-wheel supervised lesson within 60 days of receiving your permit. Your permit itself is valid for one year, but if you decide you need more time to practice before upgrading to a license, it’s also renewable.
I’m new to Wisconsin. How do I transfer my driving privileges from out of state?
Once you officially become a Wisconsin resident, you are required by law to have your driving privileges transferred within 60 days. The process of having an out-of-state license transferred is very similar to the standard application process. You’ll need to visit a DMV field office and show the proper documents. You’ll also need to be prepared to:
  • Surrender your existing out-of-state driver’s license.
  • Take and pass a vision exam.
  • If your license has been expired longer than 8 years, take the written exam and road test.
If you are under 21, have less than 3 years of valid driving experience, or have an out-of-state license that has been expired for longer than 6 months you’ll receive a probationary license instead of a standard license.
My out-of-state license is suspended or revoked. What should I do?
If your license is suspended or revoked, you won’t be able to simply walk into a Wisconsin DMV field office and have it transferred. You’ll need to fulfill the reinstatement requirements set forth by your former state first. If the reason for your suspension or revocation has to do with an "operating while intoxicated" charge, Wisconsin will require you to undergo an assessment and complete a state-recognized alcohol education program before you can be issued a Wisconsin driver’s license. This is the case even if you’ve already met any OWI requirements set forth by your former state. If you are unsure as to how to proceed in regards to your particular situation, you are advised to contact a DMV field rep for assistance.
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