How to Get a Illinois Driver’s License
The Illinois Graduated Driver License program, or GDL will give you time to learn how to drive in a controlled way. There are three stages to this program, from no Illinois license to a full license.
Completing the Illinois GDL takes about a year. You’ll complete an Illinois SOS approved driver training course for your instruction permit. Then, 50 hours of supervised driving for an Illinois initial license. Drive with it for 12 months, or until you turn 18, to receive your full Illinois license.
The steps below have the details you’ll need to know in order to get your full, unrestricted Illinois driver’s license.
Get your Illinois instruction permit
You can start the process to get your Illinois license at 15 years old. To get ready for driving, you can download the Illinois Rules of the Road Handbook and start reading through it. At your local OISS (Office of the Illinois Secretary of State) location, you’ll need to fill out an application, bring in proof of identity, and pay a fee of $20 by debit card or check.
Before being issued your IL instruction permit, you’ll have to pass a vision screening and a written knowledge test, which will cover traffic signs, signals, road markings, traffic laws, safety rules, crash prevention, and vehicle equipment. Consider working through some practice exams before you take it.
If you fail, you’ll need to wait 7 days to retake the test.
You will need to either be enrolled in or have completed an Illinois SOS approved driver training course. If you are between 18-20 years old and didn’t already complete driver education, you can take an Illinois SOS approved six hour adult driver education course.
However, an Illinois SOS approved driver training course is the best way to learn to drive safely. A course will consist of either 30 hours of professional classroom instruction (not including breaks or mealtimes) or a home study or internet training program which meets the same requirements as classroom instruction, as well as six hours of in-car driving instruction.
You will be given an official paper which is your Illinois driver’s permit. You’ll need to have that with you every time you’re behind the wheel.
You have to have your Illinois permit for at least 9 months before you can apply for an initial license. During that time, you’ll need to have 50 hours driving practice with 10 hours of those being at night. There are also limits to your Illinois instruction permit and they are:
- If you are age 15-17, you must be enrolled in, or 30 days prior to active participation in, an Illinois SOS approved driver education class.
- Your permit must be used in the behind-the-wheel portion of the driver education class when an adult instructor is sitting beside you.
- You also may practice driving with an adult who is at least age 21, has a license for the type of vehicle you are driving, and has at least one year of driving experience.
This is the point also where you’ll need to get driving instruction. The options for this include an Illinois SOS approved driver education class and supervised practice with an adult 21 years or older with at least 1 year driving experience. Driver education consists of 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of in-car driving instruction.
When you’re ready to enroll in driver education, find a driving school to get started.
Once you’ve completed the required amount of instruction, you can apply for your Illinois initial driver’s license.
Getting your Illinois initial license
Receiving your license requires that you’ve completed certain requirements. Those are reaching the age of 16.
Driving Skills Test: You will be required to pass a driving test with an OISS evaluator who will make sure you can perform basic driving tasks safely.
Before you take it, you should check out the Top 10 Automatic Fails on Driver Tests, so you’ll know what not to do on test day.
Once you’re ready, you can schedule a behind-the-wheel test at your nearest Secretary of State Facility.
If you fail this test, you can retake it the next day, but it is recommended to get a little more practice behind the wheel if you’re not comfortable yet.
Vision Test: You will need to take a vision test. If you need glasses be sure you’re wearing them.
The application fee for your license is $5
Your Illinois initial license will be mailed to you and will have your photograph on it. They take your picture the day you pass your driving skills test. This license restricts you to no more than 1 passenger younger than 20 in the first 12 months.
As you continue to learn how to operate a motor vehicle in different conditions, there are certain hours when you won’t be able to drive. Those are 10:00 pm to 6:00 am Sunday through Thursday, and 11:00 pm to 6:00 am on Friday and Saturday.
Getting your Illinois unrestricted full license
At a certain point, the state feels that you’ve been able to receive enough supervised driving experience that you can go out on your own. Therefore, once you reach 18 and have had your restricted license for a year, you can get your full Illinois license.
This means that previous restrictions are lifted. However, you will not receive an updated license until that one expires. After you renew your Illinois license, you will receive your full, unrestricted license in the mail.
Whether you’ve just finished your Illinois graduated licensing process, or are just starting out, you might also want to consider a telematic companion application to better understand your driving habits, and how to improve them.
The best option is the DriverZ Virtual Coach. Download it today to sharpen your S.P.I.D.E.R.Senses™ to build the driving skills that will keep you safe for a lifetime, track your supervised driving hours, and access bespoke driver training based on your specific needs.
Frequently asked questions
Here are answers to some common questions you might have as you start out on your IL licensing journey.
Can I drive with an out-of-state instructional permit in Illinois?
Illinois does allow drivers to travel through the state with permits from other states, as long as the parameters of the out-of-state permit are followed, and the permit is always in the immediate possession of the driver.
If you are moving to Illinois, you may use your valid driver’s license from another state for up to 90 days before you must obtain an Illinois driver’s license.
Can I replace a lost or stolen learner’s permit?
You can replace a lost or stolen learner’s permit the same way you’d replace a driver’s license, by visiting your nearest Illinois Driver Services Facility, filling out an application, and paying the replacement fee of $5.
How do I change my name or gender on my Illinois driver’s license?
You will first need to obtain a certified court order demonstrating your name change, if you are changing your name. Then you will go to an Illinois Secretary of State facility, turn in your old driver’s license, bring a completed Gender Designation Change Form, and pay a $5 fee.
Illinois Secretary of State information
For comprehensive information on everything related to the Illinois graduated licensing program, visit the Illinois Secretary of State. You can also call 1-800-252-8980.
Prepare for your license journey by reviewing the Illinois Driver’s Handbook, and taking a few practice tests.