How to Get a Provisional License: The Complete Guide

All states include a graduated licensing program aimed to help teens and new drivers learn road rules. This program also includes requirements like behind-the-wheel practice with the intention to ease new drivers into operating a motor vehicle versus letting them loose on state roads and highways.

Most states include a graduated licensing program divided into three parts:

  • Learner’s permit
  • Provisional license
  • Unrestricted license

The learner’s permit usually begins around age 14 to 16 and sometimes the need for driver’s education. Teens apply at their local DMV by submitting the appropriate forms and submitting permit fees. Part of the learner’s permitting process involves a written/knowledge test covering road rules and signs.

After a period of time, teens can upgrade their learner’s permit into a provisional (or intermediate) license. Though, some states have two or more variants of this intermediate license.

The point of the provisional is to lessen teens and new drivers requirements when behind-the-wheel while still helping them ease into driving. Almost always a licensed adult must be present when a teen drives with their provisional license.

Provisional Licensing Restrictions

The restrictions most provisional licenses carry include:

  • Always have a licensed driver with them
  • Having parental or guardian consent
  • Carrying insurance on the vehicle they’re operating
  • Driving during the appropriate hours
  • Wearing seatbelts and not using mobile devices

The requirements are fairly common sense in that new drivers need to stay focused when they’re behind the wheel because they’re still inexperienced. The time between upgrading their license gives them ample practice to reinforce these rules.

Upgrading to an Unrestricted License

With patience and respect for road rules, the new drivers can upgrade their provisional into an unrestricted license.

How does one upgrade their provisional? It depends on the state but usually involves:

  • Holding the provisional for a set period of time
  • Meeting behind-the-wheel experience
  • Not having traffic violations on their record
  • Having passed a driver’s education program
  • Pass written and road tests

More often than not, a provisional turns into an unrestricted license after taking a road test when drivers meet their requirements. But, some states let provisionals become adult licenses on their own after the driver holds it for a set period of time.

Need Help Getting a License?

We provide detailed guides covering the entire graduated licensing process for each state. This includes what’s needed to get a provisional license and what happens when upgrading to an adult license!

You’ll also find helpful resources and recommendations from sourcing driver’s education courses to auto insurance policies. Browse by your state to find the appropriate guide.