required documents to obtain a driver's license

What Documentation Is Needed In Order To Receive A Driver’s License?

Getting a driver’s license for the first time can be a very exciting yet stressful occasion! Not only must the potential driver be prepared to take a long and complex written (or computerized) test about the rules of the road, but also the actual driving test itself can be very daunting. Practice and study can make the process much easier and ensure you (or your driving age child) will pass the first time. However, there is another important thing to consider as well— ensuring you bring the required documents to obtain a driver’s license along with you to the DMV.

In recent years, for security purposes many states have made it a bit more difficult to obtain a driver’s license. In fact, a new type of driver’s license and state ID card is being used in some states called a “Secure ID.” This type of license has a higher-level of security attached and as such, the DDS (Department of Driver Services) in many states require even more documentation to make certain the recipient is who he or she claims to be.

Before you go and stand in what could be a very long line to get a driver’s license, it is important that you gather all required documents to obtain a driver’s license and bring them with you. Since the requirements vary from state to state, it is highly recommended that you contact the DDS in your area before you go, just to make sure you have everything you will need.

A few of the typical required items you MAY want to start gathering include:

  • Proof of Identity – For most U.S. residents, the easiest proof of identity is a birth certificate. The DDS will require a genuine, certified copy. You can order one of these from the vital records agency where you were born, or through a reputable, government-approved company like VitalChek. If you already have a copy, just make sure it has an official seal and that it is not a souvenir copy or informational-only copy.
  • Social Security Card – You will generally need to provide your social security card. Some states may accept other proof of your social security number; however, it is not that difficult to replace your card—it just involves a trip to the local social security office and providing proof of your identity.
  • Proof of Address – This varies from state to state; however, most states require two forms of proof. Items such as bank statements, utility bills and tax records are usually accepted.
  • Additional Required Documents to Obtain a Driver’s License – If you are not a U.S. resident or you have had a name change, there may be additional documentation requirements. Call ahead and find out what else you may need.

While getting a driver’s license for the first time can be a bit overwhelming, if you are well prepared, the process is not as difficult as it would otherwise be. Don’t be afraid to call and find out what you will need. The customer service staff at your state’s DDS is there to help you. Once you have everything you need and are prepared for that test, you’ll find the process of obtaining your license is easier than you may think—once you get past that long line at least!

38 Comments

  1. My daughter just turned sixteen and is ready to get her license. Despite her driver’s ed course and other prior requirements, I was still unsure of what kind of documentation that I should bring. Thank you for being so specific, I finally have a clear idea of what to bring.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. We are happy that we were able to assist. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the advice about what paperwork to start looking for in order to get a driver’s license. I’m not even sure where my birth certificate is, so I’ll start looking for it right away. Hopefully I can find a quick driver’s license course so I can stop taking the bus to work sooner!

    1. We’re glad the information was helpful. Thank you.

  3. If the birth certificate last name is in mother’s name and social security name is in father’s last name, will this cause a problem for grandson to get his permit in the state of IN.

    1. Hello Debra. Thank you for your question. There is the possibility that the discrepancy between your grandson’s last name as it appears on his birth certificate and how it appears on his social security card could cause issues with getting his driver’s permit, driver’s license, passport, etc. If his father’s last name is his legal last name, we suggest you contact the vital records agency in the state where he was born for information on how to amend his last name on his birth certificate. Likewise, if his mother’s last name is his legal name, contact the Social Security Administration for more information about amending his social security card. While it may seem like a lot of trouble to deal with now, in the long run it would be beneficial for him to have his name match on all his identity documents.

  4. I just wanna know if i can get the permit with a birth certificate copy can ya tell me i was born in NEW JERSEY

    1. Hello Erik. Thanks for reaching out with your question. If you order copy of your birth certificate and select driver’s license as your reason, you should receive A certified copy that can be used for the purpose of obtaining your permit. We suggest you contact your local DMV for further information.

  5. Do you have to get a permit first or can u just schedule a road test if your 29 in Wisconsin?

    1. Hello Andrew. We suggest you contact the DMV in Wisconsin to determine the proper procedure for getting a driver’s license.

  6. What other documents may I used in Atlanta GA if I don’t have a birth certificate to obtain my GDL?

    1. Hello Derwin. Thanks for reaching out with your question. We suggest you contact the Georgia Department of Driver Services for more information about what type of documentation can be used to obtain your GDL. You can call them at 678-413-8400 or visit their website by clicking here.

  7. So I moved here from another country where they didn’t have birth certificates so I was wondering what I would bring as proof of my identity instead.

    1. Hello Anthony. Thanks for reaching out with your question. Since proof of identity requirements may vary from state to state, we suggest you contact your local DMV to determine what documents they might accept.

  8. Do your need your birth certificate if u have two proof of ID!

    1. Hello Ria. The requirements for identity verification may vary from state to state. Your best bet will be to contact your state’s DMV to find out what forms of documentation they will accept.

  9. So here’s my problem I’m trying to get a birth certificate or Social Security card and a driver’s license but I can’t have one without the other how do I get one to get the ball rolling for the other I know my social security number but the only people that can get my birth certificate my mom and dad are both gone and I have no siblings I’m not married and I don’t have a wife

    1. Each state has different identity documentation requirements with regards to vital records. Many states will consider alternate forms of identification when a social security card or driver’s license is not available. For more information, we suggest you contact the vital records agency that issued your birth certificate originally.

  10. I was not born in America so I do not have a birth cerificate. Does a green card still work or do I need a birth certificate?

    1. Hello. Requirements may vary from state to state so we suggest you contact your local DMV for more information about what documentation they will accept for identity verification.

  11. Do I have to bring birth certification if only renew license at 58 years old?

    1. Hello John. The best thing to do would be to contact your local DMV to verify what documentation you will be required to provide to renew your license.

  12. I have had a Tn drivers
    License since 1963, now I was told I need my birth certificate to renew. WHY ?
    Della ( confused)

    1. Hello Della. Thanks for reaching out to us with your question. More than like you are being required to produce a birth certificate for renewal of your driver’s license as part of Tennessee’s compliance with the Real ID Act. According to the Homeland Security website: In 2005,Congress passed the REAL ID Act which enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses. The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards. States have made considerable progress in meeting this key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and every state has a more secure driver’s license today than before the passage of the Act.

  13. I can’t find my birth certificate do u have to have it or can I just get a copy

    1. Hello Martha. You can order a certified copy of your birth certificate through the vital records agency that issued it originally. If it is more convenient, you can also order online through VitalChek.

  14. I have a birth certificate (date of birth is 5/10/52) but it has no certificate number on it, I don’t know if this was a clerical error or what. But I am trying to renew my drivers license and get a REAL I.D. and the application REQUIRES a certificate number. I was born in New York City, Can you help me with this??

    1. Hello Valerie. Thanks for reaching out with your question. If your birth certificate is your original one, it is possible that information was not included. If you order a certified copy of your birth certificate now and select “Driver’s License/Identification” as the reason, you will receive a certified copy that should meet all the requirements for REAL ID. Please click here to visit the website for New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for more information.

  15. If u already r jus got a change of address on ur ID do I still have to have my birth certificate. I jus sent off for me a passport an they took my birth certificate and will b sending it back to when passport arrive in mail 6 To 8 weeks would I have to obtain a new birth certificate

    1. Hello Felicia. We suggest you contact your local DMV to determine what documentation you will need to provide to update the address on your ID.

  16. My daughters birth certificate ripped and we taped it up with the DMV still take it to get her learners

    1. Hello Ali. You will have to contact the DMV in your area to determine if they will still accept the birth certificate if it is damaged.

  17. Located in GA. I want to get a sate id for my two children that are minors. I have their birth certificates but for the life of me cannot remember where I placed their social security cards. However I do have copies and wanted to know if that would be okay.

    1. Hello Tanea. We suggest you check with the agency that will issue your childrens’ photo IDs to find out if copies of their social security cards will suffice or if you need to present the originals.

  18. I’m in NC and having trouble getting a certified copy of birth from California for my daughter’s permit, are they anything else I can get? I got ss card, maybe school records or something

    1. Hello Roshene. We are sorry to hear you are having troble obtaining your birth certificate from California. You may be able to order it online from the VitalChek website. Please click here for more information. You may also want to check with the NC DMV to see if there are any alternative forms of ID they will accept from you.

  19. Hi, I live in Texas and am going to be applying for my first driver’s license. Will I need to present my passport for the test if I already have my birth certificate and am a U.S. born citizen?

    1. Hello Zainab. Thanks for reaching out with your question. Since identity requirements can vary from agency to agency, we suggest you contact your local DMV to find out which documents you should bring along when you apply for your driver’s license.

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