How to Apply for Kentucky Driver's License: Step-by-Step Guide (2019)

Learn what to expect, things you need, and how to get behind the wheel faster.
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On this page: Types of licenses How to apply Knowledge test Road test Replace or renew New residents

How Does It Work?

Are you a Kentucky driver or want to become one? This guide offers you simple instructions how to get, renew and transfer your license and save time and effort on the way.

Get a Learner's Permit

Allows you to practice driving under supervision.

Get an Intermediate License

Allows you to drive unsupervised with restrictions.

Get a Full (Adult) License

Allows you to drive with no restrictions.

Types of Driver's Licenses in Kentucky

For each license type there's a corresponding type of instruction permit
Kentucky Class D Driver's License
Class D
It allows you to operate common cars, station wagons, pickup trucks, utility vehicles, and most panel trucks and a trailer, with weights not greater than 26,000 pounds, designed to carry less than 16 passengers including the driver. Read the KY KSP Handbook or take a free KY driving practice test.
Kentucky Class A/B/C Driver's License
Class A/B/C (Commercial)
Class A is for any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds. Class B is for any straight truck with two or more axles and a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more and pulling a vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less, and a single vehicle that transports 16 or more passengers including the driver with a GVWR of 26,001 or more. Class C is for any vehicle with a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds transporting hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers. Read the KY CDL Manual or take a free CDL practice test.
Kentucky Motorcycle Driver's License
Class M/E
Class M is for riding motorcycles, while class E is required for riding mopeds. Read the KY Motorcycle Manual or take a free KY motorcycle practice test.

How to Apply for Your Class D Driver’s License

To apply for Class D driver’s license in Kentucky, you must first get an instruction permit, pass vision and knowledge test, then take a driving test. This is your complete plan of action depending on your age.
Apply for Learner's License I’m 16+
(First Timer)
Apply for Learner's Permit
How to Start
Apply for Provisional License I’m between 16 ½ and 18
(Permit Holder)
Apply for Intermediate Driver’s License
How to Start
Apply for Full (Adult) License 18+ I’m 18+ (Intermediate License or Instruction Permit Holders)
Apply for Full (Unrestricted) Driver’s License
How to Start

How to Apply for Your Learner's Permit

All new drivers in Kentucky are required to get the permit before they are eligible for a license. The permit allows you to drive supervised at all times with a licensed driver 21 years of age or older in the front seat. You mustn’t drive between 12:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M., unless there is a good cause for driving, such as emergencies or school and work related activities. You mustn’t transport more than one unrelated person under 20 years of age. It is also the first step of the Graduated Driver Licensing program for drivers at the age of 16 and 17.

1APPLY IN PERSON

You should apply at the Circuit Court Clerk's office in your Kentucky county of residence. Note that all non-U.S. citizens (excluding Permanent Residents and Resident Aliens) must first apply at a Division of Driver Licensing Regional Field Office.

2BRING DOCUMENTATION REQUIRED

  • Social Security card
  • An original or certified copy of your birth certificate
  • Proof of residence (e.g., a utility bill, mortgage documents, postmarked letter with your name and current address, etc.)
  • Permanent Resident card or I-551 with photo issued by USCIS. (for non-citizens)

No copies or laminated documents are acceptable.

If you are a non-US citizen, check here for other documents you are required to bring depending upon your status in the US.

3COME WITH YOUR PARENT OR GUARDIAN IF UNDER AGE 18

Your parent or guardian must sign your application accepting financial responsibility. Make sure she/he carries a valid driver's license. A legal guardian must also have a certified copy of guardianship papers. Foster children must also bring the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Custody Verification Letter. Your parent/guardian may withdraw their permission at any time.

4PROVIDE NO PASS/NO DRIVE FORM IF UNDER AGE 18

It’s the School Compliance Verification Form that you can get from your public or private school. If you don’t study at school, get the form from your school district of residence.

5PAY THE PERMIT FEE OF $12

6GET TESTED BY THE KENTUCKY STATE POLICE LICENSE EXAMINER

After the Clerk has prepared the application, the Kentucky State Police License Examiner will administer the tests.

7PASS A WRITTEN TEST

The test will contain questions about rules of the road, signs and procedures. Take free practice tests online before you go. If you fail your test you may return the next day or later.

8PASS A VISION TEST

Minimum visual acuity of 20/40 is required, otherwise, you will be referred to a vision specialist.

8RETURN TO THE CIRCUIT COURT CLERK’S OFFICE

You will be issued a permit or a distinctive "under 21" permit if you are younger than 21.

Applicants under the age of 21 must hold the driving permit for a minimum of 180 days.

Applicants older than 21 must hold the permit for at least 30 days.

If you are under 18 years of age, your next step is applying for the intermediate driver's license.

If you are over 18 years of age, your next step is applying for the full driver's license.

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How to Apply for Intermediate Driver’s License

Intermediate license is the second stage of the Graduated Driver Licensing program for drivers at the age of 16 and 17. It allows you to drive without supervision but with the following restrictions: you mustn't drive between 12:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M., unless there is a good cause for driving, such as emergencies or school and work related activities; and you can't transport more than one unrelated passenger under 20 years of age.
  1. CARRY YOUR LEARNER’S PERMIT FOR AT LEAST 180 DAYS

    Everybody under the age of 21 must hold the permit for 180 days before proceeding.

  2. COMPLETE A PRACTICE DRIVING LOG

    You parents/guardians should log at least 60 hours of practice driving, 10 hours of which must be completed at night. Your parent is also required to sign a verification form.

  3. PRINT YOUR ELIGIBILITY LETTER

    Check your eligibility here, print the letter and take it to your Kentucky State Police License Examiner.

  4. TAKE A DRIVING SKILLS TEST

    Testing times and locations are available from the Circuit Clerk’s Office in your county of residence. Call your office to find out if an appointment is necessary. You are required to bring your own vehicle. If you fail the test you will have to wait at least 7 days before retaking it.

When you pass the driving skills test, the examiner will place an "Intermediate License" sticker on your permit. After holding the intermediate license for 180 days or once you turn 18, you will be eligible for a full license, provided that the required driver education course has been completed.

How to Apply for Your Full (Unrestricted) Driver’s License

Before you apply for your Kentucky full driver's license. You are required to get a driver's permit. Check this guide to get a driver's permit in Kentucky.

Intermediate license holder under 18 years of age? Hold your license for 180 days, complete a driver education course, print your eligibility letter and visit the Circuit Clerk's Office in your county of residence.

Permit holder? Start from Step 1.

1HOLD THE DRIVER’S PERMIT

If you are older than 21, you must hold it for at least 30 days before being eligible to take a road test. If you are younger than 21, you must hold your permit for at least 180 days.

2COMPLETE DRIVER EDUCATION PROGRAM IF UNDER 18

If your permit was issued under the age of 18, you are required to complete a Driver Education program. The course offered by the Transportation Cabinet is a free, 4-hour course on driver safety. Other possible methods of completing the course are an online course or an approved private school. If you have already completed a high school driver's education course or Driver License approved driver training school course, provide a copy of the completion to:

ATTN: Driver Education
Division of Driver Licensing
200 Mero St
Frankfort, KY 40622
OR fax to (502) 564-0839

Make sure that your driver license number, name and date of birth are on the completion.

3PRINT ELIGIBILITY LETTER

Check your eligibility here, print the letter and take it to your Kentucky State Police License Examiner.

4CHECK DRIVING TEST AVAILABILITY

All testing times and locations are available from the Circuit Clerk's Office in the driver's county of residence. In most cases an appointment is required. You can also schedule a driving test by contacting the Kentucky State Police at (844) 253-5680.

5PASS THE ROAD TEST

You must bring a vehicle with proper registration and insurance confirmation. If you pass the test, the examiner will record your result and send you to the Circuit Clerk’ Office. If you fail the road skills test, you will have to wait at least 7 days before trying it again.

6GET YOUR LICENSE

Go back to the Circuit Clerk’s Office where you will be issued a license. Your license will be valid for 4 years. After 2019 Real ID licenses will be valid for 8 years.
Note that all drivers under the age of 21 are subject to Zero Alcohol Tolerance.

Kentucky Written Test (aka Knowledge Test)

Written tests are administered by the Kentucky State Police License Examiner. You should contact your Circuit Clerk's Office to find out testing dates and times.
Take a free practice test
What will the test consist of?
It contains 40 multiple-choice questions regarding driving rules, regulations, procedures, and highway signs. You will have to make a minimum score of 80% to pass the test. It means that no more than 8 mistakes are acceptable. All the information you will need for the test can be found in Kentucky Driver Manual.
How to prepare for the test?
Study Kentucky Driver Manual and take free practice tests available here. When you feel comfortable with your score, you are ready! You can also download our free DMV Genie app to study on the go. Get it on the App Store or on Google Play.
What common mistakes should I avoid?
The most common mistake comes from not knowing enough information out of the manual. This happens when people study solely with practice tests. Make sure you read the manual first. Another problem is rushing through questions. Take your time and remember what you have studied.
Is the test available in any other language but English?
Yes, you can take the written test in Albanian, Bosnian, Arabic, Cambodian, Chinese, Croatian, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Persian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese.
Can I take the test orally instead of writing?
Yes. If you cannot read in English, you can take an oral test, but the signs portion of the test must be answered from your own knowledge and understanding.
Can I use the driver's manual when I take the actual test?
Absolutely NOT! This is not an open book test. The purpose of the test is to make sure you understand and apply the rules of the road. Moreover, the use of any kind of testing aid during the test will mean an automatic failure of the test.
What happens if I fail the test?
You can return the next day the tests are given in your county and try again or come back on a later date.

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Driving Test

Step-by-Step Guide
What to expect during your KY driving test
Road Test FAQ

The exam will check your ability to drive safely in traffic, encountering normal situations.

Most counties require appointments for road tests. Check with your local Examiner or Circuit Court Clerk regarding the schedule and appointment system in your county.

Before the test

You must be accompanied by a licensed driver of at least 21 years of age who won’t be permitted to ride with you during the test but will wait to ride with you home if you fail the test.

The vehicle you bring to the test must have the following:

  • Be properly registered
  • Have proof of liability insurance which can be a proof-of-insurance card, a current insurance policy or a binder from an insurance agent stating that insurance is in force.
  • Rental cars must have the driver’s name listed on the rental contract as an operator.
Vehicle Inspection

The following equipment must be in good condition:

  • Brakes
  • Lights
  • Properly displayed and unobscured license plate
  • Windshield wiper on the driver’s side
  • Horn
  • Muffler
  • Rearview mirror
  • Steering gear ( not more than 1/4 turn free play)
  • Safety glass on all windows
  • Safety belts
  • Vehicles with a louvered rear window must have side view mirrors
  • Passenger compartment, seat, and floor area must be clean

Avoid the following:

  • Red and blue light showing to the front
  • Sirens and bells
  • Signs, posters, or stickers on the windshield or any other window in the car, unless required by law
  • Heavy-tinted windows

You must demonstrate to the examiner that you know how to operate the following:

  • Headlights
  • Dimmer Switch.
  • Horn
  • Windshield Wipers.
  • Turn Signals.
  • Emergency Brake.
  • Emergency Flashers.
  • Brake Lights.
On the Road

    Your job is to follow the examiners instructions, drive safely and demonstrate overall vehicle control. The following maneuvers will be evaluated during the test:

    • stops
    • backing
    • turning the car around
    • stopping and starting on a hill
    • parallel parking
    • choosing appropriate speed
    • approaching intersections
    • correct lane usage
    • giving and accepting right-of-way

    You will be disqualified automatically if you

    • fail to follow your examiner’s instructions twice
    • commit traffic violation or be part of collision or dangerous act.
End of the Test
You will be given a score sheet at the end of the test, indicating whether you passed or failed, a numerical score won’t be revealed. If you pass the test, your examiner will send you back to the Circuit Clerk’s Office to get the license. If you don’t pass the test, you should wait at least 7 days before trying it again.

How to Renew Your Driver’s License in Kentucky

  • You may renew you license up to 6 months prior to the expiration date if you are older than 21. Note that the Kentucky Department of Transportation has stopped mailing reminding notices to the drivers whose licenses are about to expire. That is why check your license expiration date regularly.

    Plan of Action

    1. Apply in person in the Circuit Clerk’s Office of your county of residence.
    2. Bring your Kentucky driver’s license.
    3. Pay the fee of $20.
    4. If your address has changed, bring the proof of your new residency.
    5. If your name has changed, bring the original document certifying the change.

    If your license is expired for more than one year, a vision and written test will be required.

  • Kentucky Law allows only military personnel to be issued a Class D Driver's License by mail. All other drivers must appear in the Circuit Court Clerk's office. If you are in the military, contact the Circuit Court Clerk's office in the Kentucky county of residence for an application and instructions.
  • Online renewals are not offered in Kentucky at this time.

New Residents: How to Get the Kentucky Driver's License

When you become a resident of Kentucky, in most cases you must exchange your driver’s license issued by another authority for the Kentucky driver’s license. You must be at least 16 years of age to apply.
Out-of-state license Foreign license
Not sure if you are a resident of Kentucky?
Are you a Kentucky resident?
Kentucky law defines "resident" as a person who has established Kentucky as his or her state of domicile within the last 30 days.
Residing temporarily?
Are you visiting Connecticut

Good news! If either of the following applies to you, you do not require to transfer your driver’s license.

  • You are a member of the military on active duty or a dependent of a military member who holds a valid license from another state.
  • You are a full-time student enrolled in school or college with a valid license from another state.

I’ve Got a Valid Out-of-State License

Moving from another US state? Welcome to Kentucky!
Moving from another state?

If you become a resident of Kentucky, you must transfer your out-of-state license within 30 days of establishing residence.

You must transfer your license in person in the Circuit Clerk’s Office of your county of residence. Note that all non-U.S. citizens (excluding permanent residents and resident aliens) must apply at a Division of Driver Licensing Regional Field Office.

Plan of Action
  1. Apply in person.
  2. Submit your valid out-of-state driver’s license.
  3. If under age 18, present a School Compliance Verification Form signed by the out-of-state school (No Pass/No Drive Law). You can get the form from your school district of residence.
  4. Bring documentation required.
    • Social Security card
    • An original or certified copy of your birth certificate (if your name here differs from the name on your license, you may be asked to show a marriage certificate or another document certifying your name change)
    • Proof of residence (e.g., a utility bill, mortgage documents, postmarked letter with driver's name and current address, etc.)
    • Permanent Resident card or I-551 with photo issued by USCIS. (for non-citizens)
  5. Pay the fee of $20.00.

Note that if you are a non-U.S. citizen with an out-of-state driver’s license, you will have to take vision, written and road skills tests in Kentucky (It doesn’t apply to permanent residents and resident aliens, though).

driver's license in Kentucky

Once you have met all the requirements, the Circuit Clerk’s office will issue you a license. Your new Kentucky driver’s license will be valid for 4 years. Starting from 2019 new REAL ID cards will be valid for 8 years.

I've Got a Valid Foreign License

Moving from another country? Welcome to Kentucky!

If you are a non U.S. citizen, you may drive in Kentucky on your valid foreign license and International Permit for up to one year from the date of admission into the U.S. if your home country is part of the Foreign License Reciprocity. Drivers from non-Foreign License Reciprocity Countries or US citizens must obtain a Kentucky license within 30 days of establishing residency in Kentucky.

To transfer a foreign driver’s license, non U.S. citizens (excluding permanent residents and resident aliens) must first apply at a Division of Driver Licensing Regional Field Office. Permanent residents and resident aliens may apply directly at the Circuit Clerk’s Office of their county of residence.

Plan of Action
  1. Bring proof of Kentucky residence (e.g., a utility bill, mortgage documents, postmarked letter with driver’s name and current address, etc.)
  2. Provide the following documentation if issued to you:

    • Social Security card
    • An original or certified copy of your birth certificate
    • Your foreign passport
    • Permanent Resident card or I-551 with photo issued by USCIS.

    Check here for other documents you are required to bring depending upon your status in the US. No copies or laminated documents are acceptable.

  3. Pass the vision exam. Minimum visual acuity of 20/40 is required, otherwise, you will be referred to a vision specialist.
  4. Pass a written exam.The test will contain questions about rules of the road, signs and procedures. Take free practice tests online before you go. If you fail your test you may return the next day or later.
  5. Pass a driving skills test (not required for permanent residents).

Testing times and locations are available from the Circuit Clerk’s Office in your county of residence. Call your office to find out if an appointment is necessary. You are required to bring your own vehicle. If you fail the test you will have to wait at least 7 days before retaking it.

The Circuit Clerk’s Office will issue a license for you, which will be valid for 4 years or till your legal stay in the U.S. ends. After 2019 Real ID licenses will be valid for 8 years.

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