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How to Renew a Driver's Learner's Permit in Illinois

You may need to renew your learner's permit

You may need to renew your learner's permit

You Can Renew an Illinois Driver's Permit!

If you are reading this article, chances are that you and your teen find yourselves in the same situation as my son and I were a few years ago: a teenager far from ready for the licensing driving exam who has a learner's permit that is about to expire; and, a parent who has no idea what is required at the Illinois DMV for such a task.

Realizing there was no hope that our son would be ready to get his driver's license before his permit expired, I started to research if we could renew the driver's permit, and if so, what we needed to bring to the DMV. I'm a very adept Google researcher and was astonished at the lack of information on renewing an IL learner's permit.

The good news: Yes, he could renew his instructional permit.
The bad news:
No information seemed to exist regarding what renewing a learner's permit actually requires.

Our son enrolled in a driver's education course when he was 15, took the written exam at the local Illinois DMV, and received his permit. Following his driver's education course, he suddenly lost interest. No problem, I thought. His older sister went through this phase. About a year after receiving her permit and with a few hours logged, she decided on her own that it was time to rack up those 52 hours of driving time. She passed her road test and received her driver's license well before her permit expired. But not our son.

Illinois', iTunes, and Google Play all offer free practice written exam apps for refreshing your memory

Illinois', iTunes, and Google Play all offer free practice written exam apps for refreshing your memory

Plan for Success

What I discovered through research and experience is that renewing an Illinois Driver's Permit is a similar process to obtaining the original permit. To renew an Illinois Driver's Permit, you need to bring the following items:

  • The original permit
  • The permit holder's birth certificate or passport
  • Mail addressed to the permit holder (e.g., a recent report card or bank statement that shows the permit holder's name and address)
  • $10 (cash, check, or credit card accepted)
  • Glasses or contacts, if the permit holder wears them
  • A parent or legal guardian (if the permit holder is under 18 years old)

Expect the following:

  • A vision test
  • Written exam
  • Multiple-hour time investment

What to Expect When Renewing a Learner's Permit at an IL DMV

Renewing a driver's permit in Illinois must not be a very common occurrence because, the official website of Illinois' Secretary of State, offers no real information about renewing the Illinois learner's permit other than mentioning that it can be renewed.

Renewing the permit is not as simple as renewing one's driver's license. Our first trip to the DMV was a failure. We brought his permit and his glasses, assuming he would need an eye exam. We were told that we needed his birth certificate.

The next day, I grabbed his birth certificate, and with a sneaking suspicion, I also gathered his social security card and most recent report card as we were leaving the house. I'm glad I did. The unhelpful old codger behind Desk #1, the same from the previous day, could have cared less about the birth certificate. This time, he was only interested in the report card with its proof of residence.

Desk #1 printed out our wait number. F208. At the bottom of the ticket, it stated: "with written test." Now, wait a minute. Really? Despite the fact that the permit was not expired, we were told that my son had to re-take the written test to renew his permit. Desk #1 offered no reply when I asked where on earth this information could be found and why it wasn't on the State website. We waited for more than an hour as lots of B prefixes were called, an occasional A, and another F.

Finally, our F208 number was called for Desk #2. Our son took the eye exam, and we moved to the cashier at Desk #3. She needed to verify with a co-worker that the permit renewal was only $10 and not $20. Our son was handed his written test, and I removed myself to have a quiet conversation with the Lord. I had reminded my son, the picture boy of Attention Deficit Disorder and what I call "summer brain" (my term for a strange vacation-induced daze from late nights and long sleeps) that the test wasn't timed and to read every word and go slowly. And slowly he went. Very slowly. I was convinced he'd failed. But miracles happen, and with no prior studying, he passed. Then, it was just a matter of waiting at the photo area (Desk #4) for his permit to print out. Despite recent changes in Illinois licenses, the permit is still text only, no photo.

While our son was signing his permit, I checked with the DMV employee behind Desk #4 that he did not have to hold the second permit for another 9 months before he could obtain his license. She consulted with her supervisor who verified that the period of holding the permit remains the date from which the first permit was issued. With that bit of knowledge, we left, nearly 2-1/2 hours later.

In summary, what to bring:

  1. The original permit;
  2. Birth certificate or passport;
  3. Mail to the permit holder (report card, bank statement, recent paycheck stub showing the permit holder's name and address);
  4. $10 (cash, check, or credit card accepted);
  5. Glasses or contacts, if the driver's permit holder wears them; and,
  6. An awake and aware permit holder who is ready to retake the written exam.

A parent or legal guardian does need to accompany the permit holder in order to sign permission papers if the driver is under 18 years of age.

The Magic 17 Years & 3 Months

During the long wait for our number, I researched options if our son had failed the written exam. Here is what I learned:

  • In Illinois, an individual who is 17 years and 3 months of age does not need to provide proof that he or she is enrolled in a driver's education program to receive a learner's permit.
  • Those under 18 must hold their initial permits for 9 months before they can obtain a driver's license.
  • Also in Illinois, 18- to 20-year-old residents who are applying for their first driver's license must prove that they have completed either the standard teenage driver's education course through their high school or an accredited driving school OR a 6-hour adult driver's education course through an accredited driving school. These adult driver's education courses are available online and start at below $100.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Caroline Paulison Andrew