Every state has driver’s licenses, including, standard, CDL, and special licenses. Some states also have hardship licenses. Let’s talk about hardship licenses, their use, and the requirements to apply for one.

What Is a Hardship License?

A hardship license is considered a special license that allows you to operate a motor vehicle while your regular state license is suspended. Teenagers who are between 14 and 15 years of age can also obtain a hardship license if they qualify. Hardship licenses have restrictions on when and where you can operate a motor vehicle.

Hardship License Eligibility

Hardship licenses are also referred to as provisional or restricted licenses. This type of license can be granted to individuals who are facing specific circumstances or hardships that affect their driving privileges.

A hardship license can be issued by the DMV or the equivalent licensing authority. The specific requirements for obtaining a hardship license can vary depending on different factors, such as the jurisdiction and age.

The most common reasons for hardship licenses being granted include the following:

  • Employment
    • Some jurisdictions will grant a hardship license to individuals who are required to drive to and from work but have lost their standard driving privileges because of certain offenses.
  • Education
    • Students who must commute to school or college may be able to receive a hardship license.
  • Medical Purposes
    • Persons with medical conditions that make it necessary for them to drive, such as for medical appointments or treatment, may be eligible for a hardship license.
  • Family Care
    • Some jurisdictions consider the need to care for a family member, such as an elderly parent or a dependent child, as a valid reason to approve a hardship license application.
  • Court Order
    • In some instances, a court may recommend or request the issuance of a hardship license as part of a legal proceeding.

How Long Do You Need a Hardship License?

The term you may require a hardship license depends on your unique circumstances. As a teenager, your state may only allow you to obtain a hardship license until a specific time, age, or if your circumstances change. If you have been granted a hardship license due to DUI or other criminal charges, the court will determine how long you can use the license, if your application is approved.

Hardship License Restrictions

Although a hardship license is not a standard driver’s license, you are allowed to operate a motor vehicle with restricted driving privileges. When you are approved for a hardship license, you will be made aware of the circumstances of having this license.

In some states, you may be required to take a specific route to work school, or other destination. Restrictions may also be placed on the times of day you can drive, such as from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Your hardship license restrictions will depend on the reason you are applying for the license. Some hardship licenses will have time and place limitations which restricts your driving privileges to certain times of travel to and from certain places.

Another restriction that may be enforced is the number of passengers you can carry while you’re operating a motor vehicle or limiting the passengers to your immediate family members. Some of these restrictions may vary if you are applying for a hardship license for medical reasons.

You may also be limited to the number of miles you can drive per way. For example, you may only be allowed to drive 20 miles per way, or your hardship license may only be valid during daylight hours.

If you need a hardship license to get to and from school, you may be limited to the number of miles you can drive. If your school is within walking distance, it’s likely that your hardship license won’t be approved. In most states, your school must be a certain amount of miles away from your home to be eligible for a hardship license.

If you’re applying for a hardship license to get to and from work, you may be required to work a minimum number of hours before the license is approved. For example, in Wyoming, applicants are required to work a minimum of 10 hours per week.

Depending on the type of business your family owns, you may need a hardship license to work for them. For example, farming is a common reason teenagers and adults may need to apply for a hardship license.

If you have questions or concerns regarding obtaining a hardship license in your state, contact your local DMV branch for assistance.

Is There a Wait Time for Receiving a Hardship License?

In most scenarios, there is a waiting period before you can apply for a hardship license. There may be a length of time where you will not be allowed to drive before obtaining a hardship license. If your license is suspended or revoked, you won’t be able to apply for a hardship license immediately after this occurrence.

Your waiting period to obtain a hardship license will serve as the penalty for the vehicle offense or multiple offenses you were charged with. Most states also require you to install an ignition interlock device on the vehicle you plan on using as a condition of receiving a hardship license.

Hardship License Restrictions for Teenage Drivers

Having a hardship license as a teenager does not give you free rein to tour the world! You must adhere to all restrictions of the license that are applied by your state. Contact your local DMV branch to learn more about the hardship application process for your state.

What Happens If I Violate the License Restrictions?

If your application for a hardship license is approved and you violate the restrictions that are set by a judge or an official, you could face revocation of that license. In this situation, you will NOT be able to apply for another hardship license.

How Do You Get a Hardship License?

To receive a hardship license in your state, the steps and rules for applying may vary. In general, you’ll need to submit an application to the DMV or motor vehicle authority along with documents that support your claim of hardship, proof of identity, and payment for all applicable fees. Check your state’s website to see if this type of license is offered in your state and the documents you need to have to apply.

Reinstating Your Standard Driver’s License

Once you complete the terms of having a hardship license, you will need to reinstate your state-standard driver’s license. To reinstate your driver’s license after having a hardship license, you must take the following steps:

  • Visit the appropriate office or hearing site
  • Pass the required test (tests)
  • Provide proof of enrollment in an Advanced Driver Improvement course
  • Submit a valid court order (you may also be required to submit a form from your auto insurance provider)
  • Have an ignition interlock device installed on your car
  • Pay all applicable fees

Be advised that you can NOT use a restricted hardship license to operate a commercial vehicle.

Getting a hardship license can be the step you need to take to get back on track. Check out what programs your state offers and start the process!