How to Apply for New Mexico 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?

Being one of the least populated states in the US, New Mexico offers you a lot of opportunities for driving. Whether you live in Albuquerque, Santa Fe or in the country, you need a car for work, school and travel across The Land of Enchantment. Follow this full step-by-step guide to getting, renewing or transferring your driver license fast and easy.

Get an instruction permit

Allows you to practice driving under supervision.

Get a provisional license

Allows you to drive unsupervised with restrictions.

Get a Full (Adult) License

Allows you to drive with no restrictions.

Types of Driver Licenses in New Mexico

For each license type there's a corresponding type of instruction permit
New Mexico Class D Driver's License
Class D
It is a regular non-commercial driver license that allows you to operate cars and trucks less than 26,001 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW) and tow vehicles of smaller weight. Read the NM Driver Manual or take a free NM MVD practice test.
New Mexico Class A/B/C Driver's License
Class A/B/C Commercial
These are commercial driver licenses (CDL) that allow you to operate any combination of vehicles with gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more provided the GVRW of the vehicle towed is more than 10,000 pounds (Class A); any vehicle with GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more or towing a vehicle with GVWR not in excess of 10,000 pounds (Class B); any single vehicle that transports 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or is placarded for transportation of hazardous materials (Class C). Read the NM CDL Driver Manual or take a free NM CDL practice test.
New Mexico Motorcycle Driver's License
Class M Motorcycle
It allows you to operate a motorcycle. Read the NM Motorcycle Laws and the Basic Ridercourse or take a free NM motorcycle practice test.

How to Apply for Your NM Class D Driver License

To apply for your first driver license in New Mexico, you must gather documentation and pass an eye, written and road test. This is your complete plan of action depending on your age.

How to Apply for Your Instructional Permit in New Mexico

Instructional permit is the first step of the New Mexico Graduated Licensing System that limits teenagers’ exposure to potentially dangerous driving situations. The permit allows you to drive with an adult (21+) who has been a licensed driver for at least 3 years.

1ENROLL IN A STATE-APPROVED DRIVER EDUCATION PROGRAM

You may choose a driver education school licensed and certified by the Traffic Safety Bureau. If you want your school to issue you a permit and provide written and road exams, choose one of the MVD contracted schools.

2VISIT AN MVD FIELD OFFICE WITH YOUR PARENT/GUARDIAN

There are state-owned and privately-owned offices. Note that private offices require extra fees for their services. Find an MVD office near you. No appointment is needed.

3BRING REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION

You must bring

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of identification number (SSN)
  • 2 proofs of NM residency

Choose the documents with the help of this list to avoid another trip to the MVD.

If you don't have enough documents, you may apply for a driver authorization card. Check the list of documents required here. If you cannot provide proof of lawful status, you must have your fingerprints captured. Get an appointment at one of the following offices: ABQ Special Services, Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Clovis, Espanola, Farmington, Las Cruces Del Rey, Raton, Roswell, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Silver City, Socorro, T or C, Tucumcari.

Documents not in English must be translated and the translation must be certified by the translator as full and complete.

4PROVIDE CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION OR INSTRUCTIONAL PERMIT REFERRAL CARD

Your driving school will provide it for you.

5COMPLETE AND SIGN THE APPLICATON FORM

Your parent/guardian must sign it with you to accept financial responsibility for your driving.

6PASS A VISION TEST

The standards for vision are 20/40 or better in at least one eye, with or without glasses. If you fail the test at the MVD, you will be given a vision report form to be completed by your ophthalmologist or optometrist.

7PASS THE KNOWLEDGE EXAM

You will have to answer 25 questions about the rules of the road of New Mexico. Read Frequently Asked Questions about the Knowledge Test and practice with free NM MVD practice tests before you go. If you fail, you may retake it one more time during the same week, even on the same day.

You don't have to take the exam if you passed it at one of MVD contracted schools.

8PAY THE INSTRUCTIONAL PERMIT FEE

$10.00

9GET YOUR INSTRUCTION PERMIT

Now you can practice driving supervised by another driver. You will hold your permit for at least 6 months before applying for the provisional license.

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How to Apply for Your Provisional License in New Mexico

It is the second stage of the New Mexico Graduated Licensing System for teenagers older than 15 ½ years of age. The provisional license allows you to drive on your own but with a number of restrictions:

  • No driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a licensed driver (21+). Exceptions are also made for school, work, family or medical needs and religious activities (must have a statement from the organization or parent/guardian).
  • No more than one passenger below 21 years of age unless he/she is a member of your immediate family.
  1. HOLD INSTRUCTIONAL PERMIT FOR AT LEAST 6 MONTHS

    You must maintain a clean driving record for 90 days before applying for the provisional license.

  2. COMPLETE AND PASS A TSB APPROVED DRIVER EDUCATION PROGRAM

    The program must include a 3 hour DWI component. The certificate of completion of your program must show that you got a passing score.

  3. COMPLETE GDL DRIVING LOG

    You may print out this form and have it completed and signed by your parent/guardian. You must log in at least 50 hours of driving including 10 hours at night.

  4. VISIT AN MVD FIELD OFFICE WITH YOUR PARENT/GUARDIAN

    There are state-owned and privately-owned offices. Note that private offices charge extra fees. Find an MVD office near you. You can make an appointment with the help of the MVD appointment wizard to avoid long waits.

  5. COMPLETE THE APPLICATION FORM

    You and your parent/guardian must sign it.

  6. PROVIDE REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION
    • Certificate of Completion from a Driver Education School
    • Driving log
    • Instructional permit

  7. PASS THE ROAD SKILLS EXAM

    You must bring a safe vehicle with proper registration and proof of insurance. Read about the road skills procedure here.

    If you fail the exam, you must wait at least one week before retaking it.

    You don't have to take the exam if you passed it at an MVD-contracted Driver Education School.

  8. PAY THE PROVISIONAL LICENSE FEE

    $18.00

  9. GET YOUR PROVISIONAL DRIVER LICENSE

    You must hold the provisional license for at least 12 months and keep your driving record clean before applying for your full (unrestricted) driver license.

How to Apply for Your Full Driver License in New Mexico

Every applicant who has never been licensed will have to take a vision, written and road test. You may apply for your full driver license at the age of 18 or at the age of 17 if you have a provisional license.

If you have never had a driver license, start with Step 1.

If you have hold a provisional license for 12 months, visit an MVD office with your parent/guardian (if under 18) and exchange your provisional license for a full driver license.

1TAKE THE “NONE OF THE ROAD” SELF-STUDY DWI AWARENESS CLASS (IF AGED 18-24)

You can register online for this class which is administered by the University of New Mexico Continuing Education. You may also apply by calling (505) 277-0051 (Albuquerque and surrounding areas) or toll-free at (877) 663-7465 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

If you are older than 25, you are not required to take it.

2VISIT AN MVD FIELD OFFICE

There are state-owned and privately-owned offices. Note that private offices require extra fees for their services. Find an MVD office near you. No appointment is needed.

3BRING REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION

You must bring

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of identification number (SSN)
  • 2 proofs of NM residency

Choose the documents with the help of this list to avoid another trip to the MVD.

If you don't have enough documents, you may apply for a driver authorization card. Check the list of documents required here. If you cannot provide proof of lawful status, you must have your fingerprints captured. Get an appointment at one of the following offices: ABQ Special Services, Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Clovis, Espanola, Farmington, Las Cruces Del Rey, Raton, Roswell, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Silver City, Socorro, T or C, Tucumcari.

Documents not in English must be translated and the translation must be certified by the translator as full and complete.

4COMPLETE AND SIGN THE APPLICATON FORM

5PASS A VISION TEST

The standards for vision are 20/40 or better in at least one eye, with or without glasses. If you fail the test at the MVD, you will be given a vision report form to be completed by your ophthalmologist or optometrist.

6PASS THE KNOWLEDGE EXAM

You will have to answer 25 questions about the rules of the road of New Mexico. Read Frequently Asked Questions about the Knowledge Test and practice with free NM MVD practice tests before you go. If you fail, you may retake it one more time during the same week, even on the same day.

You don't have to take the exam if you passed it at one of MVD contracted schools.

7PASS THE ROAD SKILLS EXAM

Make an appointment with the help of the MVD appointment wizard to avoid long waits.

You must bring a safe vehicle with proper registration and proof of insurance. Read about the road skills procedure here.

If you fail the exam, you must wait at least one week before retaking it.

You don't have to take the exam if you passed it at an MVD-contracted Driver Education School.

8PAY THE LICENSE FEE

$18.00 for a 4-year license, or

$34.00 for an 8-year license

Your New Mexico driver license will be REAL ID compliant ( will have a yellow star in the top right corner) if you submitted enough documents from step 3. If you don't have enough documentation, you will get a Driver's Authorization Card (DAC).

New Mexico Knowledge Exam aka Written Test

Take a free practice test
What does the exam consist of?
There are 25 multiple-choice questions about New Mexico rules of the road, traffic signs and markings as well as DWI laws. The test may be administered at the computer or on paper. Your test score must be at least 70% to pass the exam.
How to prepare for the exam?
Study NM Driver Manual as all questions are based on the information provided there. Then prepare with the help of our 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 errors must I avoid when taking the NM knowledge exam?
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.
Can I use the manual when taking the actual test?
No, it’s considered cheating. Moreover, you mustn’t use your phone or other wireless devices.
May I take the exam in another language?
You may take it in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Italian, German, French, Vietnamese and Chinese. There are no plans for adding other languages.
When can I take the exam?
You may take the exam during MVD office hours, however, most offices do not allow knowledge exams after 3 p.m.
What happens if I fail the test?
If you fail the test, you can retake it during the same week (you may use your second attempt even on the same day). If you fail again, you may try the next week. The testing week begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday. However, after the third failure, you will have to wait for 6 months from the date of your first exam before your next attempt.

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Road Test

Step-by-Step Guide
What to expect during NM road skills test
Road Test FAQ

The road test measures your ability to drive safely and your knowledge of the rules of the road. You will be driving over a designated route with an examiner at your side. Note that pets and kids are not allowed to be in the car with you.

You may take the test at the state-owned or private-owned locations. Note that private-owned locations require extra fees. If you choose to take the test at a state-owned location, make an appointment with the help of the MVD appointment wizard to avoid standing in lines.

Before the test

Make sure you bring a safe vehicle which has

  • Proper registration
  • Insurance certificate

The examiner will first carry out the pre-road test of your vehicle to check if it is safe to drive. The following car features must be safe and in good working order, otherwise, the examiner won't proceed with the test:

  • Seatbelts
  • Rearview mirror(s)
  • Muffler
  • Windshield and side glass
  • Parking brake
  • Horn
  • Wipers
  • Head, stop and tail lamps
  • Front and rear signals
  • Rear reflectors
  • Speedometer
During the test

To pass the exam, you must listen to the examiner carefully and follow the instructions given. Your route will contain the following features:

  • Driving for at least 4 blocks straightaway
  • At least 2 right and 2 left turns
  • At least one intersection controlled by traffic lights
  • At least one intersection controlled by stop signs
  • A hill or grade where you can park parallel to the curb between two cars or markers within a space equal to the car length + 6 feet (may be included, but not required)

The examiner will be watching and evaluating the following maneuvers:

  • Starting the car (check surroundings before moving)
  • Your actions at stop signs and traffic signals (full stop, position, starting promptly)
  • Lane usage (choosing proper lanes, position in lane)
  • Passing and being passed
  • Controlling your speed
  • Giving and accepting right-of-way
  • Turning (starting and finishing in the correct lane)
  • Signaling (when starting from the curb, changing lanes and turning, know arm signals)
  • Steering (both hand on the wheel)
  • Braking (smoothly)

You have 100 points at the beginning of the test. The examiner will take off points for your errors. To pass the test, you need to keep at least 70 points. Check the road score record that MVD examiners use to see how you can lose points.

You will fail the exam automatically if you do any of the following:

  • Get into a collision
  • Commit a dangerous action (e.g., a near accident is prevented only because of evasive driving action of another driver)
  • Lack cooperation (you refuse to try any maneuver, fail to follow instructions repeatedly)
At the End of the Test
Your examiner will let you know if you pass or fail the test. The examiner will also explain all your errors and suggest how to improve your driving. If you fail, you will have to wait at least a week to take the exam again.

How to Renew Your New Mexico Driver License

  • Your New Mexico driver license will be valid for 4 or 8 years. It is illegal to drive without a valid driver license, that is why you are required to renew it up to 90 days before or 30 days after its date of expiration.

    You may renew your license in person at any MVD field office. If your current license is not a REAL ID ( doesn't have a yellow star in the top right hand corner), you will have to bring extra documents to get a REAL ID driver license. Note that you won't be able to use another type of license to board the plane or enter federal facilities where ID is required after October 1, 2020.

    Plan of Action:

    1. VISIT AN MVD FIELD OFFICE

      There are state-owned and privately-owned offices. Note that private offices require extra fees for their services. Find an MVD office near you. No appointment is needed.

    2. BRING REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION

      To get a REAL ID, you must bring

      1. Proof of identity
      2. Proof of identification number (SSN)
      3. 2 proofs of NM residency

      Choose the documents with the help of this list to avoid another trip to the MVD.

      If you don't have enough documents to get a REAL ID, you may get a driver authorization card. To get it, bring:

      1. Your current license
      2. One more form of identity

      Documents not in English must be translated and the translation must be certified by the translator as full and complete.

    3. PAY THE LICENSE FEE

      $18.00 for a 4-year license, or

      $34.00 for an 8-year license

    4. SURRENDER YOUR CURRENT LICENSE

      It will be punched and returned to you with your temporary license which will be valid for 45 days.

    5. PASS REQUIRED TESTS (FOR EXPIRED LICENSES ONLY)

      If your license expired more than a year ago, you will have to pass the written test. If you license expired more than 5 years ago, you will also take the road exam.

      Your New Mexico driver license will be valid for another 4 or 8 years. It will be processed and sent to you by mail within 45 days. You may check the status of your license online.

  • New Mexico MVD doesn’t offer renewals by mail at this time.
  • The easiest way to renew is to do it online. However, you may renew online only if all of the following is true:

    1. Your current license was issued after November 12, 2016.
    2. Your current license is valid or expired less than a year ago.
    3. You are between 18 and 75 years of age.

    Plan of Action:

    1. Go to the MVD Online Portal and choose online renewal.
    2. Enter the following information:
      1. Your license number
      2. Name and date of birth
      3. Last 4 digits of your ID (SSN, Matricula, Passport)

    3. Pay the fee of $18.00 for a 4-year license or $34.00 for an 8-year license.
    4. Print your temporary license. Your new license will be mailed to you.

New Residents: How to Get the New Mexico Driver License

If you move to New Mexico and want to keep driving here, you must transfer your license upon establishing your residency or becoming employed for compensation for the purpose of driving a motor vehicle.
Out-of-state license Foreign license
Not sure if you are a resident of New Mexico?
Are you a New Mexico resident?
You’re considered resident for driver license purposes if you move to New Mexico and establish your permanent home here.
Residing temporarily?
Are you a visiting California

You won't have to transfer your valid license to a New Mexico driver license if

  • You are an employee of the United States driving on official business in a motor vehicle owned by or leased to the United States
  • You are non-resident of 15 and over years of age with a valid driver's license issued by your home state or country.
  • You are non-resident of 18 and over years of age and your home state or country does not require the licensing of drivers. You may drive your motor vehicle for no more than 180 days a year if your car is duly registered in your home state or country.
  • You drive a farm tractor or implement of husbandry temporarily drawn, moved or propelled on the highway.

I’ve Got a Valid Out-of-State License

Moving from another US state? Welcome to New Mexico!
Moving from another state?

If you have a driver license from another state, you may transfer it without taking any tests apart from a vision test if your license is valid or expired less than a year ago.

Plan of Action
  1. TAKE THE "NONE OF THE ROAD" SELF-STUDY DWI AWARENESS CLASS (IF AGED 18-24)

    You can register online for this class which is administered by the University of New Mexico Continuing Education. You may also apply by calling (505) 277-0051 (Albuquerque and surrounding areas) or toll-free at (877) 663-7465 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

    If you are older than 25, you are not required to take it.

  2. VISIT AN MVD FIELD OFFICE

    There are state-owned and privately-owned offices. Note that private offices require extra fees for their services. Find an MVD office near you here. No appointment is needed.

  3. BRING REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION

    You must bring

    • Your current driver license
    • Proof of identity
    • Proof of identification number (SSN)
    • 2 proofs of NM residency

    Choose the documents with the help of this list to avoid another trip to the MVD.

    If you don't have enough documents, you may apply for a driver authorization card. Check the list of documents required here. If you cannot provide proof of lawful status, you must have your fingerprints captured. Get an appointment at one of the following offices: ABQ Special Services, Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Clovis, Espanola, Farmington, Las Cruces Del Rey, Raton, Roswell, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Silver City, Socorro, T or C, Tucumcari.

    Documents not in English must be translated and the translation must be certified by the translator as full and complete.

  4. PASS A VISION TEST

    The standards for vision are 20/40 or better in at least one eye, with or without glasses. If you fail the test at the MVD, you will be given a vision report form to be completed by your ophthalmologist or optometrist.

  5. PAY THE LICENSE FEE

    $18.00 for a 4-year license, or

    $34.00 for an 8-year license

  6. SURRENDER YOUR OUT-OF-STATE LICENSE

    It will be punched and returned to you with your temporary license which will be valid for 45 days.

driver's license in New Mexico
Your New Mexico driver license will arrive by mail within 40 days. You may check the status of your license online.

I've Got a Valid Foreign License

Moving from another country? Welcome to New Mexico!

If you possess a foreign driver license, you may drive using it until you become a resident of New Mexico. As there is no time limit for "becoming a resident," you are not required to get a New Mexico driver license if you plan to return to your home country within a period of months, or even a year or more.

If you establish residency, you will have to pass a vision, knowledge and road test to get a New Mexico driver license. Your foreign driver license will be hole punched and returned to you together with your New Mexico driver license.

Follow the full procedure of getting your driver license in New Mexico.

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