Written driver’s tests for new Minnesota residents going away

People waited in the lobby of the state Driver and Vehicle Services.
People waited in the lobby of the state Driver and Vehicle Services office in downtown St. Paul. Starting Aug. 1, people moving to Minnesota will no longer have to take a written test to get a Minnesota driver’s license if they have a valid license from another state.
Tim Nelson | MPR News 2018

Starting Aug. 1, people moving to Minnesota will no longer have to take a written test to get a Minnesota driver’s license if they have a valid license from another state.

Bill author Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, says the new law is intended to alleviate backlogs at testing centers for the driver’s license exam, or the class D knowledge test, for people who have an out-of-state license. Gov. Tim Walz signed the law in May.

While new Minnesota residents didn’t have to take a road test before the policy change, they did have to wait in line to take the knowledge test.

“We just thought it made sense with some of the backlogs we’re seeing both with the driver’s test and written test,” said Jasinski.

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Real ID driver's license samples
An example image of Minnesota Driver's License.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Public Safety

The backlogs date back to the pandemic, but are still on the rise, according to the bill’s authors. And they say demand is about to get stronger.

“Now with the passage of driver’s licenses for undocumented people as well, there are going to be a lot more people applying for it,” said House bill co-author Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca. “So we did think there could be some relief in the fact that at least out-of-state drivers who have a driver’s license won’t have to take the written exam, allowing more time for others that may need it like high school students.”

Petersburg also said the requirement seemed redundant and would eliminate “headaches” at driver's license bureaus and testing stations.

More than 30 other states do not require a written test if you are 21 and older and already have a driver’s license from a different state. Last year, about 81,000 people with an out-of-state license took the class D knowledge exam to obtain a Minnesota driver’s license, according to a fiscal note on the law.

About 11,800 people, or over 6 percent, had to pay a $10 fee for a third or subsequent knowledge test after failing the first two free tests. A total of 39,378 retests were taken last year.

Nicole Justice, a new resident of New Brighton, Minn. recently moved from Fargo, N.D. and took the knowledge test shortly after settling in her new home. It took her a month and a half to get an appointment for the exam.

“It's a good thing that they're getting rid of that as one more thing people have to do,” Justice said.

Driver and Vehicle Services expects wait times for tests, which are currently booked online, to be shortened to less than a month for new residents.

According to a Department of public safety blog post, it will take about a week to process a driver’s license application and another two weeks for the card to come in the mail.

Dakota County License Center in Lakeville and Clay County Department of Motor Vehicles in Moorhead will provide same day services. Drivers will need two identification documents and an out-of-state driver’s license or certified driving record and will have to pay a $38 fee for a class D license.