Applicants for hardship licenses must be teenagers under the minimum age to apply for a regular driver's license and qualify for hardship status when applying at a state's Department of Motor Vehicles, Motor Vehicle Division, Department of Public Safety or other office. Exact criteria varies by state and specific information appears in a state's driver handbook. Not all states make hardship licenses available to applicants.
Hardship status may be requested if an applicant needs the license to drive to and from school or work or for long-term medical reasons. The state determines the mileage and work-hour minimums that apply. Routine medical visits do not usually qualify as a reason for hardship. An applicant's hardship status must be proven with verification of job or school attendance provided along with the regular hardship license application.
Hardship licenses, also referred to as restricted learner's permits, are issued with certain driving restrictions. The licenses are only valid for pre-authorized locations, such as school or work. Some states impose a mileage limitation to each drive; Tennessee, for example, imposes a limitation of 25 miles in each direction. Hardship licenses are often only valid during daylight hours and passengers may be limited to family members only.