Hardship License (Class H or XH)

A Hardship License is a special license issued to a minor who is either fourteen (14) or fifteen (15) years of age to operate either a (Class D) non-commercial passenger vehicle or (Class M) motorcycle or both. A Hardship License is only valid for use only during daylight hours and to authorized locations specified by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. This license is only issued in cases of family hardship and limited to specific needs.

Applicants who are approved to apply for a Hardship License must pass a vision screening, knowledge test, and road test to operate a passenger vehicle. To drive a motorcycle, the applicant will also be required to take the Motorcycle License knowledge and road skills test in addition to the Regular Driver License knowledge test. With a Hardship License,  motorcycle operation is limited to those with 125 cylinder capacity.

Drivers with a Hardship License who are at least fifteen (15) years old are extended the same privileges as those holding a Teen/Graduated Driver License (GDL). Regardless of age at time of approval, a Hardship License will expire on the applicant's 16th birthday.

NOTE: If you are approved for a Hardship License and it is less than 6 months until your 16th birthday, you will be required to renew a Teen/Graduated Driver License upon expiration of your Hardship License. You will need to hold the GDL Level I - Learner Permit until you have attained a total of 180 days driving experience before advancing to the GDL Level II - Intermediate Restricted License and meet the Graduated Driver License Requirements as outlined in the Comprehensive Driver Manual.

If the holder of the Hardship License is at least 15 years of age, the license may be used as an instructional permit for their Teen/Graduated Driver License, as long as all other requirements are met.


  1. Applicant must be a Tennessee resident who is least 14 years old
  2. Applicant must submit a Minor/Teenage Affidavit and Cancellation Form and Certification of Compulsory School Attendance Form
  3. Applicants for a Hardship License must meet the same eligibility standards for a Teen/Graduated Driver License (GDL) – Learner Permit
  4. Applicants who are 14 years of age, or those who have not held a GDL Level I - Learner Permit for at least 3 months, must show proof of successful completion of a State-approved Driver Education/Training Course


  1. Drivers with a valid Hardship License may operate a (Class D) non-commercial passenger vehicle or (Class M) motorcycle only. To drive a motorcycle, the applicant will be required to take the Class M knowledge test and Class M road skills test in addition to the Class D knowledge test.
  2. Hardship Licenses are valid only for daylight hours. This means no driving earlier than 5 a.m. and no later than 7 p.m. No exceptions.
  3. Hardship Licenses are valid only for travel to pre-authorized locations that are specified on the approval letter.
  4. Passengers are limited to immediate family members only.
  5. A Hardship License will be approved for the most direct route only with a mileage limitation of 25 miles, one way.
  6. Persons holding a valid Hardship License are not allowed to tow other vehicles or trailers.
  7. Destinations that will be considered for approval with the appropriate justification include:
    • School - only if no bus transportation is provided. This requires a letter from the Principal/Headmaster on school letterhead verifying no bus transportation is provided from home to school and/or verifying participation in the school sponsored activity and/or accredited course.
    • Work – This requires letter from employer verifying employment. Job must assist in financially supporting the family.
    • Medical – If a medical reason applies to applicant, this requires a letter from the attending physician verifying medical condition and frequency of visits. If medical reason applies to someone other than the applicant, they must submit a medical statement from the attending physician verifying condition and stating how it affects that person’s ability to drive. Immediate family members may include parents, grandparents, stepparents or legal guardians if living in the same household as applicant.
  8. Provide Proof of Citizenship/Lawful Permanent Residency or Proof of Temporary Legal Presence

NOTE: If a driver is found to be driving before or after hours, on an unapproved route, or with non-approved passengers, their license can be suspended.

Proof of hardship must be mailed with a Hardship License application to the Driver Services Division for evaluation. Each application is reviewed and evaluated on an individual basis. Less than one percent of all licenses issued to minors are Hardship Licenses. If approved, the applicant will receive a letter authorizing application for a Hardship License.

Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
Driver Services Division
PO BOX 945
Nashville, TN 37202