Tennessee Hardship License: The Application and Process

Every year, many Tennesseans find themselves in challenging circumstances where they need help to obtain a traditional driver’s license. For some, the solution lies in a hardship license.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the intricacies of securing such a license, the documentation you need, and the process involved, ensuring you are well informed and prepared for every step.

Definition of a Class H or XH Hardship License

A hardship license, sometimes called a Class H hardship license or XH license, is specifically designed for individuals who may not meet the typical criteria for a valid driver’s license, but due to certain hardships, need to drive. Whether it’s a loss of a family breadwinner, medical emergencies, or compulsory school attendance, Tennessee recognizes that mobility can be a pressing need.

Historically, hardship licenses have been essential to the Tennessee Department’s initiative to ensure residents don’t face insurmountable barriers due to their circumstances. It’s more than just a license, it’s an acknowledgment of life’s challenges and a means to ensure continuity and support.

Understanding the underlying values of the hardship license system illuminates Tennessee’s dedication to its residents. Historically, states across America have recognized the essential nature of transportation in a person’s life, especially when public transport options might be limited or non-existent. 

In rural parts of Tennessee, the need for efficient public transportation systems can be a significant challenge. The state recognizes the geographical variations and understands that urban solutions might not be effective for rural residents.

In urban areas, while there might be better transportation infrastructure, personal transportation’s cost, convenience, and flexibility are unmatched, especially for those managing multiple responsibilities.

In many areas of Tennessee, having access to a personal vehicle is not just a luxury, but a necessity. It allows individuals to maintain employment, attend crucial medical appointments, and ensure their children receive an education.

The Class H or XH hardship license embodies  commitment to supporting residents during challenging times, acting as a bridge until they can secure a standard driver’s license.

Additionally, there are several benefits to the community at large when residents can access hardship licenses. It helps reduce the burden on public transportation, supports local economies as individuals can continue their employment or businesses, and contributes to community cohesion as residents can participate in social and communal activities.

Qualifying for Hardship License Application

Before diving into the hardship license application, it’s crucial to understand the prerequisites. The Tennessee Department has set the same eligibility standards to ensure the license serves those in need.

Age Requirement: Must be of a certain age depending on the type of hardship. If the applicant is underage, they may need a learner permit

Reason for Applying: Compelling circumstances like the need to attend school, medical emergencies, or loss of a family’s primary income source.

Driving Record: An applicant should have a relatively clean driving record with no recent major violations.

Class D Knowledge Test: Depending on the license type, the applicant may need to clear a Class D knowledge test to get a class D license. A class D license is also known as an operator license. 

Existing Restrictions: Those with certain restrictions or suspensions may not be eligible.

Hardship License Application Form Checklist

One should note that while the hardship license is meant to assist those in genuine need, it’s not a bypass for those with serious driving violations. The state believes in balancing the needs of individuals with public safety. Therefore, applicants must prove they are not only facing hardship but are also responsible drivers.
This dual requirement ensures that while supporting its citizens, the Tennessee Department maintains road safety for all.

Having all the necessary documents at your fingertips is crucial to ensure a smooth hardship license application. Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Completed hardship license form.
  • Proof of the specific hardship, such as medical documents or school attendance needs.
  • A copy of your driving record from the driver’s license station.
  • If under 18, a signed compulsory school attendance form. This may enable the applicant to receive a learner permit (class pd license).
  • Documentation showing completion of the required knowledge and driving test.
  • Payment for the application fee (amount varies).

Getting a Hardship License Fast

If time is of the essence, ensure you have all documents prepared and visit your nearest driver license station early in the day. It’s also beneficial to familiarize yourself with the hardship license application form in advance, ensuring all sections are correctly filled out.

Additionally, keeping track of the most recent changes or revisions to the hardship license application form can be beneficial. The Tennessee Department periodically reviews and updates application requirements based on evolving needs and feedback. 

Staying updated ensures your application process is swift and devoid of any unforeseen roadblocks. Some residents opt for consultations with legal experts specializing in hardship licenses to ensure they have a seamless application experience.

Hardship License Fees

Navigating the journey of obtaining a hardship license involves several steps, and one crucial aspect is the associated fees. The Tennessee Department usually requires an application fee for the hardship license. 

The exact fee can vary, depending on the specifics of your application and the kind of license you are applying for, be it Class H, XH, or other types. Additional costs may also arise if there’s a need for retaking any knowledge and driving test. 

Remember that these fees are subject to change, and it’s always advisable to refer to the official Tennessee Department’s website or consult directly with your local driver license station for the most accurate and updated fee structure.

Furthermore, while fees are a necessary part of the application process, it’s essential to note that they fund the administrative processes that keep the hardship license system running smoothly. 

The revenue generated from these fees contributes to staffing, maintenance of the driver license stations, and the creation of comprehensive resources for applicants. That ensures that every applicant receives timely and efficient service when they approach the Tennessee Department for a hardship license.

Locations for Obtaining a Hardship License

Once you’ve prepared your documents and are ready for the hardship license application, the next step is knowing where to go. Hardship licenses can get obtained at any full-service driver license station. 

While there are multiple locations across the state, it’s a good practice to visit the one closest to you or known for shorter waiting times. To facilitate this process, the Tennessee Department provides a comprehensive list of all full-service stations on its official website, ensuring applicants have all the necessary resources.

For a seamless experience, here’s a direct link to the list of driver’s license stations. where you can get your hardship license. Always remember to check their operational hours and, if possible, call ahead to ensure they can accommodate your application on the day of your visit.

When planning your visit, consider avoiding peak times like lunch hours or late afternoons. Weekdays, especially mid-week, tend to be less crowded than weekends. The early bird often gets the worm, so aiming to be there when the driver license station opens can also be advantageous.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification when you’re there. The staff at these stations get trained to assist and provide guidance on the hardship license process. Their insights can be invaluable, ensuring you understand each step of your application journey.


Navigating the intricacies of obtaining a hardship license often raises questions; here are some of the most frequently asked:

What are the requirements to get your hardship license?

Applicants need specific qualifications, a filled hardship license application form, and must prove genuine hardship to commute without a license.

How much does it cost to get a hardship license?

You may be wondering how much it costs to get a hardship license. Fees vary; however, there’s an application fee, and additional costs might apply for retests. Always refer to the Tennessee Department’s official fees list for how to get a hardship license. 

Who would qualify for a temporary license?

Individuals facing genuine hardships like medical emergencies or school attendance, where no other transportation means is available, may qualify.

How do I get a restricted license after a DUI?

Apply at a driver license station, provide evidence of financial responsibility, and fulfill other specific DUI-related criteria.


Acquiring a hardship license is essential for those facing genuine commuting hardships. This article provided a comprehensive overview of the hardship license application process, associated fees, and other crucial details to guide applicants through their journey. Always consult the Tennessee Department’s official resources for up-to-date information.

As laws and regulations evolve, the criteria for obtaining a hardship license in Tennessee might see revisions.

By staying informed and diligently following the application process, you maximize your chances of a favorable outcome. The essence of the hardship license is to ensure that residents of Tennessee don’t remain stranded due to unforeseen challenges, reinforcing the state’s commitment to its citizens’ welfare.