The regulations of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) vary per state. However, when it comes to issuing driver’s licenses, each DMV office requires an applicant to first pass the written, vision and driving tests. In most cases, once a license is issued, there's generally no need to retake any of these tests upon license renewal. However, there are certain instances that retaking of either the written or driving test (or both) may be required.
If you don’t have tickets or accidents, you don’t need to take a written DMV test unless you're holding a commercial driver's license or you allow your license to expire. If you have non-commercial driver's license, there are some states that provide a grace period for you not to take the written test even for renewal of an expired license, but this usually involves only up to a certain time period after the license's expiration. For instance, in Nevada, you're required to retake the written test if you try to renew your license a year after its expiration.
Transferring to Another State
When transferring to another state, you're generally required to obtain a new driver’s license from the state where you'll be transferring within 30 days of residency. If you have a valid out-of-state license, this will be checked when you apply for a new license. If it's found you don’t have any outstanding citations or anything in your driving record that can question your driving ability, you won't be required to take the written test to get a new license.
If you're an active-duty military member who's out-of-state, the DMV in your home state provides you options on how to renew or extend the expiration of your license. This way, you'll avoid losing your driving privileges, violating laws by driving with an expired license, and having to retake the written and driving tests because of not renewing or extending your license on time. Some states, like Colorado, grant driver's license extensions to military members and their spouses and dependents. There are also states, like New York, that grant automatic extensions. Some don’t offer this option, but they make it possible for these people to renew their licenses via mail, such as Nevada.
Commercial Driver’s License
Using a commercial driver’s license has more demanding requirements, especially if you're getting a HazMat endorsement on your license (ability to transport hazardous materials). While the exact requirements vary per state, this type of commercial driver’s license generally requires you to pass the HazMat test, along with the written test, every license renewal, even if you don’t have any problem with your driving history.
For instance, in Arizona, both first-time applicants or drivers renewing their commercial driver’s licenses are required to apply in person at any local DMV office; pay the fees; and pass the tests, medical examination and background records check.