Cars 101 | How to Get a U.S. Driver's License
To make the process of buying a car, applying for loans and having a legal ID on hand easier, many international students decide to get a U.S. driver's license.
Benefits of having a U.S. driver's license
While an International Driving Permit (IDP), combined with the driver's license from your home country may allow you to legally drive in the United States, rules vary by state. You will need to conduct a lot of research regarding the state you live in before start driving.
If you plan to rent a car to drive around or go on road trips in the United States, call the rental agency ahead of time. Many rental agencies require U.S. driver's licenses. Again, the rules always vary by states and locations.
Having a U.S. driver's license means you can drive in every state without restriction. It's a streamlined and universally-understood form of I.D, as well. With a U.S. driver's license, you could directly use this little card as your ID and no longer need to carry your passport everywhere with you.
How to get information about a U.S. driver's license
The process of getting a U.S. driver's license varies depending on the state where you'll attend school.
Your designated school official (DOS) can offer further guidance about your specific state's rules. It's also smart to contact the motor vehicle agency in the state where you intend to drive to learn about their requirements, as well.
Remember, getting a driver's license in the United States is different than getting a learner's permit. A U.S. driver's license allows you to drive legally in all 50 states at any time, without restriction. A learner's permit may require you to have a licensed driver in the vehicle with you at all times.
How to go through the process of getting a U.S. driver's license
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offer valuable information about getting a U.S. driver's license. They indicate that you should bring the following information to the DMV when you apply for a license:
- Form I-20/Form DS-2019
- Form I-94
- Valid passport
- Address Proof
- Social Security Card with valid SSN or other related documents (Some states may require you to prove that you do not have a SSN if you are an international student. Please consult your school advisor for further details and assistance)
If you decide to get a U.S. driver's license, wait 10 days after you arrive. This lets the government databases sync new information and will help you avoid a three-week waiting period.
In many states, you'll have to take a driving test as well as a written test. Each local DMV has information about what to expect during the process. There are also a lot of studying guide for you to better prepare for the written test.
Once you pass the written test, in most states, you will be able to get a learner's permit which gives you the right to practice driving under proper guidance. Some states require certain hours of practice while others may not. If you are new to driving or didn't drive for a long time, attending classes at driving school could help you practice and increase your chance to pass the driving test.
Contact us if you have any questions about applying for a loan. We will help you walk through the process and end up in the driver's seat!