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Can I drive with expired Driving License in US? H1B pending ?

I was driving with an expired driving license in the US and was pulled over in the state of Illinois. My situation was, I had applied for my H1B visa extension and was waiting for USCIS for the approval notice. It was a mistake on my part, and I had to go to court, and eventually, I got out. It was one of those naive mistakes that I did. In this article, I will explain my experience and why  I got citations and what are the exact rules, and how to handle if your H1B is pending.

Driving license expiration in the US, situation with H1B Pending

I applied for an H1B visa extension and I did not get an approval notice until the last day of expiration. The expiration date on my license was exactly the date of my H1B visa expiration. It reflected the I-94 date, which is in turn tied to the H1B visa expiration date.

What I knew from my friend’s experience was that many states in the US do not renew your driving license without having an H1B extension approval notice from USCIS.

The rule to renew a Driving license varies by state in the context of H1B pending applications; at least in IL state they do not extend your license without H1B extension.  Bottom line, I did not have a choice to renew my license other than wait for my extension approval notice to come in mail. It was a naive mistake on my part, and I just took a chance to drive for some work. I was pulled over just on 4th day after expiration…I was pulled over in neighboring state.

Traffic Citation Severity, Court presence, and Police officer Bail. Why NOT to drive?

The police officer told me that as I was driving with an expired driving license, if I were to be in my state of residence (a state where my license was issued), then my license would have been taken away, and I would have been taken to jail (worst case scenario), and then someone should come and bail me out. Driving with an expired license in the state of Illinois is a criminal or quasi-criminal offense.

Anyways, because I was out of state and driving in Wisconsin, the officer belonged to other state as well and that IL law could not be exercised. I was let go with a citation of $75 and a court appearance required.

In fact, the citation says, it is a criminal or quasi-criminal offense, and I was bailed out with an eye bond and was given 30 day grace period.  I had to sign on the bail form that, I was bailed on the rule that, I would not commit the offense again and I would abide by the rules.

What it means is that I cannot drive from then onwards until I get the renewal of my license. Anyways, luckily I had my friend with me, and the officer took my friend’s Driving license and ran a check, and told me that my friend should drive and I should not.

My assumptions about driving license expiration in USA

What I knew was I had an expired driving license from the USA, and I knew that I could not really fly anywhere because at the airport they might ask me for a valid ID. But, what I did NOT know was, it was illegal to drive with an expired license (when I have H1B pending with USCIS).   I was very naive in the beginning years of my life in the US as a foreigner.

I assumed that it was ‘ok’ to drive with an expired driving license when I have my approval pending with USCIS. Also, I assumed that there would not be any option from the DMV based on my friend’s feedback.

In all reality, every state is different, and some do give an extension of you driving license if you have the H1B application receipt notice and then employer letter. So, I should have checked. Because of my assumptions, I paid the price.

Now that we know the issue, let’s see what you should do if your license is expired and you are waiting for H1B

Options for Driving License Extension with H1B extension Pending

  • Go to DMV with the original receipt notice of H1B and explain the situation. You may have to go with your employer’s letter too. There is an option here, depending on the state. Some say in California, you can renew by mail and they just give extension. Some states do not renew, it is their discretion and policy…
  • Another option is, you may contact your home country and get an international driving license (If you already have one)
  • If you know that another state does give an extension of your driving license with your kind of situation, you may consider options to get a license from that state. This can be tough, but if you are a consultant and visit many states and have multiple locations changing, it may work…
  • This is the last option, do not drive and take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft…I know it can be hard; imagine it is a criminal offense if you get caught. One of the people I know got away for 4 months with an expired license, but my bad luck knocked my door on 4th day… In any case, NEVER TRY TO BREAK the RULES.

To summarize, I got this citation because of the dumb reason that “I did not know ( I assumed I would be ok to drive with an expired driving license for some time, but it was not true)  and  I was too naive to inquire about my options before expiration ( I did not call DMV and ask for my options)”. You should NOT make this mistake and end up in trouble like me.

I had a bad experience with speeding too, read my speeding mistake experience: Why NOT to Drive over speed limit in US ? Ticket, License, Insurance impact ?

Did you end up in any situation with an expired Driving License?  Does your state renew the license without approval notice and just an application receipt from USCIS, when it is pending? Share our experience in comments section below


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  1. I have a appointment for first time Texas DL/permit next month.
    My H1B has expired, My visa extension file is pending with USCIS.
    I am wondering if DPS will consider my expired visa with I-797 application notice as acceptable documents?

  2. Hi. I went for license renewal with my approved petition in MN. My documents were scanned and submitted by the person in Dmv. But I never received my card. Later when I checked the status of my DL it says the driving privileges are canceled. I dont understand why it happened. Can anybody help me out ? What should I do next? Did anyone face the same problem?

    • Rekha,
      I have not heard this. Try calling the DMV again or visit their office and try to understand the reason. It could have been an error too ? Is your H1B or H4 expired or pending ?

  3. Its funny someone has to write a tip on this title? Are people so dumb that they cannot understand the concept of expiry date? And what spikes me up is you know you cannot use your expired Drivers license to fly when the actual purpose of issuing a DL is to give privileged of driving on the road and the expiry means you cannot drive legally after that period.

  4. I got denied renewal even though I had a valid approval notice. Got told by the DMV clerk in Massachusetts that my documents are not valid since the start date on my notice is not yet current ( the start date is the very next day the 17th and I went to DMV on the 16th). I don’t understand what kind of bullsh*t is this. When I told the clerk the start date is the very next day, and my license is valid till today, got yelled at like I was an illegal, that immigration is not a joke blah.. blah…

    Will write an inquiry with the DMV and see what they say about this, how ridiculous.

  5. I had renewed my license in Waukegan DMV Illinois with Receipt notice.
    I have explained my situation with all the relevant documents ( Expired license, I797C, Passport, SSN, Utility bill) They took my documents and faxed to USCIS and asked me to wait for some time to receive reply. after waiting for 15 mins they said that they will be renew only for a particular date ( the date is 240 days from my i94 expiry). I accepted and they renewed.
    I had a “federal limits apply” statement on my DL which i got to know that i cannot use my License for domestic air travel. I have to carry my Passport if i am travelling by air.

    Thats fine for me i dont do much domestic travel

    • Hello Kiran,
      Thank you for sharing. I am in the same situation as yours.
      I will be going to Waukegan DMV for reneweal, did you take original I797C notice?

      • I renewed my license in Waukegan DMV Illinois with H1B Receipt notice xerox copy.
        I showed all the relevant documents (Drivers license, I797C, Passport and I-94) Agent did ask for her colleage to help me since she was unaware that they can renew based on I797C. She took all my documents and after taking a look and scanning my I797C she did renew my license for 240 days from my I94 expiry.

        She did mention about the rule in illinois that we can drive till 1st Dec 2022 if our license is expired or about to expire before Dec 2022. They have also stated this in their website.

        • Hi Rahul, just read your excerpt. I’m also in the same predicament right now as I’m still waiting for my H1b extension approval here in Illinois and my license will expired on Dec 1. So, with just the I-797 notice, you were able to renew your license for 240 days? Did you run into any other issues besides that? If so, I’ll also try to renew mine in Waukegan as well. It’s not that bad of a drive from Chicago. Thanks!

  6. Read my answer here:

  7. Hi,

    I have a predicament situation in GA where I need to exchange my out of state license for GA DL and my I-94 got expired. DMV denies to give me extension since I-94 is invalid and I’m new to GA. My out of state DL is valid for some more time, however, I have a status check date on 10/30. So I’m not sure what to do here.
    Can I drive till my actual validity date or Shouldn’t I since the status check date is expired and I dont have GA DL?
    Any help would be much appreciated.


    • Rumana,
      You are considered out of status, if your I-94 expired. Did you apply for extension and waiting, thats why you have expired I-94 ? I am not sure on the specific state rules of GA for driving. You can ask them, if you drive with out of state license until expiry. I can tell you for sure, you cannot drive with expired driving license. Usually, states allow certain amount of time for you to drive with out of state license and you need to get the same state license before that time…so, I suggest you check with DMV or on their website.

  8. All,

    Had a question regarding license renewal. I am in Virginia and got my H1B extension, however my license did not get renewed and is pending legal presence verification. The employee at the Motor Vehicle authority or DMV as it is called in Virginia mentioned that it could take 7 to 10 business days, however it has been 15 days and no answer on the status of the legal presence verification. My license has expired and I cannot drive now. If I call the offices they now say that it can take upto 3 months ( for lack of a better answer). Has anyone faced this situation and if anyone knows a better way to approach this situation please let me know ?

    Any help is greatly appreciated

    • Hi Ajey

      I am in Similar Situation , submitted application last week. Heard of one more person in the same situation. Not sure on whats happening .

      • Hi Hari,

        Did you have an option at the DMV to get the verification done on the same day ? I did have that and regret that I did not get it done on the same day now it has been 3 weeks almost and no response. Let me know if you get any updates.

    • Same happened to me. I went to SOS in Michigan on 17th Feb 2017 with a H1B valid till Oct 2019, SOS said that my I94 has not been verified by DHS and they sent it to DHS for verification and it will take a day, So I went back to SOS on 22nd and the response is that my I94 hasn’t been verified yet and it may take 2 months, my drivers license expires on 24th Feb 2017, I have been living on H1B for more than a decade and never had to go through this.
      SOS left a voice mail saying they will try to expedite things.. quite a helpless situation any advice will be appreciated.

  9. HI,

    • Good to hear that they honored it. Did you waited till last day of expiry of DL or approached them in advance? Does copy of I797c is sufficient or do they need to see originals?

    • Hi Ajay,

      It was around 4.30 PM and person at counter said that it might be next day and either i can wait for same day but chances of getting a response in half hour was less. Can you please share your number, so that i can call you

  10. Hello everyone
    My visa stamping is only for 10 months and when i went for the driving test i was not allowed to take the test because as per IL (Rockford) licence will be issued only if the stamping is for 1 year!
    I am here with family,what are possible options to get a licence.
    Please suggest me.

  11. Suggestion “Do not drive on Expired License”
    As soon as you realized your Driver License is going to expire and you don’t see a sign of extension approval. Go to following link
    and or contact 877-469-2563/SAVE.HELP@dhs.gov.
    Find the DMV running SAVE Program. Take your copy of H1B Extension Filing Receipt and Employer letter with you. Meet the person at the counter and tell them your situation. They will take your documents and send that to USCIS for manual verification of your case. In 2-3 weeks you will get a letter from SAVE stated that your Extension pending status is being verified by USCIS. Take this letter to any DMV nearby and show them the letter. They can see in their system that SAVE already approved extension for 6 months and that way you will get your Drivers lic extended for next 6 months.
    Its just an additional thing you need to go through to get it extended.

    I had experienced this and so thought I should share with everyone.

    • Hi Chetan,
      Could you please call me 617-750-3699 or share your contact number or email id.
      I am having the similar situation now where my h1 extension is in the process and my Driver license is expiring on 1 march 2015.


    • Hi Chetan,
      I followed the same process you listed above except for in my case the DMV is stating that SAVE is asking for the I-797 approval notice for verification. I am not sure what information is being sent to USCIS / SAVE for verification by DMV because the MVC never asked me for my H1-B receipt notice. Which state did you get your license extended using the SAVE program ?

  12. HI,

    I have the original approval notice for H1B extension. I took it with me in Kilmer DMV. But still they did not renew the Driver’s license stating that INS is not updated with my immigration information so they have created a case in SAVE program. I checked in SAVE, it is saying it will take 10-20 days or even a month.

    Don’t know what is going on.

  13. Guys, Calm down.
    I found myself in the exact same situation and I can speak for how this handled for H1B holders in the state of NC.
    Most Important note:

    My Scenario:
    H1B Extension filed on 12/24/2013, currently awaiting the approval from USCIS.
    H1B Expiry date – 01/03/2014
    NC driver’s license Expiry date – 01/03/2014

    Actions Taken:
    Called employer’s legal specialist and HR Manager, requested for I797C (receipt of filing extension) and Employer letter (stating you work for them since _ to present and H1B Extn is filed).

    NC DMV office grants a temporary renewal for 240days (8mths !!). This is further extendable upon approval of H1B extension.
    Issue resolved !!

    It would only make sense if this is a standard guideline followed by all states across US when it comes Driver’s license for visa holders.

    Good luck everyone !
    – John

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your write up. I am also in NC and am in the same situation as you were. Appreciate if you could tell me the DMV NC office from where you got the driving license extension. One of friend tried the same way,but DMV officer denied him.

  14. Hi,

    I recently moved to NJ and have a out of state drivers license. My H1B will expire in 2 weeks and my company has filed for an extension and its in initial review. I tried renewing my license in NJ based on the receipt notice and had carried all required docs. Even though they could verify the documents they refused me a license.Please let me know if anyone has been in similar situation and could get a license done in NJ. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks.

    • I am exactly in the same situation. I went to Kilmer, NJ Edison after I get the receipt from USCIS. They refused to give me renewed driver’s license(for 240 days) even though it’s a rule of NJ, MVC. The interesting part of it is, I had got my DL renewed from there(Kilmer DMV) only couple of years ago in this very situation.
      which DMV did you go to?

      since we are passengers of the same boat, you can contact me at ‘arindam2write@gmail.com’ if you want. We can talk about this in detail.

      • hi Arindam,

        The reason cited my them is that I have a out of state license and should have come atleast 60 days before my visa was going to expire. Just wanted to check with folks if there is any way I can get my license done in this situation?

  15. Thanks for sharing your experience. I am in similar situation now.
    My California DL expired on Oct 21st 2013 as per I-94, before expiration I tried renewal at two DMV (Fremont and Hayward) offices with following documents.
    1. Original H1B extension Receipt
    2. Letter from company
    3. Copy of GC 140 approval notice
    Both of the offices insisted on approval notice with date mentioned on it, didn’t renew license. Though I think now I should have talked to their supervisor once. I am using public transport now, as I don’t see any other option.
    I really wish, DMV atleast should issue temopary license in such cases for 2-3 months.

    • Hello:
      I’m the same with you. I can’t drive for 4 month. Now my L 1- extension status is R.F.E. I don’t know how long I’m going to wait. I also live in bay area. I want to know how about your drive license now? If you have renew your D.L, can you tell me the detail? I really need to have a D.L, I even don’t have a normally life now.

      • Hello,

        Attorney submitting RFE response this week, so I still have expired D.L.
        I am managing with bus travel to office, 1.5hrs one way.
        If you driving license is still not expired, I will suggest you talk to Manager or Supervisor at DMV and see if that helps.
        I didn’t do that but I think that might have helped me, worth to give a try.
        All the best, see if you can file L1 extension in Premium category.


        • I received my H1B extension approval last month, we submitted RFE, this time filed in Premium category. Within a week, extension got approved.
          I also got my liecense done very easily.
          Lesson learned
          Always do H1B extension or any legal thing in expedite/premium categoty so we know outcome soon, and that’s a peace of mind. Of course if we can afford to pay.
          I heard recently USCIS started SAVE program, that means even your H1B is approved, DMV needs to verify the immigration status with USCIS.
          SAVE – is Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements

          I only wish if DMV could atleast issue temporary license for shorter period in this cases.


  16. As my OPT is expiring early next week along with my Driving License, and my H1B case is still pending for approval. Does anyone know if I can renew my license based on my H1B receipt or am I not eligible for it? Also, my license belong to a different state and now I am in a different state.

    Please let me know your thoughts, advice and suggestions. I just have a couple of days left.

    Thank You so much!

    • There is a little complication here, I work for employer A right now on my OPT and employer B has filed my H1b which is still pending. I can produce employment letter from employer A and not from employer B who has filed my H1B.

      Please let me know what would be the best thing I could do now?


  17. Hey I was having similar case, I am living in MN, in my letter from DMV, it was written that I can provide a receipt of H1 extension letter, I have provided the same, I got my Driver’s license extension for next 60 days.

    I am not sure if this rule differs from state to state but I am glad that I can drive during my H1 extension period.

  18. hi My H1 extension is under process and i got extenion reciept in Aug 2012. My I-94 was valid till oct end so i gave road test in sep 2012 in georgia and got a DL till 2017. now I-94 expired and i didnt get extenson approval notice yet. can i drive in georgia now.

      • Hi, my H1b is pending extension and my DL has expirary on 2014 but I lost it. I went to DMV but they wont replace it. Do you have any advice on my situation?

        • Maria,
          If they are not ready to replace it, then only option is to upgrade extension to PP so that you can get it early and then go to DMV.

    • In which dmv location in georgia you went for the DL. I am in the similar situation, my DL and I-94 are valid till August 2013. I am filing my h1 extension in this week.

      With my Extension receipt can i get my DL extended in the same location?

    • Did you get any notification from DMV, see that letter what evidences it requires for the status check, if it says the receipt of H1 extension, you can have it from your employer. Note : you will only get Driver’s License for 60 days, then there will be second status check.

  19. My temporary visitor date is expired on my license but in the bottom my license expired in 2019. My visa is expired in 2011 too but I am legal and I renewed my F1 status before my visa got expired. But when I go to DMV to renew my License, they said they can’t do it and I have to bring letter from embassy.
    Please help me in this. I don’t know what to do and where to go.

    • when you say
      “My visa is expired in 2011 too but I am legal and I renewed my F1 status before my visa got expired”,
      Your legal to say in USA. you will have your valid I-94 , so why they need letter from embassy..?
      Can you explain , what happened exactly in DMV and which location it is,

  20. Hi, my H1B expired on Jan72012 and along with that my drivers license also expired. I couldn’t renew my H1V due to 6 yrs of limit which I have already crossed, I have applied for h4 through my husband. I have got the receipt but approval will take 3-4 months since there is no premium processing for h4

    I went to DMV in NY city and they told me that they can’t renew my license until I get approval. Is there any way I can go to different state where they issue DL with the h4 reciept I got in the mail.

  21. My H1B Extension is under process. VISA expiry date is SEP2011 and my License expires in DEC 29 2011. I read all reviews online and did the following.

    Make sure all are ORIGINAL Documents

    1) Get the H1B Receipt Copy.
    2) Employer letter stating that currently your still working.
    3) Take your 6 Point ID proof’s
    4) I went to LODI , NewJersey MVC office. Since my old DL is NJ one.
    5) @ 6 point ID check place they may so no we can’t do this, But you need to explain your situation that you still didnt any approval but license is expiring.
    then they will say talk to supervisor ,
    6) Supervisor approved and given me 8 months extension of my DL from the applied date.

    Now i am happy. I cant imagine on snow days without car to reach my office.


    • Thanks Rax.

      I am in same situation right now. I went to Lodi DMV and they have filed a SAVE case with USCIS. I believe this is a new system introduced recently.

      Below is my situation :
      I have my H1B Visa extension approved. But I need to get my License renewed.
      Went to NJ DMV, But they filed SAVE Case with USCIS and told they have to wait for their response.
      A response was made by them to resubmit the documents.

      What are my options here ?
      How long does it take for SAVE case to be approved?

      Please help me.

  22. About my H1B Extension
    As i have to apply for H1B extension. But I have to travel to India in month of february for my marriage but at that time my extension is under process .I want to know that
    I can travel on my same Visa without Stamping as it expired on 29th March 2012.?And there is any impact on my Visa extension approval?
    Should I go for premium processing?
    Should i apply for extension after returing from India on 3rd March 2012.

    • You can return to US on your current visa stamp as long as the H-1 visa stamp has not expired. However, when returning you will get an I-94 based on your H-1 petition. If your old petition has expired, then you cannot return to US. If the new one has arrived, you can use that to get I-94 for a longer duration. If the old one is active and new one is still in process, then you will get I-94 based on old petition. Once in US, you will have to file for extension as soon as your 797 gets approved.

      My suggestion – if you want to apply for extension before leaving US, then do so w/ premium processing so that you have the petition while returning back to US.

  23. Back in 1985 I was in the US and my honduran license expired so I went to the DMV and got a california drivers license i was in the states for 5 months visiting and buying printing equipment then in 1987 trade my california license for a new york license
    later I got a michigan drivers license I never worked or over stay in the US but I needed to rent trucks to gather my printing equipment so it was easier to rent with a US license I need to reneew my visa in a few days will it afect my visa

  24. Hi,

    Thanks for all the queries answered. I have a query.

    I am working on L1B for Employer A. I have applied for an Extension and we know i can stay upto maximum of 240 days once we have submitted for an Extension.

    After 5 months i received an RFE now. my question is whether there a possibility i can’t get result by 8 months as RFE responses are delayed now a days taking easily 3 months i feel for normal processing. what are the options available if the result does not come within 8 months from submitting extension as i have already completed 5 months.

  25. Hi,
    Thank you so much everyone for contributing here on the site!
    I am currently working for IBM & am looking for a list of potential consultant, companies, who are hiring from India on H1.
    Please help..thank you so much in advance.
    Looking forward to your guidance

    • If you have ever been to US on H or L visas, then you will need most recent payslips for the transfer. If you have never been to US, then it can be done w/o payslips.

      Payslips are proof of maintaining legal status in US, and if one has never been to US, there is no question of maintaining status.

  26. Also keep in mind that if Cops does a random scanning of your tag plate, which they do, the driving license status of the registered owner comes up in their database lookup.

  27. Is it legal to drive on international license in CA. I read few articles and they said if you are California residence then you should have valid CA license. I am in CA from last 2 years and now applied for h1 extension which is pending.

    • From CA DMV website “California does recognize a valid driver license that is issued by a foreign jurisdiction (country, state, territory) of which the license holder is a resident.”

      If you have stayed in CA, USA for >2 years then you are no longer resident of your home country but resident on CA. As such, I don’t think you can use international driving license to drive in US. Although I am not sure how an officer would determine your residency if you are stopped while driving on international driving license (as you might not be carrying your I-94 all the time).

  28. Mine is a different situation where I have my license expiring in June end this year but I have changed my state and have to do car registeration. [I could always get away until the first time i am caught by saying I just moved to this state 1 week back] Now my car insurance provider isn’t authorized to underwrite insurance in this new state. This has led me to get the car insurance and registeration process to be done simultaneously and SOON. Car registeration also requires that you get the drivers licence of the new state!!! This forces me to prove my 6 point ID and my authorized stay in US as that would determine my license validity date. Now, I am on OPT and it expires mid of this may. Although, My employer will be filing my H1b this week , my approval notice is gonna take some time. I was looking out for my options. Thanks for realizing me that I could be playing too risky!!

    • My case is almost similar. I have a MI license for next 3 years (MI doesn’t consider I-94 date while giving DL) and now I have moved to NJ, which requires new residents to get NJ DL within 60 days. I have filed for H1 extension and currently have application acknowledgement notice I797C from USCIS. NJ DMV didn’t give me NJ license citing that my I94 has expired and asked me to wait till I get the approval notice. I am not sure whether I should drive with MI license which will expire in 2015.

      • NJ DMV should not have denied you request as they state on their website that they will allow a 240 day extension in your situation (i.e. h1bexpired, extension applied but waiting for approval), as long as your get a letter from your employer in the following form:

        • Hi MK,
          I am in the same situation in NJ. I approached Kilmer DMV, NJ to renew my driver’s license based on my I797C(USCIS receipt of L1B extn). But I was told, I will have to wait till I get the approval from USCIS, they can not extend my DL for another 240 days (even though it is mentioned on NJ/MVC website).

          Feeling very helpless. Don’t understand how I can run my family with two kids without DL.

          Is there anywhere I can challenge what Edison DMV is saying ?

          Any kind of response in this regard will be of immense help.

  29. I was in the same situation for about 2 months. I went to the DMV and also sent a mail to the main CA DMV (in sacramento)…in vain. Since my work location is 45 miles away, I didn’t want to take the risk of driving with expired license. So I took a bus->train->cab to work….2 HOURS ONE-WAY!!! After 2 weeks, I couldn’t take it no more. Took my Indian DL and started driving 95% of the time (other 5% still by public transport) thinking if I was pulled over, I can explain. I carried all the documents and H1 extension status printouts. Reading from above article, I guess I was lucky that I didn’t get caught. Got my extension approved 3 weeks ago…now i’m free as a bird.


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