How to get Driving license in USA

Process to get Driving License in USA? F1 Visa, H1B, L1 visa Requirements?

In Living in US by KumarUpdated : 145 Comments

If you are an international student on F1 visa or a professional in US on H1B visa, you might have questions like

  • What is the process to get driving license in USA ?
  • How to get driving license in USA ?
  • How to get Learning Permit?
  • What are the requirements for getting license on F1 Visa ?
  • How to get F1 Visa Driver license ?
  • How can H1B visa holders get license? Requirements ?
  • Is international driving permit valid in USA ?

There might be so many questions like above…Let me share the process to get Driving license in USA.

Basic steps on How to get driving license in USA:

Steps in America, do not vary from other countries. You have to get a written test and then you take the road test. Depending on state, you go  a DMV office (Department of Motor vehicles) or DPS office (Department of Public Safety). Both are same, some states called DMV others call DPS

  • Written Test or Instruction Permit : This is a basic test to make sure you understand the rules in USA. For full info, read the article: Instruction permit, How to prepare for drivers written test in US
  • Road Test for Driving license: Once you clear the written test and get your Instruction Permit (IP) or Temps, you have certain time to practice driving license. Some states have a rule that you have to have IP for a week or so before you can take the road test. Some states do not have the rule and they waive it if you have international driving license. So, in any case you have to check with the DMV. Read this article on How to Practice for Road test in US as International

Requirements for Getting Drivers license on F1 Visa or H1B visa

I have written a similar article, H4 visa holders requirements for driving license,   before  and the requirements do not differ much from them. You need to prove  three things:

  • Your identity – Name, date of birth
  • Your current legal status in America – F1, H1B, L1 or other visa
  • Your residency status in a state – Proof that you live in that state

To prove these three, you will be asked for below Original documents. NO copies are accepted.

Generic list of required documents for F1, H1B,  and L1 visa holders.

  • Passport along with valid US Visa Stamping in it
  • I-94 card (white card given at port of entry)
  • Social Security Number (SSN) Card ( Not applicable for F1 students without a Job)
  • Utility Bill (You can get electricity bill or phone bill on your name).
  • Rental Lease papers (If you have name on it)
  • Bank account Statements of US Banks (mailed to your home for address)

In addition to above, you require below based on your current visa status

H1B or L1 Visa holders:

  • H1B or L1 approval notice ( I797 approval form)

F1 Visa Driver License additional requirements for International Students :

  • I20 from your school in US
  • Enrollment verification letter from school (Not required at all DMVs)
  • If you have job, then you will have carry SSN. If not, you will have to get a form or letter like “Certification of Non-eligibility for Social Security number” or something similar either from Social Security administration office or Department of Transportation office.  Check with your International students services office or your International student advisor for details.  The quick answer is to check the DMV website in your state to see what you need.

Well, now that you know the requirements, here is the typical process on how to get a driving license

Step by step process to get Driving license in America :

  1. You get all the required paperwork ready as listed above depending on your status. You need this stuff for getting Instruction permit or Learners permit.
  2. You should take time to prepare for the written test. You can either get the book from DMV or sometime download it online. It must be free. Read the above section on how to prepare and answer.
  3. Go to the nearest DMV or DPS office
  4. Fill out required forms as instructed by information desk people. Pay the fee required and show all the originals to the verify your status and residency.
  5. When verifying papers at counter, you will have a vision test…they will ask you to look into a binoculars kind of instrument and asked to tell if you see blinking lights or read some letter. This is to make sure you use glasses or not. If you use glasses,  they put it on your driving license saying “Restrictions :Corrective lenses”.
  6. You will be asked to take the written test either on computer or on paper depending on the state and facilities.
  7. If you pass, you will get the Instruction permit or learners permit right away or in 14 days to your home address depending on state.  If you fail the test, you can re-take the test right away sometimes on same day, ask them. If not, go next day or next week and re-take the test and clear it.
  8. Practice driving for few weeks and make sure you are confident with stuff like Parallel parking, up hill down hill parking, etc.
  9. Depending on state, you can either schedule for your road test ahead of time or you can directly walk-in to the DMV in the morning for road test.

10. If you pass road test, you get license right away or in mail depending on state. If you flunk, do not worry, prepare again and go for road test again in a week or so. You should be fine 🙂

Driving license is the most important thing in America, you can use it as your Govt. Issued Photo ID at various places…read Why NOT to carry your Passport as picture ID . Always, check with your friends or  DMV office website for full details.

Did I miss anything in the requirements for Driving License ? Any thoughts to add ?

image credit: http://mcmullansautotags.info/sample_license.jpg

   

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Comments ( 145 )

  1. Caden Zhou

    I am 16 years old, am I able to apply as long as I have all the documents and take the drivers edu, then by holding the permit for 6 month?

  2. firas

    hi
    am foreign student and trying to renew my ( Massachusetts ) driving l license online .
    but I cant complete the transaction cause they ask for SSN and I don’t have it

    how can I renew it on line without SSN ?

  3. Athula

    How long is the DL valid for F1 students in California? Is it till the i20 duration of stay date or visa expiry date? Can some one answer this

  4. Arvindbhai Patel

    Is international driving permit valid in USA ? or do i get driving license on showing them an international driving permit with out any test ?

  5. Sean Bradford

    Thank you very much for showing the requirements and step-by-steps for getting a driver’s license in the USA.
    I would be nervous enough just taking my driver’s test — but you have calmed me down about these other steps:)

  6. Sean bradford

    Yes — I use my US driver’s license as my government-approved photo ID.
    It’s sooo handy to carry — even if I’m a terrible driver!
    Thank you for letting us all know the best steps to get this important license in the US:)

  7. Claudeny

    Hello
    I’m an international student and I’ve been in the state for 4 years now and I go to school and MS and I’m graduating high school this year and I want to know what I need to be able to get a drivers permit?

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      You should be eligible, if you fulfil the age requirements I guess. You can check the state DMV webpage to get more details.

    2. alexandre

      Hi!
      I will stay in NYC for 2 months and a half under a F1 Visa. I will be staying at a friends place for the duration of the stay. Could I try to take the test under those circumstances?
      Cheers
      Alex

  8. Onkar

    Recently shifted to Fremont and staying in my office guest house and will be staying for few months in this house! So how can i submit utility bill or lease agreement? I do have ssn and bank statement with the guest house address and my company can give me a letter stating that I Stay in that address? Is that enough?

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Onkar,
      That should be enough. Bank statement with your current address and the same delivered to you via mail should be sufficient. It is better to carry the company letter as well.

  9. Gena

    Hey…I’m an international student
    I want to get driver license in VA, but my visa expired 40 days ago because I didn’t go home, I was traveling but currently at school and I have I-20, script from my school, proof of living in dorms and in VA state.

    Is 40 days expired visa effect to get livens?

  10. Gena

    Hey…I’m international student
    I want to get driver license in VA, but my visa expired 40 days ago because I didn’t go home, I was trevaling but currently at school and I have I-20, script from my school, proof of living in dorms and in VA state.

    Is 40 days expired visa effect to get livens?

  11. Betzabeth

    I have a temporary license in the state of Georgia which expires when my tourist VISA was set to expire (1/1). My VISA status has changed now that I have a pending application for a Journalist (I Visa). My attorney just submitted the paperwork for the I VISA so my driver’s license will surely expire in the meantime. What can I do while my VISA status is pending for the Journalist I VISA? I will be living in FL and have secured an apartment there so I can go to either state for the time being, I would assume. I have no idea what to do and cannot seem to find much information on this. The South Florida DMVs are so busy and not helpful over the phone but my transportation for the time being is limited so I would like to try and figure out what I need to do before making a trip over there for another hour wait. Any help is greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!

  12. alian

    Hello Sir,
    Sir please inform me Is it necessary to have a driving license from India to get a driving license in USA Texas? i am waiting your reply please sir reply me guide me. Thanks

  13. Daniel

    hi. i am from Jamaica.if i have the f-1 visa, can i get a drivers license in Florida? and if yes, do i need to get a ssn first? and also do i need to have a job on campus to get a ssn?

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Daniel,
      Yes, you can get a drivers license, if you pass the test. SSN is typically not required. You may need to speak to your school and carry documents regarding your status. If you want to get SSN, you will need a job. Check with your DSO or international students office for more details.

  14. Sandeep d powar

    I want a job in usa as driver post . I have international driving permitte / licence . It is possible to job . Pls help me

  15. Sam Jacob

    Hi
    I went to DMV office in California and they scanned my passport and said they are unable to verify that, I tried in two of the dmv offices but same result. Now they are suggesting a secondary verification which may take 7-8 months. its practically not possible for me to stay without driving as I need that for commuting to office and for my kids school.
    Is there any alternative, any suggestions please.

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Sam jacob,

          Can you submit anything else as documentary proof? I am not sure if you can you drive on your Indian DL meanwhile, but you can look it up.

    1. Jeevi

      Hi I have
      Passport
      I 20
      I have opened bank account in us
      I don’t have rental agreement n all so what can I do to show for the address proof for American driving license

  16. Davron

    Hi, I am a student at Lindenwood university which is in Missouri, but right now I am in New York city, but do not know can I take driver licence here or should I go back to get driver licence?

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Davron,
      You can get driver’s license at any place where you reside. You will need local address proof as they will send the ID to that address.

  17. noory

    My lefteye is not working it mean not see very clear but my right eye is working normal can get driving license from taxes state plz help me out

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Noory, there are specific tests that the driving license center conducts to test your eyes and how you react. I suggest you walk-in to a DMV center and try to apply for the DL. They will advise you, it is hard to tell.

  18. suuny

    Hey, do you know of any law that if h1b visa validity is less than a year you cannot get the driving license?
    I am in Illinois, just today I went to DMV and the guy over there said you need to have minimum one year of visa to get the driving license with minimum of 6 month of stay remaining before expiry.

  19. Shiva Gajjala

    Hi,I came to texas on f1 visa on july 21st. After coming here to Austin I have taken a bank account. But I also transferred my university from Austin,Tx to Arkansas. I am still residing in Austin,Tx and gave adult license test online in Texas but now my new i20 has university in Arkansas because I transferred. Now where should I go to get my learners permit? I go to university only twice a month because its offering online classes.

  20. Silas

    i lost my passport with mt visa in it, and i live in nyc. i was wondering if the dmv would let me go through the process with the printed or scanned copy of my passport and visa. Apart from that every other neccesary docunent i have.

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Well, you may have to check with the DMV. You can call them. In my view, they may ask you for the new passport at least as a form of your identification. If you have applied and got a new passport, then you can carry that.

  21. eve

    Hi!
    5 years ago I renewed my passport and a valid or expired visa stamp was not yet required to get a driving license. Right after I got my new passport, that rule became active.
    My embassy (and my husband’s embassy – completely different country) destroys/shreds expired passports = we have no old passports with old visas.

    We have our I-20s, our I-94s, our social security cards and they would NOT give us the license without that visa stamp.

    We are leagally in the country and cannot get a driving license!

    What can we do?

    Please, help!

  22. Raymond

    Hi l just have my visa f1 approved in Dec last year. I want to get a Colorado ID or drivers license, how long does it last for international students before renewal?
    Your response will be appreciated in this regard

  23. Ayodeji

    I just change my status from B1 to F1 and it was approved…now I want to know how to go about it to get a SSS and a driven linceses please??

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