Last Updated on July 21, 2021 by David Shaw
If you’re an International Student studying in the United States, you might be wondering or planning to get a US driver’s license. Many of the foreign friends I knew back in college tend to think getting one is hard and a scary process, but in fact, the process is simpler and easier than you think especially in certain states.
You might ask, can International Students studying in the US get a US driver’s license?
Generally, International Students can obtain a US driver’s license from the local DMV. You will take the written and driving test to obtain a driver’s license by providing the required documentation. Some states allow you to exchange foreign driving permits issued by certain countries for a US driving license, or waive the road test.
Getting a driver’s license in the US offers many conveniences as it is the most commonly accepted ID in the country. If you possess a US driver’s license, it replaces the need to provide your local form of governments IDs when officials ask for it in most situations. Additionally, you can your US driver’s license for domestic flights instead of your passport as a form of identification, which is pretty convenient.
Driver License Requirement for International Students
In the US, the minimum age required to get a driver’s license is around the age of 16 in most states. Getting a US Driver License is an easy process if you’re properly informed of what to do. To qualify for a driver’s license, everyone has to pass the Written Test and Driving or Road test to make sure you understand and obey the traffic rules in the US.
Before that, International Students might be asked to provide a few additional documentation depending on which state they’re in, mainly:
- Passport or government issued identification that has your name, picture, and date of birth in English.
- Proof of residence in the current state (Utility bill, Bank statement, etc.)
- Proof of lawful presence in the US (Student visa, Permanent resident card, etc.)
- I-94 Arrival/ Departure documents
- Social Security Card
Certain states in the US have more specific requirements that might apply to international student, you can always Google for the requirements or call the local DMV for the most up-to-date requirements.
In most states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will only ask International Students to provide proof of residence and passport for documentation purposes.
If you’re unsure where to get documents for the proof of your residence, I always recommend my friends to bring their US banks statements with their address at the top. Since every International Student will likely open a US bank account, you might already have a bank statement with your address stated laying around. If you need another copy, call up the bank and they will be more than happy to provide you one.
Understanding and Preparing For The Tests
– Written Test
The Written Driving Test does not require you to write sentences or words, it is just a collection of computerized multiple-choice questions that you have to complete with a score of more than 80% in order to pass. You should also know that the number of questions on Written Tests varies across all states, check this website to find out.
Before you waste money preparing for the Written Tests on courses or books, there are plenty of free resources out on the internet to help you practice the questions. I personally practiced the California Written Tests on Quizlet for free which has a ton of questions similar to those you find in Written Tests. If you prefer a more interactive practicing method, Youtube provides all sorts of free tutorials and guides.
Last but not least, make sure to take the driving and road test within 12 months after you passed the written tests as they can expire. (mention retake
– Vision Screening Test
The Vision Screening test is just a simple test to make sure you’re visual capability will not impact your ability to drive safely on the road. The DMV’s vision screening standard requires “the ability to see 20/40 with both eyes together, with or without corrective lenses”.
If you fail this test, you will need to visit an optometrist to complete a visual examination and fill out certain forms before you further proceed to get a driver’s license.
– Practical Driving and Road Test
A good tip to pass the driving and road test is to practice certain routes around the DMV since it is always conducted around the area. Other skills you should practice more involve driving through an intersection, backup maneuver into parking spaces, and changing lanes. If you’re confident throughout the test, the examiner might even cut you some slack and finish things off quickly.
It is important to know that the DMV does not provide a vehicle for a road test. The US also doesn’t require any minimum practice hours before taking the road test, so take as much time as you need. When you’re ready, make an appointment with your local DMV and you’re set to take the test with any car that is insured.
Once you’ve passed the test, you will be issued a temporary driver’s license and will get your permanent license mailed to your address in a couple of weeks.
How You Can Practice Your Driving Before Tests
Since the process of getting a driver’s license in the US is different from other countries, there are some things you should know when it comes to practicing your driving in the US. Other countries have a driving institute that provides instructors and cars for you to practice driving, but in the US everyone has the freedom to self-learn driving or find a driving instructor.
The good news is that in the US, virtually every adult who owns a driver’s license can teach you how to drive by supervising you in the passenger seat. You read that right, you do not need a licensed driving instructor to learn to drive or to get a driver’s license
It is illegal in the US for anyone without a driving instructor license to charge you for their services.
Can my friends who own a car teach me how to drive?
Definitely, even your friends can legally teach you how to drive to save you a ton of money as long as they fulfill the following requirements:
- Be 21 years old or over.
- Have held a full driving licence for at least three years.
- Make sure the car is displaying L plates, both on the front and back.
- Ensure the car insurance covers learner is insured to drive the vehicle.
Although a licensed driving instructor can provide you with practical driving lessons and get you well-informed of the traffic laws, you can still independently get a driver’s license without their services.
To be extra safe, make sure the insurance of the car you will be using covers driving learners for the costs of accidents just in case.
Can International Students get an International Driving Permit (IDP)? The US does not issue IDPs to foreigners, therefore International Students are not allowed to get an IDP/IDL in the US.
How long can I drive in the US with a foreign license? The US allows all visitors to drive up to 3 months with a foreign driving license that has English translations. This applies to International Students as well, so they can drive in the US for the first 3 months from the date they make an entry into the US as per official records.
Which countries can have their driver’s permit interchangeable with a US driver’s license? US states that have reciprocal agreements with countries like Canada, South Korea, Germany, France, Taiwan, Japan allow their local driver permits to change into US drivers license without having to take any tests.
What happens if I fail the written or driving test? Most states in the US allow up to 3 free attempts for both Written and Driving tests before you have to pay a retest fee.
Do I need auto insurance to take the driving test? Before you begin the driving test, you must show that your vehicle is properly insured. If you use a rental car for the driving test, the rental contract must be insured under your name.