Getting a Driving Licence in the U.S.
America Driving License Test

Getting a Driving Licence in the U.S.

Ashok R

Table of Contents

Having your own transport gives you a sense of independence. If you feel like going on a long drive, you can just hop into your car and drive off. If you need to get something urgently from the supermarket, you don't need to depend on a cab or public transport. While two-wheelers are common in India, in the U.S., cars are the primary source of transport. While you might already have a Driving Licence, you need a U.S. License or International Driving Permit to drive a car in the U.S. The legal formalities for getting a driving license or an IDP depends on several factors, including the state you live in.

Can foreigners Drive in the U.S.?

When you move to the U.S., you can continue using your foreign license for a while if it is written in English. If it's not written in English, you will have to produce an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your country of origin. The IDP serves as a translation of your driving license and allows you to legally drive a car in a different country

As a tourist or a visitor, you can avail of this arrangement for up to one year. If you become a resident of the U.S., you will have to get your U.S. driving license within 30 to 90 days, depending on the state of your residence.

How to Apply For a Driving License in the U.S.?

If you want to get a driving license in the U.S., you need to complete the application process. A few legal requirements might vary from state to state, but the general process is the same.

Step 1: Keep Your Documents Ready

Keep your documents ready before going to the local office of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You will be required to submit some of the following documents:

  • I.D. proof with your full legal name, photograph, and date of birth.
  • Your social security number (SSN). If you don't have one, you might be required to submit proof that you can't obtain one.
  • Proof of lawful presence in the U.S.(F1, H1B, L1 or other visas; permanent resident card; citizenship certification, etc.)
  • Proof of residence from the state where you're staying (this can be a utility bill, state I.D., or bank statement)
  • Your international driving license
  • Passport photo

You will then have to fill out an application form with your details.

Step 2: Pay the Fees

The fees vary from state to state; some states charge a one-time fee ranging from $30 to $90, while others might charge a small sum (around $5) every year. In some states, you are required to pay the fees at the time of application, while in others, you can pay it later.

Step 3: Take Your Tests

You will be required to pass both a written and a practical test to obtain your driving license. The written test typically includes 20 to 50 questions regarding the traffic rules and regulations of the state. In some cases, you might even have the option of taking the test in your native language. Visit your state's DMV website to learn more about how tests are conducted in that area.

Once you clear the written test, you will have to take a practical one where the examiner will evaluate your driving, parking, and reversing skills. If you don't clear your practical exam on the first attempt, you can retake the test after a few days or weeks, depending on the rules of the state where you stay.

Step 4: Get Your Vision Tested

You will have to pass a thorough vision test before you can get your hands on a driving license. You can get your vision tested by an authorized ophthalmologist and ask them to issue you a vision test report, or you can get tested at your local DMV office. If you need glasses or contact lenses, you might have some restrictions on your driving license.

Step 5: Obtain Your License

Once you pass both your exams, you will be issued a temporary license with a validity of 30 to 90 days, depending on the state you live in. Your official license will be mailed to you later on. Your driving license doubles up as a personal I.D. verified by the government.

Driving licenses are, in general, valid for eight years, but this differs based on your state. While some states allow you to keep your driving license until you are 65, others may require you to renew your license after four years.

Closing Thoughts

Getting a driving license in the U.S. soon after you move is an important step. While the application process is relatively straightforward, you need to remember that the rules and regulations differ from state to state. If you have all the required documents handy and are already skilled in driving, getting a driving license in the USA will be a smooth ride.