Driving in the USA is the easiest and the most popular method of traveling. For foreigners, some states will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) and a valid license from your country.

Getting a US Driving License

While most procedures and regulations are similar, various states have different rules. Always visit specific sites to get vital information.

Using Foreign Driver’s Permit

Even as visitors and tourists can use their foreign license for a while, they’ll need 30 to 90 days to apply for the US driving license once you establish their residency. In most circumstances, you’ll need to apply for a new license.

But some countries have an agreement with the US only to exchange their original licenses.

How to Apply for a US Driving License

Most of the expats in need of a driving license will need to go via the whole application process. The information in the procedure, such as the fees to pay and documents required vary from state to state, but general steps remain the same.

Following are the 5 steps for those seeking a driving license in the US.

Step 1: Have Your Documents Ready

Ensure you have the proper documents before you visit the Department of Motor Vehicles local branch. For application, you typically need some of the below documents.

  • A form of ID with your name, date of birth and picture (passport)
  • Social Security Number or evidence that you cannot get one
  • Proof of legal presence in the US (citizenship certification, permanent resident card, visa, etc.)
  • Proof of state residence (state ID, bank statement, utility bill, etc.)
  • International driver’s license
  • Passport photo (this can be taken during application in some cases)

Step 2: Pay Your Fees

The driver’s license fees depend on the state you reside. Some states ask for a one-time fee which may range from 30 to 90 USD. Other states may ask for a small amount, such as 5 USD every year.

This step may come later, depending on the state. In some states, you’ll pay for issuing the document while in others you pay for the application.

Step 3: Take Your Tests

To qualify for the license, you need to pass the written and practical test.

Written tests involve 20 to 50 questions regarding traffic regulations and rules of the state. The tests can be timed or not, and you may get an option to do the trial in your native language.

Step 4: Get Your Vision Tested

The law may not demand a thorough medical exam, but you may need to go for a vision check.

That can be done at a local DMV facility or get a medical offer to issue the vision test report.

Step 5: Get Your License

After endorsing your documents and test, you get a temporary license that remains valid for 30 to 90 days according to the state. A permanent license will be mailed to your address.

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Bottom Line

When driving as a foreigner in the USA, it’s recommended to have a passport and a foreign driver license. Luckily, getting an IDP isn’t complicated. A driver license serves as an ID and can be used to vote, proof of legal age and in some cases boarding domestic flights.

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