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

  Living as Student in US

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 ?