How to Get a Driver's License in USA| North Loop Official Blog
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11 Sep 2019

How to Get a Driver's License in USA

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Driving in the US

As a new immigrant or international student in the United States, there are some hurdles to overcome and some tests to pass before you are given your license and allowed to legally operate a motor vehicle. Unfortunately, even if you were a driver in your country of origin, this does not mean you are allowed to permanently hit the road in the US. For many of you that have moved to more suburban or rural areas, this may present a major challenge, as many of these areas are difficult to navigate without driving. You may be granted a foreign driving permit upon entry to the country, and this will definitely help you get around, but these permits do have a limit, and if you would like to continue driving, you'll need to get yourself a US license. If you're interested in obtaining a driver's license and are an immigrant from outside the country, here's what you'll have to do. Firstly, it is important to note, laws do vary by state, so the process for getting a US license may vary slightly. The overall idea of the process should be similar in most states, but do check with your local DMV for more information. If you are establishing residency within the US (you're not just a visiting tourist), you may have between 30 and 90 days to get your driver's license, so do not delay the process. The legal driving age also varies, so if you are younger than 21, do check to make sure you are eligible for a license in your residing state. Some countries have what are called reciprocity agreements with some US states, which would allow you to simply exchange your international license for a US driver's license. In these cases, no exams are required. If your country has a reciprocity agreement with your state of residence, all of the following may not apply

Gather Required Documents

Applying for a US driver's license will be like applying for your license all over again, for the first time. First, make sure you have gathered all of your necessary documents before visiting the DMV. Typically, you will need a form of identification with your photo, date of birth, and legal name, your social security number or proof that you are unable to obtain one, proof of lawful presence within the US (proof of citizenship or permanent residency), proof of address (utility bill, a bank statement provided by North Loop), an international driver's license (if you have one), and a photograph (oftentimes, these are taken on the spot at the DMV). There is also an application to fill out that you can either download online or pick up at the DMV.
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Pay Fees

There is an application fee associated with obtaining your license. This does vary by state, and the specific amount should be listed on your local DMV's website. Most states have a one time fee, while others may charge smaller amounts annually. For some states, the fee is for the license itself, rather than the application process.

Take the Written and Practical Exams

Unfortunately, while this may feel like a nuisance, especially if you already know how to operate a vehicle and have a license from your country of origin. However, driving laws in the US may be different than those you are used to, so you will have to take both the written and road tests before you are issued a driver's license. The written test typically includes anywhere from 20-50 questions about the traffic rules and regulations of your state of residence. After the written test is passed, you will need to schedule a practical, which is where you will show your ability to drive, park, reverse, and make turns. This test is typically short, but may run up to 30-40 minutes, depending on the requirements of your state. If you do not pass your practical test on the first try, don't worry, you can take it again. Some states do charge fees for multiple road tests or require a certain amount of time pass before scheduling another test.

Vision Test

Your local DMV will typically administer a basic vision test to make sure you are able to see properly when driving. If your DMV does not do this, they may request that you provide documentation from a certified eye exam. If you need glasses or contacts when you are driving, this is noted on your license. If there are limitations to your vision, there may be restrictions placed on your license. The vision test may come before or after the physical road test.

You've Got Your License

Once all documents have been properly submitted and you have passed all exams, you are issued a temporary license which lasts between 30 and 90 days until your physical card is sent to you by mail. Some countries have what are called reciprocity agreements with some US states, which would allow you to simply exchange your international license for a US driver's license. In these cases, no exams are required. You can get exclusive discounts and car loans through North Loop, which provides unique car loans catered for international students and immigrants.

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This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended be advice. You must obtain professional advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax, investment or other professional advice from North Loop or its affiliates. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date. All opinions expressed do not reflect the views of North Loop nor are endorsed by North Loop.