Most countries issue ‘international’ driving license.  If your country has this option, it is recommended that you get this before coming to the US.  Some states, for example, New Jersey will let you exchange your international driving license for the State driving license. Other States will let you drive using your international driving license.  This means, in some States, you can rent a car using your ‘international’ license.

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Most States, however, do not recognize your home country international license and you will need to go through the 3 stage process to get a license.

i)    Computer based/written exam
ii)    Learner’s permit
iii)    Driving exam and regular license

i)    Computer based/written exam: Before you go for the written exam, go to the local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) and get the State guide.  If you don’t want to go personally, you can always grab an electronic copy from the State’s website.  My unreserved recommendation is to visit: and select your location for the State’s handbook.  You need to familiarize yourself with the material in the handbook before scheduling your exam.   Call the DMV ( and schedule an appointment for the written exam.  You CANNOT drive to the DMV when going for the written exam since you don’t even have learner’s permit.

ii)    Learner’s permit: When you successfully finish the written exam, you get a learner’s permit.  You need to produce required documentation (Visa document, visa page from the passport, SSN card (if you have one), proof of address) to the DMV officer to issue a learner’s permit. Remember that you cannot drive alone with a learner’s permit, you always need a valid license (not learner’s permit holder) holder present in the car when you drive with your learner’s permit.  And, you need to have insurance.  It is illegal to drive without insurance in the US.  Some States take this very seriously and the consequences may be serious, including, prison and/or deportation.

iii)    Driving exam and getting license: The DMV officer will drive with you to test whether you are ready to drive or not.  When going to the DMV office ensure that person coming with you has a valid license and insurance.  DMV officer checks for these.  Your exam starts at the parking lot, the way you sit, put your seat belt on, looking behind when backing up, whether your indicator lights work and whether you ask your passenger (in this case DMV officer) to put on the seat belt on or not, ALL these are part of the exam.  Once on road, DMV officer checks for the speed limits and signals (a stop sign means complete halt and go, not slow down and go). It is required that you follow the signals without fail.  Once you pass the exam, you need to produce required documents to get driving license, so carry them with you.

You will need to carry your passport, immigration documents, I94, Social security card, proof of birth and proof of address with you. Some DMV offices don’t accept credit cards so ensure you carry enough cash with you.  Some DMV offices require you to visit the specific DMV location that serves the county you are a resident of, call the DMV before your visit.

Please note that you need to have a proof of residence before you visit the DMV office.

Click on the and change the location on the left hand bottom corner to your desired location for more information on the State where you are applying for the license.