Obtaining a ​Drivers License

  • ​Students must be enrolled full-time and paid the SEVIS fee to apply for a driver's license.  If not, there will be significant problems and delays with the application
  • Students must wait patiently to ensure their SEVIS has been registered in SEVIS. SEVIS registration takes place APPROXIMATLY two weeks AFTER the add/drop period occurs to allow IPS to confirm your final class registration for the semester. You have to wait until this is completed.
  • All information below can be changed by the DMV office in each state without advance notice, so please always check their website to get the most recent update.

Obtaining an ILLINOIS Driver's License

For Student's with a Social Security Number

  • To drive in the US you must have a valid driver's license issued by the state in which you live.
  • To apply for a license:
    • Visit an Illinois Secretary of State's Office.  Make sure it offer's driver's license services.  Locations and services can be found at Chicago and Vicinity Driver Facilities.
    • Visit the office early in the morning because the wait is usually long.  The process takes AT LEAST two hours, and is generally longer on Monday's and Friday's.
    • Bring your Social Security Card, passport, I-94, US Citizenship and Immigration documents (including your I-20 or DS-2019), and proof of your local Chicago address.
    • Request a Good Standing Letter from your International Liaison (DSO), and bring it with you.
    • Proof of local address may be a piece of mail addressed to you at your Chicago address (i.e. a utility bill) or a copy of your lease.
    • Obtaining a drivers license costs $10 USD (subject to change), which MUST be paid at the time of application.
    • You will be required to take vision and written tests and have your photograph taken.  For information on road rules and regulations in the state of Illinois, read the Rules of the Road.
    • You will be required to take a driving test if you do not have a driver's license from your home country or if you come from a country where people drive on the left side of the road.  You MUST take the test in your own vehicle.
    • If you fail the driving or written test, you may apply for the license again after further study.  You will be given THREE additional chances to pass.  You MUST pay the $10 USD fee (subject to change) each time you apply.

For Student's without a Social Security Number

  • ​To obtain a Social Security Number (SSN), you must either have a job offer or an Employment Authorization Document (EAD for OPT).  For more information please see Obtaining a Social Security Number.
  • Even without an SSN you may still apply for a temporary visitor's license if your non-immigration status is: F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2.  To apply for the temporary license:
    • Request a letter from your International Liaison stating that you do not have a job on campus.
    • Request a Good Standing letter from your International Liaison (DSO), and bring it with you.
    • Obtain a Letter of Ineligibility for a Social Security Number (Form L-676) from the local Social Security Administration field office within 30 days of applying for your driver's license in order to obtain a letter of ineligibility so you can apply for a driver's license. 
    • Visit the Illinois Secretary of State Driver Services Temporary Visitor Driver's License facility.
    • Bring your proof of automobile insurance, Form L-676, passport, I-94 card, and US Citizenship and Immigration document (including your I-20 or DS-2019 and a copy of your visa), and proof of your local Chicago address.
      • The proof of local Chicago address may be a piece of mail address to you at your Chicago address (e.g., utility bill) or a copy of your lease.
      • If your status is J-2 or F-2, bring your dependent I-20 or DS-2019.
    • You will have to take a written test, a vision test, and complete a driving exam. 
      • ​Individuals applying for a learner's permit should take the written and vision exams only.

​Obtaining a CALIFORNIA Driver's License

 The state of California DOES NOT recognize an International Driving Permit (IDP)/International Driver's License/International License as a valid form of driver's license.

​Obtaining a WASHINGTON DC Driver's License

  • ​All non-U.S. citizens must obtain a U.S. driver's license if they wish to drive in the metro area.
  • Students and scholars may NOT drive with an out-of-country license beyond 30 days of residence in the District of Columbia, Virginia, or Maryland. 
  • All vehicles must be registered and all drivers must be insured.
  • The information below shows the list of documents required to obtain a driver's license in the three listed states (District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland).
    • Only original documents will be accepted
      • ​Foreign Passport
      • ​Visa
      • I-94
      • ​I-20 (for F-1 visa holders)
      • ​DS-2019 (for J-1 visa holders)
    • For regular license
      • ​Social Security Card.
    • For limited purpose license:
      • ​Social Security Card is NOT required but cannot be used as federal identification.
    • Bring at least two of the following:
      • Utility bill (water, gas, electric, oil, cable) issued within the last 60 days.
      • ​Telephone bill (cellphone, wireless, or paper bills) within the last 60 days.
      • ​​​Unexpired lease or rental agreement (may be photocopy)
      • Bank/credit card/investment statement within the last 60 days.
      • ​More options listed at: dmv.dc.gov.
    • A Valid out-of-country driver's license
    • Request a Good Standing Letter from your International Liaison (DSO), and bring a copy with you.
  • You must take and pass the DC DMV knowledge and visions test
    • A certified translation is required for an out of country driver license not written in English (International Licenses are NOT acceptable).
    • The DMV must be able to authenticate that the out of country driver license is valid to bypass the road test requirement.
  • Valid DC learner's permit and successful completion of skills road test.
  • Passed the DC DMV knowledge and road skills test within the last 90 days.​​