In order to drive in the United States, you must first obtain a driver’s license. This can be done in two ways: modify your own license to drive in the United States or apply for a driver’s license in the United States.
How to modify your existing out-of-country license to drive legally in the United States:
Obtain an international driver’s permit before you enter the United States. Applying for the product in your home country is required to receive the permit. Please see this link for more information: www.idlservice.com/. Reciprocity agreements exist with the countries of France and Germany allowing for the transfer of a valid non-commercial driver’s license without road or knowledge testing. In Pennsylvania, Canadian citizens may use their Canadian driver’s license for the first 60 days of their visit.
How to obtain a driver’s license in the United States:
If this is the first time you enter the United States, you must first be sure your SEVIS record is considered “active”. Check with your DSO to be sure this has been done. You must obtain two (2) letters from your DSO: a Social Security Number (SSN) denial & Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) letter. If you do not have a SSN, the first step is to apply for and receive a denial for a SSN. If you already have a SSN, you may skip this step. Once you have received the SSN denial (if needed), you will take that denial letter, the DMV letter, all items listed on the DMV fact sheet (see page 6) and check or money order for $34.50. http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/pdotforms/dl_forms/dl-180.pdf
From the Student/Exchange Visitor Program:
1) Wait 10 days after you arrive in the United States. You may want to apply for a driver’s license or SSN right away, but be patient. The 10-day wait allows time for all the government databases to update with your arrival information.
2) Know what you are applying for and if you are eligible. While you are waiting, talk with your school’s designated school official (DSO) or sponsor’s responsible officer (RO) or alternate responsible officer (ARO) to learn more about your state’s driving rules and regulations. If you want an SSN, have your DSO or RO/ARO confirm that you are eligible before you apply.
3) Make sure your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is up-to-date and in Active status. SEVIS is the database that contains information for all F, M and J nonimmigrants in the United States. A DSO manages an F or M immigrant’s SEVIS record. An RO/ARO manages an exchange visitor’s SEVIS record. The DSO or RO/ARO (whichever applies to you) must place your record in Active status when you report to the school or program. Talk with your DSO or RO/ARO before you apply for a license or SSN to make sure your record is Active in SEVIS. If your record is not Active when you apply, your application will be rejected.
4) Check your forms. Check all your forms to make sure your information is correct. This is data integrity. Data integrity is very important because if you have different information on different forms, it will cause delays. Specifically, check your Form I-94 “Arrival/Departure Record,” for handwritten information. If the information on your Form I-94 is different than on your passport or Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” or Form DS-2019, “Certificate of Eligibility for “Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status,” please contact your DSO.
5) Wait two days after your DSO or RO/ARO activates your record in SEVIS. After your DSO or RO/ARO activates your record in SEVIS, you should wait at least two federal business days before you apply for a driver’s license or SSN. This gives all the atabases time to update with your new information
6) Bring all your paperwork. When you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – the common name for a state government office that issues driver’s licenses – or to the Social Security office, remember to bring all your paperwork. For most states, the paperwork includes these documents:
- Form I-20
- Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record”
- Passport (with visa, if applicable)
- Proof of legal presence or residence (ask your DSO or RO/ARO what your state requires)