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Getting your US Driver License


You might feel a little lost in the US without a driver license. EVERYONE is driving.

Public transportation exists, but in most states, driving is the best way to go. The level of struggle without a license will of course depend on where you are stationed.

Personally, I had to learn how to drive from scratch. Coming from a country and city with excellent public transportation, driving was new to me. If you don't have a license, I recommend making it a priority. It gives you something to focus on, and will boost your confidence, independence, and your chances of getting a job.

I was lucky – my husband turned out to be a great teacher who could handle my frustrations and insecurities with ease! We spent every weekend on parking lots going over parallel parking and traffic rules. I got my license 2 months after I started driving and studying for the test.

If you have a driver license from your home country

Even if you have a license from home, you eventually need to get yourself an American driver license. Most states recognize international licenses. However, you may need an additional International Driving Permit (IDP) from your home country. This will allow you to drive in the US straightaway, but only for a short amount of time.

You have to do some research in your own country to figure out if your license is considered international, or what you can do to obtain an IDP. Also, check with the DMV in your future home state on what regulations they have for foreign licenses.

An IDP won’t work forever, its only temporary but good to have while you’re working on getting your American license. Lastly, make sure to get your IDP before leaving your home country. Once in the US, the DMV won’t be able to help you get an IDP.

Getting an American Driver License

Whether you immigrated with a license or not, you eventually will need to go through the same process.

Step one is to take the written exam. The DMV website offers great guidance on the test, just do some research. The only thing I struggled with when studying for the test was adjusting to the imperial system of measuring speed and distance (mph, feet, miles etc.). Just study and you'll do great!

Once you've passed the written exam, you got your Learner Permit! The learner permit allows you to drive in the company of someone with a valid US driver license. Practice practice practice!

Once you’ve passed your written exam, you are ready for the actual driving test, also know as the behind the wheel test. The DMV usually describes the process on their websites – each state is slightly different but I found some helpful videos on YouTube as well.

If you pass your test you’ll get a piece of paper in hand immediately which symbolizes your license. Your actual driver license card will show up in the mail a few days later – fingers crossed your photo turns out fabulous!


Useful websites:

Driving classes and more 

Department of Motor Vehicles

Foreign Nationals Driving in the US


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