All F1/F2 visa holders may be eligible for driver’s license while in the US. However, those who wish to operate a vehicle must successfully apply for and receive a driver’s license. To acquire a driver’s license, you must apply for one at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Driver’s License Application Process
Every state has different requirements for how to get a driver’s license. Generally, these steps include:
- Making sure your SEVIS record is in Active status as an F-1 student.
- Waiting 10 days after arriving in the US to apply for a driver's license so that your Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status: information can update in all the government systems.
- Obtaining your Social Security card or request a Letter of Ineligibility, also referred to as a denial letter, from the Social Security Administration (SSA) stating that you are not eligible for a Social Security card.
- If you are not eligible for a SSN, you will need to bring a letter of denial/indecision from the Social Security office. Due to COVID, you can currently obtain this letter by mail.
The DMV may need to verify your nonimmigrant student status to determine if you are eligible for a driver’s license. Most of the DMVs across the nation use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program. To find out more about this program, please visit the Checking Your SAVE Case Status page.
When you apply for a driver's license at your local DMV, make sure to bring original copies of the following documents:
- All signed versions of your Form I-20
- I-94 card (if issued paper I-94) or I-94 printout (if issued electronic I-94). Refer to the automated I-94 process.
- A valid passport and your most recent student visa.
- Proof of residence. This varies from state to state. Examples include rental agreement, bank statement, paycheck stub, current, unexpired license or ID, vehicle registration, auto insurance card or utility bill with the same name and address.
- If your state requires it, an SSN card or a denial letter. You will need to request it by mail.
- If you are on OPT, bring your EAD card. The DMV will use the A number on this card to verify your status.
- An Enrollment Verification Letter from the Office of Records and Registration may be required by your state.
If you are an F-2 dependent, go to the DMV with your primary F-1 and make sure you both have all your required documents.
After a successful application process, a DMV official will explain the next steps for attaining your driver’s license. It is normal for some nonimmigrants to only get temporary licenses. In addition, you may receive the license immediately or you may have to wait several weeks, depending on the state.
If an F-1 nonimmigrant applies for a driver’s license and officials at the DMV are unable to issue a product, the DSO or RO should e-mail SEVP (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance.