Getting Your Immigrant Driver’s License

Getting Your Immigrant Driver’s License

Coming to the United States can open the door to new opportunities for both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders. A driver’s license is an important ID to obtain as a visa for work, family, travel, or personal reasons. Even though you can find public transportation in some of the bigger cities, the most common mode of transportation to travel around the U.S. is by car.

As a permanent resident or temporary visitor, you may be able to apply for an immigrant driver’s license. However, the application process to obtain a license for immigrants varies from state to state and some state laws are more complicated than others. On this page, you will find the general rules pertaining to an immigrant driver’s license.

The immigration attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. want you to have the best experience possible when you are in the U.S., and getting a driver’s license is one way to make that happen! Give us a call today if you need assistance understanding your state’s policies and applying for a driver’s license.

Do I Need an Immigrant Driver’s License?

You need to have a driver’s license of some sort to drive in the United States. This may mean a U.S. driver’s license, an International Driving Permit (IDP), and/or a driver’s license from a foreign country.

In some cases, you may not even need to have a U.S. driver’s license. You may be able to use your foreign license for a short period of time, typically three months. After three months have passed, you will most likely need an IDP.

Since every state is different, the three-month foreign driver’s license rule depends on your place of residency within the U.S. It is imperative that you check the laws in the state you are driving in if you are only driving with your foreign driver’s license; some states require an IDP in addition to a foreign license. This principle applies to the state you live in and to any states you intend to drive through during your time in the U.S.

If you plan on staying in the U.S. for more than six months, it’s advantageous to apply for a U.S. driving license. If you are eligible to apply for an immigrant driver’s license in the U.S., it may be in your best interest to do so. That way, you can drive in all 50 states for a longer period of time than you could with just an IDP and/or foreign driver’s license.

International Driving Permit

An International Driving Permit, or IDP, is a type of permit that allows you to drive legally in 150 countries. An IDP is important because some U.S. states require one in addition to a valid foreign license to legally drive in the United States.

An IDP is valid for one year. You can apply for one at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) equivalent in your home country. If you are in the United States, you can apply through AAA.

Who Can Apply for an Immigrant Driver’s License?

One of the good things about being a lawful permanent resident (LPR) is having certain green card benefits that you share with U.S. citizens. For example, you can open bank accounts, rent and own property in the U.S., and apply for a U.S. driver’s license.

Your driver’s license can also act as an additional form of identification. Additionally, legal temporary visitors—those with nonimmigrant visas—are also eligible to apply for a driver’s license.

Driver’s licenses are state-issued, so all states have slightly different application requirements and processes. Most states allow both immigrant and non-immigrant visa holders to have a U.S. driver’s license.

To get your immigrant driver’s license, most states require:

  1. Form of Identification
  2. Proof of residence
  3. Authorization for your presence in the United States, such as your green card
  4. Other, state-specific documents

Be sure to check your state’s DMV eligibility requirements and review all of the necessary documents. You can also contact your immigration attorney for more information about state requirements. We can help gather all the required documents so that you are fully prepared to get your immigrant driver’s license

Applying for a Driver’s License During Adjustment of Status

In some cases, you may be able to apply for a U.S. driver’s license using your pending Form I-485, Adjustment of Status. Consult your immigration attorney for more information regarding applying for your driver’s license while in the adjustment of status process.

Can I Get a State ID Without a Green Card?

Some states allow undocumented immigrants to apply for and have a U.S. driver’s license. You may still meet DMV and state residency requirements even if you cannot provide proof of legal presence in the U.S.

States that offer a U.S. driver’s license without a green card or other forms of authorization include:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington

We encourage you to stay in the U.S. legally even though getting a U.S. driver’s license is possible without a green card or non-immigrant visa. Being in the U.S. illegally may result in deportation and penalization. You may also find it much more difficult to come back to the United States legally when you apply for a visa.

Talk to the experienced immigration attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. about green card eligibility. We can help you on your journey to legally reside in the United States.

How to Apply for a U.S. Driving License: Requirements for Driving in the United States

Requirements for U.S. driver’s licenses vary from state to state. You may have to take a driver’s test and will always have to pay the required fees. Though some states may not require a driver’s test, it’s important that you understand the general process.

Written Driver’s Test

You may have to take a test where you answer a series of questions about your state’s driving laws and road safety. You can find your state’s road laws in the state driver’s handbook online or at your local DMV.

Just as states have different requirements for obtaining an immigrant driver’s license, each state also has its own set of standards, laws, and policies for driving. Study your state’s handbook before taking the written portion of the driver’s test. The best way to pass the written test is to be prepared and know the laws.

Driving Test

The next step is to take a driving test in a vehicle with an authorized official. The driving portion of the test is the act of driving and maneuvering on your state’s roads. Enrolling in a driving school can help you feel more comfortable driving in the United States and help prepare you for the written portion of the driver’s test.

Can a Green Card Holder Renew Driver License Online?

If you need to renew your driver’s license, you can look online at your state’s renewal requirements. You may be able to renew online, but it is not guaranteed. You also need to confirm that your green card is still valid. You will not be able to renew your immigrant driver’s license if your green card is expired or about to expire.

If you have questions about a green card or driver’s license renewal, reach out to your immigration attorneys at Scott D. Pollack & Associates, P.C. today!

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Applying for a U.S. passport? The attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. are here to help! Contact us today to find out more.

The immigration attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. have over 70 years of combined experience working with immigrants on the path to becoming a citizen of the United States. We hope this article answered your questions about applying for a green card driver’s license. If you have any further questions, reach out to us by calling 312.444.1940 or filling out an online contact form today.

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