There’s so much information about getting a driver’s license in the USA for foreign nationals or resident aliens but it gets confusing sometimes because most of the instructions given are for local people. So, I am writing this post to make it easier for foreign nationals. I am an Indian passport holder and on a work visa but you can relate a lot of information on this page for the process of obtaining a drivers license if you are an international person. Also, this is based on my experience in getting a driver’s license in the state of Washington but other states have similar process as far as I know.
If you have just arrived to the U.S., you can use your valid foreign driver’s license to drive around in The States for a year. However, you should double check to be sure before hitting the road on your own.
If you are going to stay within the States longer than a year then also get a driver’s license before the period of a year as that would ease up your process of getting a license. Otherwise you will have to go through knowledge test in addition to default driving test.
I delayed since I didn’t need a driver’s license and only got a State ID to avoid going around with my passport. And since it is more than a year that I am here, I had to first get an instruction permit to drive the car I recently purchased. There’s whole another story to buy a car without having a U.S. license first that you can read here.
With an instruction permit I can drive around but I have to have a 5 year experienced driver holding a U.S. driver license. It sucks until I get my practice done but at least I am able to drive around until I get a full driver’s license. Some states also need the person sitting with you while you carry an instruction permit to be 25 years or older.
Getting an instruction permit was super easy – just know the driving rules and give a knowledge test by pre-applying for it online. To prepare for knowledge test, go through the practice test posted here. This site also provides a reason for a wrong answer so you know why which helps not make the same mistake again. Also, some centers allow you to give test for one price any number of times until you pass while some others charge and also have waiting time after two trials. With a one time practice of about 280 questions I was able to clear the test in the first round itself.
Well that’s about it and I will keep updating this post as I get questions or comments or any furthe important information to add.
Cheers and drive safe!