Tuesday, June 7, 2011

American Drivers License for Non Residents

Drivers License is a must to have a comfortable life if not a life in the US.Obtaining a Drivers license in the US is usually a two step process. There are some exceptions to this in states like New Jersey. Each state has a Department Of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with its own set of driving rules and regulations. The document requirements will vary for each state and also depend on your immigration status. These DMVs have websites with useful information and forms.They should be your starting point.
Step One of the two step process - Knowledge Test

Acquire a Driver's Manual from a local Driver License Center, or from their website. Most of the auto tags and libraries carry these manuals. Go through the same without skipping a topic and read between lines. Take a quick glance at one and only one of the several Drivers License mock exams available online. Along with the basic traffic signs, rules you will see questions from topics like BAC (blood alcohol content level) percentages etc .It is a computer based test in most of the states. Once you finish reading the manual go back and now try out all the mock exams you find online.

The Home Work

Download, Print and Fill in the required forms from your DMV website. You also usually have to get a Medical Qualification Certificate from your physician or a certified registered nurse. Most of the pharmacies provide this certificate.

Document Checklist for the Knowledge Test

Original SSN Document that you have received.

Two acceptable proofs of residence

Utility bill, Lease Document, Bank Statement etc are a few examples.

Proof of identity: You Passport.

Immigration Status and required Documents

License application or renewal is also a good reminder of our visa status and some pains that accompany it. While on a work visa you might have to provide other documents like a letter from the employer to prove that you are actively working. The expiry date of your new or renewed license will usually be the same as that on your Visa or EAD.

If you do not have a valid visa stamping on your passport but have an approval document then you should be able to provide the same.

If you are on an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) you will have to carry your I-485 application document.

Your Visa was approved but you have not received the official receipt yet.

I have seen cases where they will issue a license for a few months provided you have the proof of visa application. You will have to go back and renew it again once you have the approval document. They charge you based on the number of months you get your license for and so it’s not that bad.

Schedule a test either online or by calling your local DMV. Read others experiences from forum online as this list of documents keep changing.

Learners Permit

After an eye screen and passing the Knowledge test a Learner's Permit will be issued. The Learner's Permit will be valid for one year. This might vary with the state. You can now drive as long as you have another driver with a valid driver’s license in the car.

Step Two-Road Test

Once you master the local roads and traffic signs get on and off the highways. Master the skill of reading sign boards while driving. Even if you drove in India or any other country with the right side driving, i would suggest you take a driving class to understand and get used to the left side driving and the traffic patterns. You can also put your friends or cousins car to its best use :).

And the award goes to Parallel Parking

In most road tests Parallel Parking plays the villain .Understand the technique. We rarely parallel park mostly when we visit the downtown areas .But it is a must have skill at least for the road test. One or two driving lessons which usually cost 50 to 80 dollars an hour will help in this area. There will be some local practice areas where you practice Parallel Parking. Google or find out about these locations from your local library or other sources and try to Parallel Park a 100 times!

Call your Local DMV and make the appointment.

Document Requirements for the Road Test

Your valid learner’s permit

Proof of vehicle insurance

Proof of vehicle registration

Accompanying driver’s valid driver’s license

Nothing comes for Free

For both step one and two above make check or money order payable to the DMV for the appropriate fee. While some DMVs accept personal checks, some only accept certified checks or money orders. Cash is not accepted by most DMVs.

License Transfer - Moving in from another state

This should be fairly easy and straight forward. Take all the documents mentioned in step one and your old drivers license. Check with you local DMV for the fee. They will punch holes in your old license and will issue you a new one.

The Exceptional State-My Personal Favorite

States like New Jersey give you an exempt from the road test if you have a driver’s license from your country or an international driver’s license. Yep that is one of the reasons I love NJ :).

Can I drive on my IDP (International Drivers License)?

You can drive on your countries Drivers License for the first six months. From what I heard IDP is not necessary. Check with your local DMV office before you hit the road.

Use this article only as a reference and call your local DMV as the requirements vary from State To State and I heard that California DMV is one tough nut. Prepare well and concentrate during the Knowledge Exam . Sit confident next to the examiner and Parallel Park during the Road Test. All the Very Best for your License to Thrill!

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