Can Expats Drive in the US?

Posted On: March 21, 2015

Because many Indian offshore team members know there are many rules to follow while driving in the US, and no one wants to get pulled over by the police for breaking the law, many ask , “What are the driving rules in the US? What do you suggest?”


Department of Motor Vehicles

How do I get a driver license in the US as an expat?


If you are coming to the US for an extended period of time (on an F, H, L or other visa), it will be a good idea to get a US driver license.

I suggest in ideal situations to follow these steps to get your FIRST driver license in the US:

  1. Learn the basics of driving in India because driving instruction in the US is expensive.
  2. Many states allow use of Indian driving ID for short stays. Check with the local or state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to ask about the laws regarding foreign driving IDs in your area. 
  3. If you are in the US longer than a few months, get your hands on the driving manual by downloading it off the internet or calling the local DMV for a hard copy. To get the virtual version type into Google *City State DMV Driver Handbook* or related terms. For example, here is one for the state of Nebraska. Note: while probably 80-90% of the rules are the same from state to state, it’s better to read and study the manual of the state you will take the test in. 
  4. Study the book to get your driver permit. Schedule a paper and pencil test. Pass and get your driver permit. 
  5. Practice driving for several months before taking the road test. Remember as a permit holder you must have a licensed driver in the car with you. 
  6. After passing the road test, you will be issued your driver’s license! 
New license when moving to a different state
I got my Utah driver license after passing the written driver test when
moving to Utah from NY. (As I already had a NY driver license, there
was no need to take the physical driver test in Utah).
If I move to another state in the US, what do I do with the license from the other state? 
Each state has different residency requirements. Check on the website for the driver license division of the state you have moved to in order to know if or when you should transfer your driver license (car registration, license plates, car insurance, etc.) to the new state address.
When we moved from New York to Utah, we had about a year at that time to change everything over. In fact, it may have been less time, but we finished it with a year. Each state is different. Some states may require you to change over in a few months or so. Keep note that if your driver license and plates from your previous state of residence were recently issued, you may be eligible for a refund. To find out contact the driver license division of the state you moved out of. Some may offer a partial refund on the unused ‘time’ your materials were valid.Note that there are “non driver ID cards as well.” If you will be in the US for an extended period but will not drive, in most states the driver license offices also issue non-driver’s ID cards with your local address, current image and relevant information. This will come in handy so that carrying a passport everywhere, all the time may not be necessary.




For more questions about driving licenses in the US, check with the local DMV in the area you are going to move to in the US. 
Author, Jennifer Kumar works with global professionals and aspiring entrants to the U.S. see her profile on LinkedIn.
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~This post is part of “Questions about American Culture” – a part of the US Corporate Culture Training for Offshore Professionals. At the beginning and end of the training participants ask any question they have about living in the US as an expat. While some questions are answered on the spot, some will be followed up outside of the session, such as this one.

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