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Driving in the U.S.

Starting March 26, 2018, students and scholars with LESS THAN 12 MONTHS of stay granted on their I-20 or DS-2019 are not eligible for any form of driver’s license in MA. Those with more than 12 months of stay will be eligible for a driver’s license until the program end date on the I-20 or DS-2019 (the grace period is not included in license validity).

Starting March 26, 2018, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will offer the REAL ID, an ID in compliance with new federal government regulations. Starting in October 2020, a REAL ID (or passport) is required to fly within the U.S. or enter federal buildings.

If you want to get a REAL ID, please note there are new documentation requirements; all documents must be originals.

Massachusetts allows some international students and scholars to use their home country license while in the U.S. If your country is NOT on this list, you are not legally allowed to drive in Massachusetts and may be ticketed and/or taken to court for driving illegally. It is very important you begin the driver's license process as soon as possible once you arrive in Massachusetts.

If you are legally allowed to drive in Massachusetts, Massachusetts’ state law declares that certain international licenses are only valid for one year, but you have to carry your I-94, passport, and visa at all times while driving. By having a Massachusetts Driver’s License, you do not have to carry your additional documents.

*Some insurance companies will not approve insurance for your vehicle if you do not have a U.S. license.*

***Did you know? If you take classes at a Driving School, you may receive a deduction in your car insurance? Some Driving Schools will also serve as a sponsor and provide a car for the Road Test.***

Application Process

In order to get a driver’s license, you need to do the following:

  1. Ensure your visa or end date on the I-20/DS-2019 or expiration date on your OPT EAD card has at least one year of eligibility remaining.
  2. Collect the required application and documents (see below)
  3. Review the Permit Learners Exam Guide before you take your test. The written test is a short computer based test of road rules and traffic safety. 
  4. Go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles at 165 Liberty Street in Springfield or 1250 St. James Avenue in Springfield, to take the Permit Test (a written exam and eye exam). You MUST pass these tests in order to apply for the license. Check the Springfield's downtown office hours here
    1. If you need to use public transportation, please see maps.google.com for instructions/schedule. Bus 17 is probably the best option if you use public transportation from the University.
  5. If you pass the Permit Learners Exam, you will be allowed to drive with a licensed driver over 21 years of age. 
  6. Schedule your Road Test
    1. Road tests are by appointment only and must be scheduled at least three weeks after you have earned your learner‘s permit.
    2. At the time of the road test, you need to bring your complete application (obtained from the RMV), your learner‘s permit, payment for each scheduled road test, a registered, insured, and inspected vehicle, and a sponsor.
      1. The sponsor must be at least 21 years of age, have at least one year of driving experience and possess a valid U.S. license issued by his/her home state.
      2. ISSS can provide neither a car nor a sponsor for your Road Test. Many driving schools in Massachusetts will provide a car and a sponsor for a fee.
      3. If you have a valid out-of-country license from certain countries and a MA learner's permit, you may take the road test without a sponsor. Check with the RMV to determine if you come from one of these countries.
      4. Take your Road Test, pass, and receive your MA Driver’s License. It will be mailed to you two to three weeks after your test.

Required Documents

Ensure that you have these documents ready when you go to the RMV.

  1. RMV Application:
  2. Social Security Number (SSN)
    1. If you do not have an SSN or are not eligible, you must submit an SSN denial letter. Follow these procedures: Get an SSN denial letter by submitting the SSN application with your passport and I-20 to the SSN office at 70 Bond St in downtown Springfield and ask for a denial letter.
  3. I-94 (this is an electronic record of your travel history)
  4. I-20 or DS-2019
  5. Passport and Visa
  6. Proof of Massachusetts residency or a letter from ISSS confirming you live on-campus.