Resources > Section 17 > Orientation > Living in the US
#17-173State ID, License & DrivingPDFReturnURL
This section has a variety of information that is useful to know when living in the United States.
Many places in the US require residents to show photo IDs as proof of identification. Participants who don’t want to carry their passport around (to minimize risk of loss) may apply for and use a state-issued ID and driver’s license as “acceptable proof of photo identification.” Most states allow foreigners to drive with a valid, unexpired foreign license in English, but some states and car rental companies require an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a state-issued driver’s license. Participants without an IDP may apply for a state-issued driver’s license but note that some states have minimum residency rules e.g., minimum residency of 1 year before applying.
Applying for a state-issued ID or driver’s license is optional. If interested in applying and your state allows it, you may follow the steps below and apply via the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV; some states refer DMV as the Motor Vehicle Administration or Registry of Motor Vehicles) for that state or territory by presenting necessary supporting documents.

Step 1 Activate SEVIS record. Within 72 hours upon arrival in the US, complete SEVIS validation through your FUSIA online panel. You will be required to submit your complete US address, US mobile phone number, and a copy of your lease (or a document that serves the same purpose) that shows the address. Once complete, your SEVIS record will be updated from Initial to Active. Wait for at least 48 federal business hours from the activation date to ensure that your Active SEVIS status updates in all relevant databases.

Step 2 Read, gather, and apply. Ask yourself whether you really need one. If yes, find out from your state’s motor vehicle field office whether you are eligible to apply and the requirements, procedures, and required documentation. If eligible to apply, gather the following documents, and then apply your driver’s license or state ID by visiting the nearest motor vehicle field office of your state. The rules vary by state. Below lists the documentation required by most states when applying for a state-issue ID or driver’s license.

• Passport with your valid admission stamp and your visa
Social Security Card
Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record – Click HERE
Form DS-2019 (original) with an Active status in SEVIS
• Two documents to establish your state residency, e.g., a utility bill or bank statement
• Money to pay any fees

Step 3 Rent or buy a car. To drive in the US, you may rent or buy a car. For renting, you can use carsharing or traditional car rental services such as Zipcar (carsharing) or Enterprise (traditional). Be reminded to get expert assistance in evaluating the car’s condition as used cars may have hidden issues. For buying, you can get a car from a dealership or online. If purchasing online, ensure the validity of the seller and make sure to thoroughly inspect the car for any defects.

Step 4 Be insured and registered. In the US, you are required to drive a car that has valid insurance and vehicle registration. Common car insurance companies are GEICO and State Farm - you may check online to compare prices. Registration can be obtained from your local DMV. There are different types of car insurance available: liability, collision, and comprehensive. Liability coverage (the minimum requirement for driving an automobile in the US).

• Some participants use AAA which offers roadside assistance, insurance and registration in one package
• Taking a state-certified defensive driving course can save on car insurance/deduct points from your driving records