The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) oversees issuing of driver’s licenses and state identification cards. Most non-immigrants and their dependents have the opportunity to obtain a Pennsylvania driver’s license or state identification card.
A state identification card is a good alternative to carrying a passport and is useful for opening bank accounts, paying via personal check, or going to bars or restaurants where alcohol is served.
Please plan ahead! If you are thinking about getting a license or state ID, do it while you have six to eight months of study left, otherwise, you may not be eligible for a document.
Eligibility and Applying
All F1/F2, J1/J2 visa holders are eligible for a state ID or driver’s license as long as their I-20 or DS-2019 is valid for a minimum of six months or more in the future (including grace period). New students must wait at least two weeks from the start of the semester before going to the DMV to allow time for immigration record validation. J2 and F2 visa holders need to allow six to eight weeks for process verification.
Step 1: Obtain a Social Security Number or Letter of Denial
You can get these documents from the Social Security Administration. To obtain a letter of denial, bring your I-20/DS-2019 and passport and you will get the letter the same day. SSA is located at:
|Address:||6117 Station St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
921 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
|Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri||9AM – 4PM|
|Wed||9AM – 12PM|
Step 2: F1 & J1 Students Get Letter From Office of International Education
Request a letter from the Office of International Education (OIE). Allow two to three business days to collect your letter. If your spouse requires a letter, you can get a similar letter from our office as well. These letters are valid for at least one semester.
Step 3: Gather Other Documents Needed
- Show two forms of proof of residency (current utility bill, tax record, lease agreement, university bill, bank statement, or another bill);
- Immigration documents: passport, visa, I-94, I-20 or DS-2019 (if your names do not match exactly on all documents, you may have some difficulty being issued a driver’s license or Pennsylvania ID).
- Medical exam (not needed for Pennsylvania ID). All applicants must get a doctor’s signature on DL-180 available on the DMV website (must be printed double-sided).
Step 4: Go To The Driver’s License Center
Complete application (DL-180) found in the Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual or available at any Driver’s License Center.
Pennsylvania ID Card: you will be issued a card upon verification of your documents.
Driver’s License: Three tests are required for a license: vision, knowledge, and driving. These are all completed at the Driver’s License Center. Upon passing a vision and knowledge test, a Driving Permit will be issued, which is valid for one year. It allows driving with another licensed driver until passing the driving test. Driving tests must be scheduled: 1-800-932-4600 or on the DMV Website.
International and Foreign Driver’s Licenses
A waiver of some or all of these tests may be available for those who hold a U.S. driver’s license or citizens of France, Germany, and Canada who hold a license from their home countries. It is still required to show an I-20 or DS-2019, which is valid for more than one year.
International driver’s licenses are valid for one year before needing to obtain a Pennsylvania Driver’s License.
Renewing Your Driver’s License
To renew your license, you will need to go in person to the Driver’s License Center and present the same documents needed for your first license. The new Driver’s License expiration date will be the end date of your I-20 or DS-2019. You do not have to retake any written or driving tests.