Driving in the US

If you are a non-resident with a valid driver's license from your home country, you can use your out-of-country license to drive in Georgia for up to 1 year.

However, if you plan to drive in the US we recommend that you get a Georgia driver's license for a number of reasons:

  • Georgia defines a resident as someone who maintains a permanent home in the state. Unfortunately, regulations also note that engaging in employment or enrolling children in public schools can lead to a presumption of resident status.

  • When you buy a car in Georgia you have to register the vehicle in your county, which requires a valid Georgia driver's license or state identification card.

  • A police officer conducting a traffic stop may ask to see your passport or visa to verify your foreign license, so if you should carry it with you when driving. If they aren’t aware of the provision allowing foreign citizens to drive using an out-of-country license, they might still give you a citation for driving without a license.

Timing

Before you apply for a Georgia driver's license, your arrival in the US has to be confirmed in multiple government databases. So, before you start the application process, you should wait until:

  • 10 business days have passed since you arrived in the US;
  • Your record has been registered in SEVIS, if you're in F or J status; 
  • Students only: You have received confirmation that your check-in through ISSS Link has been approved;
  • Scholars only: 5 business days have passed since you attended international scholar orientation.

Social security number requirements

To apply for a driver's license, you will need either a social security number or a letter of ineligibility for a social security number (also called Form SSAL 676). 

In general, only noncitizens who have permission to work in the US can apply for a social security number. 

If you are eligible for a social security number, you'll need to apply for it and wait to receive your social security card in the mail before you visit the Department of Driver Services (DDS).

If you are not eligible for a social security number, you still have to visit a Social Security Administration office and apply for a social security number in order to get a letter of ineligibility (SSAL 676). Then you can go to a DDS office to apply for your driver's license.

Learn more about social security numbers >>

Application process

  1. Bring the following documents to a DDS office (please note that there is a DDS office in South Dekalb Mall, which is accessible via the free Emory Shuttle. View the schedule for the South Dekalb Mall Park and Ride >>).

    1. Immigration document (I-20, DS-2019, I-797, etc.)

    2. Valid passport and visa

    3. I-94

    4. Social security card or Form SSAL 676

    5. Home-country license, if you have one

    6. Proof of residence. If you live off campus, bring a copy of your apartment lease and a secondary document, like a utility bill, that shows your name and local address. If you live on campus, go to the Office of Residence Life & Housing in Raoul Hall to get a letter from Emory confirming your local address.

  2. At the DDS office, you will take a vision test, a written test about US traffic laws (including road signs), and a driving test. Testing info >>
  3. Typically, you will get a temporary driver's license at the DDS office. Then they will mail you your permanent license within 14-30 days.

Registering your vehicle

If you buy a car in Georgia, you have to register it with your county. To do this, you'll need a valid Georgia driver's license or a state identification card.

Vehicle registration is handled by the tax commissioner's office in each county.

Tax commissioner's offices

Cobb County ► Fulton County ►
Dekalb County ► Gwinnett County ►
Fayette County ►

Renewing your license

Your Georgia driver's license will expire on the end date listed on your immigration document (I-20, DS-2019). So if you extend your stay in the US or apply for a change of status with a new end date, you'll need to renew your license.

If your driver's license is expiring but you have a pending application to extend your stay in the US, you might be able to request a 120-day extension of your driver's license. You must apply within 30 days of your license expiration date. Visit this page for more information (scroll to bottom of page) >>

Need help?

If you have questions about the application process or are experiencing extensive delays, please contact your ISSS advisor. We are advocating for change at all levels of the process, and we might be able to help with your individual case.