Driving in the US

If you plan to drive in the US, it is recommend that you get a Georgia driver's license for a number of reasons:

  • If a non-US citizen establishes residency in Georgia, he or she must obtain a Georgia driver’s license within thirty (30) days. A non-US citizen would be considered a resident of Georgia if he or she meets any of the following criteria:
    • If a person accepts employment or engages in trade in Georgia, and enrolls his or her children in private or public school within ten days after the commencement of employment; or
    • If a person has been present in the state for 30 or more days.
  • 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. For this reason, if you have not yet obtained a driver's license in the US, it is recommended that you carry your passport and visa with you when driving. However, if the officer is not aware of the provision allowing foreign citizens to drive using an out-of-country license for a limited time, they might still give you a citation for driving without a license.

For more information visit the Georgia Department of Driver Services' webpage for Non-US Citizens.

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.

SSA offices close to Emory's campus:

  • DECATUR OFFICE: 3554 Covington Hwy, Decatur, GA 30032
  • DOWNTOWN ATLANTA OFFICE:  401 W. Peachtree Street NW, Suite 2860, Fl. 28th, Atlanta, GA 30308
  • NORCROSS OFFICE: 4365 Shackleford Road, Norcross, GA 30093

Find another SSA office >>

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.

      For more information and a helpful, printable document checklist for non-US citizens, visit the Georgia DDS website.
  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.