Getting a Driver's License
Upon your arrival to Virginia, you are permitted to drive using your valid driver's license from your home country for up to 6 months from your date of entry. However, the foreign license must either be printed in English or be accompanied by an International Driver's License.
Once you are ready to apply for a Virginia driver’s license or learner's permit, you will need to prepare to successfully complete a vision screening, a computer based knowledge exam, and a road skills exam. Study guides are available for the knowledge exam through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website.
When applying for a driver's license or learner's permit, you must present documents proving your eligibility. The acceptable documents and proof requirements are outlined in the DMV's Obtaining a Virginia Driver’s License or ID Card handout. As a student or scholar, you must show the following:
- Unexpired foreign passport containing a U.S. visa
- F1/F2 applicants must present a USCIS student or dependent SEVIS I-20
- J1/J2 applicants must present a U.S. Department of State form DS-2019
- Proof of Virginia Residency – See www.dmvnow.com for a complete list of valid Residency documents. The following are the most common documents presented:
- Monthly bank statement not more than two months old.
- Residential rental / lease agreement. Contract must be signed by Landlord or Leasing Agency.
- Utility bill, not more than two months old, issued to applicant. Examples include gas, electric, sewer, water, cable or phone bill. (Cellular phone and pager bills are not accepted.)
- Proof of Social Security number. Social Security number must be provided if one has been assigned.
- If you hold a license from another US state, Canada, Germany, France, or the Republic of Korea, you may simply apply to exchange your current driving privilege. Your foreign driving privileges will be verified through your home country; the verification process may take up to 30 days. If your driving privileges are successfully verified, all tests will be waived and you will be issued a Virginia driver’s license.
- If you hold a license from Taiwan, you may apply to exchange your driving privilege. Your foreign driving privileges will be verified through your home country; the verification process will take up to 30 days. If your driving privileges are successfully verified, you will complete a vision exam and computer based knowledge exam. The road skills exam will be waived.
- If you hold a license from any other country, the DMV will attempt to verify the license. However, the foreign license must either be printed in English or be accompanied by an International Driver's License. In the event this verification can be made, you will be required to complete a computer based knowledge exam and a road skills exam. You will not be required to hold a learner’s permit and will be issued a Virginia driver’s license.
- If you do not hold a verifiable foreign license, you will be required to complete the vision exam and computer based knowledge exam, hold a learner’s permit for at least 60 days, and then complete a road skills exam. After completing the exam requirements, you will be issued a Virginia driver’s license.
- Applicants age 18 or older may choose to complete a course of driver’s education at a driver training school approved by DMV or the Department of Education. If this course consists of both classroom and behind the wheel instruction, the 60 day holding period and the road skills exam will be waived.
- Possessing a learner's permit allows you to operate a motor vehicle when a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age is seated beside you. This person must hold a valid driver's license from the US, be legally permitted to drive, and be alert and able to assist you.
- Your licensed driver should complete the In Car Maneuvers Observation Record (CSMA-19) form that must be presented at the time of your road skills exam.
- If you obtain a Virginia learner’s permit, you are no longer eligible to drive on your home country’s license.
The two-part knowledge exam is taken on a computer at DMV and tests your knowledge of traffic signs, motor vehicle laws, and safe driving techniques. All ten traffic sign questions in Part One must be answered correctly before you can take the general knowledge exam in Part Two. You must score at least 80% on these questions to pass Part Two.
The two-part knowledge exam is available in the following languages:
- American Sign Language (ASL)
- Amharic (Ethiopian)
- Chinese/Mandarin (Traditional)
- Haitian Creole
If you fail the knowledge exam:
- If you are under age 18, by law you must wait a full 15 days before you can retake the exam.
- If you are age 18 or older, you must pay a $2.00 re-examination fee if you retake the exam within 15 days.
- Regardless of age, if you fail the two-part knowledge exam three times, you must complete the classroom portion of a Virginia-approved Driver Training School program and present the Driver Education Certificate. To be eligible for re-examination, the course completion date must be after the date of the third exam failure.
When taking the road skills exam:
- You must provide a vehicle for the exam. The vehicle must have a valid safety inspection sticker, license plates, registration card, as well as working brakes, safety belts, horn, lights, turn signals, mirrors and speedometer.
- An In Car Maneuvers Observation Record (CSMA-19) form is required at the time of testing.
- Only the applicant and the DMV representative are allowed in the vehicle during the road skills exam.
- This test will only be administered in English.
- Please contact the DMV to schedule an appointment for this test. You can schedule in person at the DMV location or by phone, (804) 497-7100.
If you fail the road skills exam:
- There is a mandatory two-day waiting period after a failed road skills test before the test may be administered again.
- Regardless of age, if you fail the road skills exam three times, you must complete the behind the wheel portion of driver education from a Virginia-approved Driver Training School and present the Driver Education Certificate with a completion date that is after the date of the third test failure. A complete list of Virginia approved Driver Training Schools can be found on the Virginia DMV website.
The Department of Motor Vehicles also has a DMV 2 Go Mobile Customer Service center that occasionally visits Virginia Tech's campus. Click here for more information.