One of the first things many new international students want to do after entering the United States is get a driver’s license. Like many things, however, correct timing is everything.
Following these six simple tips makes the process go much smoother and saves a lot of time:
- Wait 10 days after you arrive in the United States. You may want to apply for adriver’s license right away, but be patient. The 10-day wait allows time for all the government databases to update with your arrival information.
- Make sure you are eligible for a drivers license. The State of Maine requires that you will be here for at least 120 days beyond the day that you plan to get your license. This means that you plan to be at USM for at least a year to be eligible to get a driver’s license.
The rules for Canadian students are different. If you are a Canadian student with a valid Canadian driver’s license, you should convert your driver’s license to a Maine driver’s license during your first semester. The Maine Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does reserve the right to deny converting your license if you’ve been here for more than one semester.
- Make sure your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is up-to-date and in Active status. SEVIS is the database that contains information for all F, M and J nonimmigrants in the United States. The Office of International Programs (OIP) must place your record in Active status when you report to the school or program. Check in with OIP before you apply for a license to make sure your record is Active in SEVIS. If your record is not Active when you apply, your application will be rejected.
- Check your forms. Check all your forms to make sure your information is correct and consistent. If the information on your Form I-94 (including handwritten information) is different than on your passport or Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” or Form DS-2019, “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status,” please see the DMV Fact Sheet for more information.
- Wait two days after the Office of International Programs activates your record in SEVIS. After OIP activates your record in SEVIS, you should wait at least two federal business days before you apply for a driver’s license. This gives all the databases time to update with your new information.
- Bring all your paperwork. When you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), remember to bring all your paperwork:
--Form I-20 or Form DS-2019
--Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record”
--Passport (with visa, if applicable)
--Letter from OIP confirming your legal presence or residence (please
allow 2-3 business days for OIP to process this request)
Always talk with the Office of International Programs before you try to apply.