Driver's license process
Some students may want to get their driver's license while on the exchange. In order to move forward in the process, students need to get permission from their host family and their parents. Please note that state or local laws may not allow for an exchange student to get a driver's license.
Setting ground rules
Students need host family and parent permission before pursuing a driver's license permit. Host parents are not required to allow their student to get a driver's license. Most states will require a certain number of driving hours, so your student would likely need to use the family car to complete those. Students are responsible for the costs of car insurance and any automobile damages that may occur while they're driving. If you're okay with your student getting a driver's license, check in with your IEC to ensure their parents also grant permission.
Next, make sure you establish guidelines around driving, car use and passengers in the vehicle. Communicating these rules with your student before they start driving can be helpful in establishing expectations. By working together, parents and students can accomplish their shared goal — a safe, successful teen driver.
Here are the steps EF recommends taking:
1. Check your state's law
Each state's laws vary regarding exchange student eligibility and requirements. Call the local DMV directly to see what is required for non-US citizens to gain a license. Students will need to know what to bring to an office before they apply.
Example: One host dad in Illinois says, “In our state it was required they had at least six months left on their visa to get a license after having their permit for nine months and acquiring 60 hours drive time, so many of our students only got a learner’s permit and supervised driving experience. We had to get a letter from our social security office stating they were not a citizen for the permit. Each state is different, so make sure to do your research!”
2. Study the driver’s manual
Before applying, encourage your student to study your state’s driver’s manual and take practice exams online.
3. Prepare for the DMV
When your student goes to the DMV to apply for their learner’s permit, they'll most likely have to:
- Pass a written test based on the Driver’s Manual
- Take a pre-licensing or driver education course (many states require a specific number of hours of classroom prep before taking the test for a learner’s permit in addition to a specific number of hours behind the wheel practicing for their driver’s license)
- Meet the DMV's vision requirements. In most states, to meet vision requirements, you must take a vision test at the DMV or provide an Eye Test Report (MV-619) completed by an eye care professional.
- Have all required documentation for a non-citizen
- Have photo identification
4. After the learner's permit
Once your student has their learner’s permit, they must:
- Obey the local and state rules for all learner’s permit holders and the rules for young drivers
- Prepare for the road test
- Have supervised driving practice with minimum hours, including hours of driving after sunset
- Take a pre-licensing or driver education course
5. Maintenance and payment
Have a conversation with your student about maintenance and payment. Will they pay for gas or be added as a driver on the family’s insurance? Will they be responsible for cleaning out and washing the car? Set ground rules and write them out so you and your student can commit to them together.
Once this is all completed, encourage your student to schedule and take the road test! Good luck!
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