Before going to a DMV office and taking DL tests there, an applicant needs to get prepared for the testing (you study for driver license test, don’t you?) and collect all papers required by a local DMV. In fact, the checklist varies slightly from state to state and the requirements differ depending on several factors:
- a class of DL (for example, medical certificates are required for commercial DL while applicants for noncommercial DLs don’t need to present medical documents);
- age of an applicant (minors often need to provide proofs of their enrollment in driving training and are required to verify their parents’ or legal guardians’ consent);
- an applicant’s legal status (non-citizens often need to provide additional documents, for example, to prove they don’t need an SSN).
The full list of required documents is usually published on official DMV websites, where you can also find corresponding Driver’s Manuals, which help you learn driver license knowledge test. Also, some official websites offer to take driver license test online for applicants, so that they can make sure they are really ready for the testing and become acquainted with questions for driver license test in advance. Despite some differences in the requirements, all DMV offices specify the so-called primary documents as basic ones for earning a DL.
What to Bring to DMV for Drivers License Permit Test: Basic Verification Documents
Well, as it was already mentioned, an applicant can study for driver license test while collecting required documents. The basic checklist includes:
- proofs of identity;
- legal presence verification;
- SSN or a substitute;
- proofs of residency in a state where you are going to obtain a DL;
- documents verifying legal change of a name, date of birth, SSN, if any.
It is important that the papers must be presented in the originals or in the certified copies authenticated with the seal. Some of them may satisfy several requirements, such as a U.S. passport, which proves both legal presence and identity or a U.S. birth certificate, verifying date of birth, and legal presence. But keep in mind that many states specify the certain number of documents submitted for verification: for example, an applicant needs to provide one proof of identity, one proof of SSN, and two proofs of residency. And an applicant may not be allowed to prove his/her residency using the passport though it contains the residential address.
Moreover, some state DMVs issue rather complex charts with lists of primary and secondary documents specifying the number of documents from each list an applicant has to provide, e.g. at least one primary document and one or two secondary documents. Sometimes each document has a certain number of points assigned and an applicant must collect a combination of documents to score the certain number of points. For example, New Jersey requires 6 points ID verification by a combination of primary and secondary papers which are different for U.S. citizens and non-citizens.
To learn all the requirements of your state, you can either visit the official DMV web-site or download the Driver’s Manual, as the manuals usually cover this issue. Also, the manuals can be found on specific web-sites offering help in obtaining driver’s licenses like a free driver license test online for practicing before the DMV testing or articles with useful information about DMV procedures.
Though there may be some options, the common list of accepted documents includes:
- Out-of-state DL/LP
- Identification card (including military card)
- Birth certificate (including certificate/report of birth abroad)
- Passport/passport card
- Certificate of naturalization/citizenship
- Social security card (non-laminated)
- Medicare/Medicaid card
- Wage and Tax Statement/1099 tax form
- Payroll sheet
- School transcript/registration/diploma/GED
- Adoption certificate
- Divorce decree
- Marriage certificate
- Court order for a child support/name change
A wide range of papers may be submitted in order to prove state residency:
- Utility/credit card bill/account statement from a financial institution including their electronic copies (issued within the last 90 days);
- State high school, college or university records/transcripts;
- Mortgage, lease or rental agreement;
- Paystub or earnings statement;
- Life, health, auto or home insurance policy;
- Federal, state, or local government papers.
If there are any doubts about whether a paper is accepted, try to think reasonably: does it contain your photo, full name, date of birth, current residential address, SSN, and other necessary information for identification? Does it contain additional information that can help in verification, like your landlord's phone number? Note that originals are always better than copies and that some copies have to be certified. Also, keep in mind that some papers are subject to verification through federal or state institutions/systems, so it can take some time for DMV employees to check them.
What to Bring to DMV for Drivers License If You Are a Non-Citizen
Non-citizens have to take the same steps for obtaining their DLs as Americans. An applicant has to study for a driver's license practice test than to undergo vision and knowledge examinations, and after receiving a learner’s permit to get an in-vehicle practice for passing a road exam. Sure, while practicing your free driver license test online, you’d better start collecting papers required by DMV. Generally, a non-citizen applicant needs the same types of papers as it was already described – proofs of identity, residency, etc. But obviously, some of the above-listed papers are not available for non-citizens, so they have to provide:
- Foreign passport with a valid U.S. visa
- Alien registration card
- Refugee travel document
- U.S. re-entry permit
- Employment authorization card
- Temporary resident card
- Valid I-94 form stamped "Processed for I-55…", "Refugee", "Asylee", "Parolee", "Notice of action"
Note that in case an applicant isn’t eligible for an SSN, an exemption letter from the Social Security Administration must be presented. But in its turn, the SSA issues such a letter only on the ground of some other documents, e.g. a letter from the university if you are a student with a corresponding visa. Thus, get in touch with your local SSA division to learn which documents they accept to issues the exemption letter for DMV. In fact, if you are legally present in the USA, it’s not difficult to collect all the necessary papers, though it may take more time.
In fact, to save your time, money, and effort you should be quite sure that you really need a U.S. driver’s license since foreigners are allowed to drive with their home country DL in most American states. Depending on state rules, for a certain period, you may use your home country DL for driving on public roads, though you can’t use them as an ID card. In this case, there is no need to learn traffic rules, to take driver license test online for practicing and to pass any examinations – so it hardly makes any sense to apply for a U.S. driver license if a person is not planning to stay in the country for a long time.
On the other hand, some foreigners can’t get a United States DL, even if they are legally present in the country. Most states don’t allow obtaining a state DL by tourists, business visitors, and some other categories of immigrants. For example, Delaware rules describe such categories, as well as the state requirement for non-citizens.
What to Bring to Department of Motor Vehicle for Drivers License: Minors Need More Papers
You don’t really think that for minors it will be enough just to read a manual, to get through a free DMV permit practice test online, and then to pass DMV testing, don’t you? In many states, a Graduated Driver’s License program is adopted being focused on better driving education and training for minors. Thus, these states require additional papers verifying that minors are enrolled in or completed the program not to mention parental consent for those applicants, who are under 18. Note that only parents and legal guardians are eligible to sign papers required by DMV. Though the requirements vary depending on a state, the most common of them are:
- A legal guardian has to sign a DL application in the presence of an authorized official or to submit the form with the notarized signature;
- A financial responsibility form must be signed by a legal guardian and provided to DMV.
- Minors under 18 have to submit proof that they are enrolled in school and have satisfactory progress or papers verifying that an applicant has already graduated from high school.
- If mandatory enrollment in a state-approved driving course is required, minors have to present proof of their enrollment/completion.
- Documents proving that an applicant obtained required behind-the-wheel experience (certification, parent's signature on an instruction permit, etc.). These documents are required after an applicant got a learner’s permit.
Note that there may be some additional requirements specified by a driver education/training school, so visit its web-site if it’s available. Also, it may offer other useful information or tools, such as free driving theory test online or a guide on how to pass the exams. Take the trouble to pass knowledge test online for improving your skills, but make sure it is based on real and valid questions for the driver's license test.
Some Other Documents You May Need
In the foregoing paragraphs, we have covered the non-commercial vehicles checklist, but for receiving a motorcycle or commercial DL a person needs to submit additional papers. In most states, a valid DL of any class is mandatory to get a motorcycle endorsement, as well as a basic DL or out-of-state CDL is necessary to earn a local CDL. Some states offer to complete a state-approved basic rider course before applying for a motorcycle DL, so you may need a certificate of completion. As for CDL, the common requirements include:
- to submit information for10 Year History Record Check DL 939;
- to self certify a driving status;
- to provide completed MER and MEC forms.
While collecting the documents, take your time to get well prepared for DMV exams by practicing online driver's license tests for free either on a DMV official website or using special services. In fact, you won’t earn your DL until you pass the exams no matter how many papers you have submitted. So, take DMV permit test online and run through your state’s driver’s manual, again and again, to ensure your efforts in gathering the documents won’t be in vain.