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Driver’s License and State ID Card Information

As an international student/scholar, you are eligible to obtain a North Carolina driving license or a state ID Card. It is encouraged that you obtain either one or the other for identification purposes in the United States. A driving license will allow you to operate a car and serve as a means of identification. A State ID card will serve as a means of identification however it will not allow you to operate a car.

N.C. State ID Card

This card does not allow you to drive in the U.S. but it serves as official identification which can be used in lieu of your passport while in the U.S.

In order to obtain the State ID Card, you simply need to follow these steps:

Step 1: Gather Documents

  • Form I20 (F1/F2) or Form DS2019 (J1/J2)
  • Passport
  • F1/J1/F2/J2 visa stamp (exception: Canadian students or scholars)
  • I-94 card (small white card with admission number on it)
  • Proof of Residency*
  • Fee of $10.00 (cash, money order or personal check made payable to NC DMV)

*Proof of Residency must have your current local address. Any of the following items can provide proof of residency: apartment lease, housing contract, mortgage statement, cable bill, electric bill etc. If living on-campus, the Office of Residence Life and Housing can provide a letter saying you are living on-campus.

Step 2: Visit the local Division of Motor Vehicles Office and present the above documents. We recommend using the office located on 2001 Silas Creek Parkway, Winston-Salem, NC 27103. They will take your picture and your ID card will be mailed within 2 weeks to your address.

N.C. Driver’s License

In order to obtain a N.C. driver’s license, you will need to follow these steps:

Step 1: Obtain Liability Insurance – This is a pre-requisite to even applying for the driver’s license. This insurance covers you as a driver on the road of N.C.

EXCEPTION: Proof of Insurance is not needed if you do not own a registered motor vehicle and you do not plan to drive a private passenger motor vehicle owned by another person. In such case, you will be required to sign a certification of exemption (DL-123A) at the driver license office. The exemption restricts you to driving “Fleet Vehicles Only”, such as Zip Cars (insurance included) or Rental Cars (only if you purchase liability insurance offered by the rental car company).

Step 2: Gather Documents – You will need to gather the following documents in order to apply for the N.C. Driver’s License

  • Form 1-20 (F1/F2) or DS-2019 (J1/J2)
  • Passport
  • F1/J1/F2/J2 visa stamp (exception: Canadian students or scholars)
  • I-94 card
  • Proof of Residency*
  • Proof of Insurance

*Proof of Residency must have your current local address. Any of the following items can provide proof of residency: apartment lease, housing contract, mortgage statement, cable bill, electric bill etc. If living on-campus, the Office of Residence Life and Housing can provide a letter saying you are living on-campus.

Step 3: Take Tests/Pay Fees

You will need to pass the following tests in order to obtain the N.C. Driver’s license (no tests are required for the N.C. State ID)

  • Vision test (be sure to have any corrective lenses/glasses with you when you go for the tests)
  • Signs test (identify the common road signs)
  • Written Test (25 questions multiple choice, must receive an 80% to pass, all information on the test can be found in the N.C. Driver’s Handbook which can be found on the N.C. DMV Website)
  • Road Test (you will need a car in order to take this test, it will be a short trip with an officer who will judge you on your driving abilities)

If you pass all of the above, congratulations, you will receive your N.C. Driver’s License in the mail.  They will present you with a temporary driving certificate that you can use to operate a car until the license comes in. Keep in mind the temporary certificate does not serve as a form of I.D.

Registering a Car in N.C.

When you purchase a car, you will receive a Title from the owner/dealer.

You will need to register the car in your name with the State of N.C. and receive license plates for the car ™

Step 1: Obtain N.C. Driver’s License or State I.D. ™

Step 2: Gather documents

  1. Title that has been properly signed and notarized –
  2. N.C. driver’s license or state ID card –
  3. Proof of liability insurance (the insurance will likely need to be adjusted for appropriate coverage on the car)

™Step 3: Pay more fees

  1. –Certificate of Title: $40.00
  2. –License Plate: $28.00
  3. –One-time State Road Tax: 3% of purchase price or value of car

™Step 4: In 2-3 months you will receive another bill from the county for 3% of purchase price/road tax, MUST PAY THIS AS WELL, you will receive this bill every year you own a car that is registered in N.C.

This information can also be found on the North Carlina Department of Motor Vehicle’s web site: North Carolina DMV