Driving in Georgia
Georgia recognizes valid driver's licenses issued to and held by residents of other countries as long as the license is valid (not expired). Generally, you may drive in Georgia for up to one year on a valid foreign or international license. You are not required to apply for a Georgia license unless you become a resident of Georgia.
Obtaining a Georgia Driver's License or Identification Card
If you will get a Georgia License, you must apply in person to the Department of Driver Services (DDS). All drivers from other nations (including Canada and U.S. Territories) must pass Georgia’s written, road, and vision tests in order to be issued a Georgia driver license. A license costs $20 which must be paid in cash, money order or a MasterCard or Visa debit card.
For general requirements and the most convenient location for written and driving exams, please visit the Department of Driver Services web site. For specific information and requirements for non-US citizens, please visit the DDS webpage for non-US citizens.
Note: You are not required to have a social security number (SSN) to obtain a GA state driver’s license or identification card. If you do not have a SSN and would like to get a license or identification card, you should obtain a Form SSA-L676 (Social Security Card Denial Notice) from the Social Security Administration. Bring your passport, printout of your I-94 electronic record or I-94 card and I-20 or DS-2019 to the Social Security Administration and request a denial notice. The issuance of this form does not prevent you from being granting a SSN in the future. It simply states that you are currently not eligible for one.
You should bring the following to DDS when applying for a license:
- Driver’s license from your home country
- Social Security card or Form SSA-L676 (Social Security Card Denial Notice)
- Valid passport
- Valid I-94 (printout of your electronic record or card)
- Current I-20 (for F-1 students) or DS-2019 (for J-1 students)
- 2 Proofs of residency in Georgia. Examples of proofs of residency include:
- Bank statement issued within past 60 days
- Utility bill issued within past 60 days
- Current valid rental contract or receipt for rent payment made within past 60 days for rent payments with valid Georgia residence address
- Employer verification (letter from employer on company letterhead stating applicant’s full name and home address or check stub that states name and address
- Georgia license or ID card issued to parent, child, guardian, or spouse; the GA license/ID card holder must also be present for identification
For a full list of proofs of residency address and a copy of the ISSS driver’s license handout, click here.
GA state identification card: You may choose to obtain a Georgia state ID card from the DDS. This does not allow you to drive, but it will provide you with a valid ID other than your passport. This may be a good option if you do not wish to carry your passport with you. To get an ID card, you must apply at the DDS in person and you need to bring the same documents as for the driver license, with the exception of the driver license from your home country.
Follow these 5 Steps to Make the Process Smoother & Save Lots of Time in the End:
1. Wait 10 days after you arrive in the United States.
You may want to apply for a driver’s license or SSN right away, but be patient. The 10-day wait allows time for all the government databases to update with your arrival information.
2. 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. An ISSS International Student Advisor must place your record in Active status when you report to the school or program. If you are a new student, talk with an ISSS advisor before you apply for a license or SSN to make sure your record is Active in SEVIS. If your record is not Active when you apply, your application will be rejected.
3. Check your forms.
Check all your forms to make sure your information is correct. This is data integrity which is very important because having different information on different forms may cause delays.
4. Wait two days after your ISSS activates your record in SEVIS.
After your SEVIS record is activated, you should wait at least two federal business days before you apply for a driver’s license or SSN. This gives allows time for all the government databases to update.
5. Bring all required documents (see above)
Obtaining a Car
Buying a car is a serious financial matter. You are advised to be careful when purchasing any car, especially a used car. While most car dealers are reputable, some try to deceive customers by selling defective cars. You may want to find a friend who knows a lot about automobiles or read a magazine like Consumer Reports to help you decide which model of car will be best for you. It is wise to test-drive the car and to have a mechanic inspect it before you buy. This is to ensure that there are no major defects. For a small fee you can also purchase a vehicle history report from carfax.com by providing the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from the car.
Once you have negotiated a buying price, make sure that you receive the title certificate for the car and that the seller has signed over the car’s ownership to you. If you are buying a used car, when you pay the money and sign the papers, the vehicle is yours. You do not have the right to return the vehicle and ask for your money back if you find something wrong.
Owning and operating a car is no simple matter. Besides the cost of buying the car, there are other costs involved:
- Automobile insurance (required by State of Georgia Law)
- Gasoline, regular motor oil changes, and other car maintenance and repair costs
- Annual emissions inspections, registration, and taxes
- Parking fees on campus and in some apartment complexes
You should seriously consider the costs associated with owning a car before deciding to buy one.
There are other options for people who need access to a car occasionally, but not on a daily basis:
Zipcar provides 24 hours a day/7 days a week access to Zipcars parked on campus to borrow for short-term use. Once you join, you can reserve a car online, let yourself in with your Zipcard, and drive. Hourly and daily rates are available, and include gas and insurance. Students age 18-20 can use the cars that “live” on campus, while members age 21 and older can access thousands of Zipcars around the world. It costs $25 to join. Please refer to the website for more information.