Obtaining a Massachusetts Driver’s License will give you the ability to drive a car in the United States. As an international student, you would most likely be interested in getting a Class D (passenger) license.
In order to be eligible for a standard driver’s license or REAL ID card, you need to provide valid, verifiable immigration documents as well as proof that you have been granted a legal stay in the United States for a total of at least 12 months. If eligible, the validity of your driver’s license or ID card will be the same as your remaining length of stay in the United States.
Applying for a Class D Permit
A Class D Permit is the first step required to earn a license. A permit gives you the ability to practice your driving skills as long as you have a licensed driver age 21 or older, with at least 1 year of driving experience in the U.S. in the passenger seat with you. It is illegal to drive alone if you only have a permit. To get your permit, fill out the online form and see a list of required documents to bring to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).
Upon arrival at the RMV, you will pay the $30 application fee (cash, check, or credit card). You will also be required to take an eye exam. From there, you will be required to take the written test. The test is available in 27 different languages if you do not wish to take the test in English. To pass, you must answer at least 18 of the 25 questions correctly. It is recommended you read and fully understand the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual before taking the test.
Applying for a Class D License
You can apply for a license at any time as long as you are over 18 and have a Class D permit. To take the road test, you must schedule by phone or online ahead of time and show up at the designated location for your appointment. For the road test, you must have a sponsor with you who is at least 21 years old, has at least one year of driving experience in the U.S., and possesses a valid U.S. driver’s license. Foreign license holders are not eligible to be sponsors. Additionally, you must bring:
- A completed Class D Road Test Application
- Your valid Class D permit
- A vehicle
Once you pass the road test, your permit will be stamped and signed by the examiner. You must bring the signed permit, a completed Class D, M, or D/M License and ID Card Application, and the appropriate fee to the RMV to get your license.
Important: The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will issue licenses to those who have been granted a legal stay in the United States for at least 12 months and have at least 30 days remaining in their stay in the United States. They will use the SAVE system to verify lawful presence and duration of status, and licenses will be valid from the date of issue until the date that SAVE brings back showing the end of their approved stay in the United States. For F-1 students, this should be the expiration date of the I-20. For J-1 Exchange Visitors, this will be the expiration date of the DS-2019. Licenses cost $10 per year with a maximum validity of 5 years ($50).
RMV Location and Hours
The Registry of Motor Vehicles branch in North Adams is located at 33 Main St. Hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday.
While you are not required by law to take driver education classes through a certified driving school, it can help you to learn U.S. driving rules and expectations. Additionally, it can help to reduce your insurance premiums. Local driving schools include:
- Dave’s Driving School, 413-442-0502
- Karen’s School of Driving, 413-743-9972
Converting a U.S. License from another State
If you have a valid license from another state in the U.S. that has not yet expired, you must convert your license to a Massachusetts license once you become a resident of Massachusetts. To do so, you must bring the same documents listed in Applying for a Class D Permit as well as your out-of-state license. Your out-of-state license must be surrendered to the RMV. At the RMV, you will be required to fill out a Class D, M, or D/M License and ID Card Application and pay the $115 conversion fee.
Converting a U.S. License from another Country
If you are licensed in another country other than Canada, Mexico, or one of the U.S. Territories, you must take the full written test, road test, and eye exam. The process is similar to applying for a Class D Permit and Class D License.
Driving with a Foreign License
Legally, a foreign visitor from one of the countries listed in the 1949 Road Traffic Convention list can drive with their foreign license for up to one year from the date of arrival in the United States. However, this is designed for short-term visitors and not for students who are establishing residency. As an international student on a student visa, you are required to obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license if you plan to drive a car.
NOTE: As a student, you can get a ticket for not having a proper Massachusetts driver’s license as you are now considered as a Massachusetts resident.