College Tips

Getting Your South Carolina Driver’s License as an International Student


Getting behind the wheel makes it a lot easier to run errands, explore your new home around USC and meet friends. Still, you might be confused about how to get your South Carolina driver’s license as an international student.

That’s why we’ve put together some tips from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Follow them and soon you’ll be on the road with minimal hassle!


Visit the following ISS page for information on getting your S.C. Driver’s License and read on to find out what steps you will need to take.


Wait at least twelve days after you arrive

To apply for a driver’s license, your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record must have an Active status. It can take ten days for your status in SEVIS to update. After that, it can take another two business days for other systems to update with your Active status. If you try to apply before all systems are updated, you won’t be successful.


Make sure your information is accurate

To make the application process as smooth as possible, make sure all your documentation has accurate and consistent information, including:

  • Your active status
  • Your name
  • Your date of birth

For instance, if your name is spelled differently in the database compared to one of your documents, this can cause delays with getting your driver’s license.


Bring the appropriate documentation

In South Carolina, you need to bring original versions (not photocopies) of:

  • Your unexpired foreign passport with required US entry markings and/or documentation
  • As an F-1, you’ll also need your Form I-20
  • One document to establish your South Carolina state residency
  • Your Social Security Number or a letter from Social Security stating non-eligibility
  • Valid visa with supporting documents valid for at least 160 days
  • Form I-94
  • Valid driver’s license from your home country
  • Automobile liability insurance information
  • Money to pay your fees

Make sure you read through Form MV-94, which includes a checklist of required documents for international customers! There are several possible additional requirements you might need to follow, and all of the details are included in that form.

For instance, if any of your documents are not in English, you will need to get a qualified translator to provide translations. For more details, including which documents you can use to establish residency and you need for a qualified translator, visit the South Carolina DMV website.


Go to the nearest DMV station

You want to visit the Columbia station located at 1630 Shop Road, Columbia, SC 29201. That’s where you can:

  • Verify you have all the appropriate documentation
  • Apply for your license
  • Take the written exam and driver’s exam if needed
  • Register your car


Try to get there a few minutes before they open in the morning so you can avoid waiting a long time in line!


Ask an American friend to practice with you

If you’re not used to driving on the right side of the road, it can help to have an American friend let you practice a bit on slow streets. This is especially important if you need to take the road test in order to get your license. It’s better to practice beforehand and get comfortable.


For more information and tips, check out this driver’s license fact sheet from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


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