Driving a car
To drive in the United States without a valid U.S. driver's license, you need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). You need to have an IDP before going to the United States; you cannot get one here. You should also carry your license from your home country, as it will be required in some states for you to drive.
Residents (Non-U.S. Citizens)
If you live in the U.S. but are not a citizen, you should be aware that residency requirements for obtaining a U.S. driver's license are different in each state. Check the requirements and find out how to apply in your state's department of motor vehicles. If you are eligible to apply for a driver's license, you must get a driver's license from the state where you live.
Insuring a car
Not all insurance companies will sell you insurance if you don't have a valid United States driver's license. Some will if you have a valid foreign license, but only if you are getting a U.S. license within a short period of time, usually 30 to 45 days. No insurer will sell you insurance if you don't have a valid license; international driver permits only allow you to drive internationally, not insure a car.
International students can learn everything they need to know about the process by reading our international student guide to driver licenses and car insurance.
If you're able to buy car insurance, start comparing quotes on car insurance to find yourself the best rate. If you want to learn more about car insurance before jumping into the buying process, read our guide on how to buy car insurance online, which will walk you through some of the basics of car insurance in the United States.
Buying and registering a car
Buying and registering a car can also be tough without an established U.S. credit history and state driver's license, but it can be done. Look for a dealer that is experienced with buyers who have visas and pay cash for the vehicle if possible, since financing when you have only a year on your visa will be difficult. Almost all states require you to show proof of auto insurance when you register your vehicle, so make sure you can get this before buying a car. Our guide on how to insure a new car explains the process in detail.
Renting a car
Renting a car is a viable option while you obtain a U.S. license or a car for yourself. Most rental companies will rent a car to you if you have a driver's license from your home country that is in English.