Obtaining a DC Driver’s License

DC law requires you to obtain a DC driver’s license within 60 days of arriving in DC. You need at least 6 months left on your visa or DS-2019.

Check out this blog post on How to Handle Transportation Costs to get tips on car use and things to consider.

To understand how to apply for your driver’s license from the Washington, DC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), read this overview on the DMV website and each of these six steps and click on all links.

If you will not be driving and just want a DC Identification card, instructions may be found here.

1. Obtain your Social Security Card 

2. Gather the documents you will need to bring.

  • Completed application (On page 2, Section G, Voter Registration, check the following box:  ❑ I decline/opt-out. Do not register me to vote or update my voter registration. Then skip to Section H.)
  • Cash or a debit/credit card to pay fees
  • Social Security card
  • Unexpired Out-of-Country driver’s license
  • Official English translation of out-of-country license if not written in English*
  • Unexpired passport with visa, I-94, and DS-2019 (you need at least 6 months left on your visa or DS-2019)
  • Proof of DC Residency Certification (signed by Host Parent and with required documents)
  • You will need to pass a vision screening at the DMV. Bring your glasses or wear contacts if you normally use these when you drive.

3. Prepare for the DC Driver Knowledge Test

4. Select a DMV service location 

Knowledge Exams are offered Tuesday-Saturday 8:15 am-3 pm. On Wednesdays, hours begin at 9:15 am. Allow at least 3 hours for the entire visit. Tuesdays are usually very busy, and the wait can be longer.

Check the website for the DMV locations to decide which is best for you.

Tip: Look for “Best Time to Visit this Location”, located near the bottom of the webpage for each DMV location.

5. Complete the Document Checklist and go take your Knowledge Test.  

  • Go on the DMV website and complete the Document Verification Guide and print out the list it creates.
  • Bring that list and all of the documents (from step 2 above) to the DMV Service Location.

Other Important Things to Know Before you Go

*What if my out-of-country driver’s license is not written in English? 

If your valid, non-US driver’s license is not in English, you must bring an English translation from either your embassy or from a translation company. Unfortunately, the DC DMV does not recognize International Driver’s Permits (IDP).

  • The embassy translation must be on official embassy letterhead. The date of the translation must be on or after the actual date of the non-English language driver’s license.
  • Translations from companies must be certified with a translation stamp or notarized by preparing a notarized affidavit confirming the translation was prepared by a qualified translator and that it is both accurate and complete.  U.S. Translation Company is one company offering this service.
    • U.S. Translation Company offers a special price for Au Pair in America Au Pairs. The price for a certified translation is $75. There is a discount for Spanish & Portuguese translations if you put Au Pair in America in the subject line the price will be $45.  Hopefully, there will be more languages added for the discount in the future. It is based on the availability of translators for various languages.

What if the DMV tells me they can’t authenticate my out-of-country driver’s license?

The DMV uses an international database to authenticate foreign driver licenses. If your driver’s license does not match the current driver’s license listed by your country in the database, the DMV will not allow you to use your driver’s license as proof that you are able to drive.

If the DMV says that your license does NOT match their book of official out-of-country licenses, politely ask to speak to a manager. Ask the manager to consult the DMV’s online resource. If the DMV is still not willing to give you a license, just leave. Do NOT take the learner permit, even if they offer it to you. Contact your community counselor as soon as possible to discuss what happened.

What if I have already talked with my counselor, and I know that the DMV can’t authenticate my out-of-country driver’s license?

In this situation, you will be required to pass both the Knowledge Test and the Road Skills Test in order to obtain your DC driver’s license. Important:  An au pair must be 21 or older to be issued a full DC Driver License in this circumstance.