The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) oversees issuing of driver licenses and state identification cards. Most non-immigrants and their dependents can obtain a Pennsylvania driver's license or state identification card.

A state identification card is a good alternative to carrying a passport and is useful for opening bank accounts, paying via personal check, or going to bars or restaurants where alcohol is served. Please plan ahead! If you are thinking about getting a license or state ID, do it while you have six to eight months of study left, otherwise you may not be eligible for a document.

If the DMV cannot verify your immigration documents, you can check with the OIE to see if your I-20 is active. Usually students have to wait for the DMV to verify immigration information with the DMV in Harrisburg. This can take one to four weeks. Students will receive a letter in the mail about returning to the local DMV office.

Eligibility and Applying

All F1/F2, J1/J2 visa holders are eligible for a state ID or driver's license as long as their I-20 or DS-2019 is valid for a minimum of six months or more in the future (including grace period). New students must wait at least two weeks from the start of the semester before going to the DMV to allow time for immigration record validation. J2 and F2 visa holders need to allow six to eight weeks for process verification.

Step 1: Obtain a Social Security Number or Letter of Denial

These documents can be obtained from the Social Security Administration. Here are instructions for applying for a Social Security Number. To obtain a letter of denial, bring your I-20/DS-2019, passport and I-94 and you will get a denial letter the same day. SSA is located at: 119 Professional Center, 1265 Wayne Avenue, Indiana, PA, 15701.

Step 2: Gather Other Documents Needed

  • Show two forms of proof of residency (current utility bill, tax record, lease agreement, university bill, bank statement, or other bill);
  • Immigration documents: passport, visa, I-94, I-20 or DS-2019 (if your names do not match exactly on all documents, you may have some difficulty being issued a driver's license or Pennsylvania ID). If you have a paperless I-94, print it at the Customs and Border Protection website.
  • Medical exam (not needed for Pennsylvania ID). All applicants must get a doctor's signature on DL-180 available on the DMV website( must be printed double-sided). Call ahead to make an appointment at the Center of Health and Well-Being at 724-357-2550. The Center of Health and Well-Being will give physicals for a reasonable price.

Step 3: Go to the Drivers License Center

Complete application (DL-180) found in the Pennsylvania Driver's Manual or available at any Drivers License Center.

  • Pennsylvania ID Card: you will be issued a card upon verification of your documents.
  • Driver's License: Three tests are required for a license: vision, knowledge, and driving. These are all completed at the Drivers License Center. Study the PA Driver's License Manual for your knowledge test. Upon passing a vision and knowledge test, a driving permit will be issued, which is valid for one year. It allows driving with another licensed driver until passing the driving test. Driving tests must be scheduled: 1-800-932-4600 or on the DMV Website.

International and Foreign Driver Licenses

A waiver of some or all of these tests may be available for those who hold a US driver's license or citizens of France, Germany, and Canada who hold a license from their home countries. It is still required to show an I-20 or DS-2019, which is valid for more than one year.

International driver licenses are valid for one year before needing to obtain a Pennsylvania driver's license.

Renewing Your Driver's License

To renew your license, you will need to go in person to the Drivers License Center and present the same documents needed for your first license. Bring a signed I-20, passport, visa, I-94, SSN card or denial letter, proof of address, and a personal check. The new driver license expiration date can include your grace period (30 days after end date on DS-2019s; 60 days after end date on I-20s). You do not have to retake any written or driving tests. Students who filed a change of status or OPT application with USCIS must wait for approval of your case before renewing or obtaining a new license in Pennsylvania. Other states may vary.

Renting and Buying an Automobile

Pennsylvania requires owners of vehicles to carry a valid: title, registration, PA license or ID, and automobile insurance for the entire time you own and drive the vehicle and have it available in your car. It is very important to keep all of these valid. If you do not, you can be fined, have your car or license suspended or be sued by someone if injured in an accident. In case of an accident, automobile insurance protects you against most of the cost of repairs and injuries. The cost of repairs or injuries can be very high. In some states you may be required to pay for the cost of repairing the other vehicle if you cause the accident


Helpful guides to purchasing a car can be purchased at local bookstores and read on the internet. Consumer Reports is an especially good place to look. You can request one online at Consumer Reports. Also check out the value of a car at Kelly Blue Book or Edmund's. The newspaper in Indiana, the campus newspaper, campus bulletin boards, and electronic bulletin boards are good sources of information on used automobiles.

Be very careful when purchasing a car, especially a used one. Before you buy, have a reliable mechanic inspect the vehicle. In the US you can purchase a car by obtaining a loan and paying installments. Be sure to obtain the title to the car you buy. The title is an official document issued by the state that signifies ownership of the vehicle. Additional documents may be required to complete the transfer of a car from the previous owner to you. If you are unsure about your rights and responsibilities when purchasing an automobile, check with the Drivers License Center or the Automobile Association of America (AAA), 724-357-4193.

Pennsylvania requires automobile insurance if you plan to own a vehicle. In case of an accident, automobile insurance protects you against most of the cost of repairs and injuries. The cost of repairs or injuries can be very high. In some states, you may be required to pay for the cost of repairing the other vehicle if you cause the accident.


There are several car rental agencies in Indiana. Inquire ahead of time and ask about extra costs, such as insurance, extra drivers, and mileage-per-day fees.

  • Enterprise: 800-736-8222
  • McGill: 724-349-1108
  • Leeway Inc.: 724-349-7007

Driving Practice

If you have never had a license before, you may want to practice driving before taking the driver's test.

  • Free practice: The IUP Highway Safety Center offers free driving classes in the spring and summer. Limited space is available. Call 724-357-4051.
  • Ressler's Driving Academy, private practice. Call 724-221-4614 to schedule driving practice. Pay by the hour.
  • Canton's Driving School, call 724-549-6150 to schedule driving practice. Pay by the hour.

Resources for Driving and Traveling

AAA Travel Agency, 1169 Wayne Avenue, 724-349-4193

The Automobile Association of America offers services related to travel, vehicle emergency roadside services, title changes, and updating your address for vehicle registration.

Drivers License Center Locations

Indiana Driver Licensing Center
Indiana Mall, entrance next to Sears
Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 9:00 a.m.-4:15 p.m.
No cash or credit card accepted

Penn Hills Driver Licensing Center
Penn Hills Shopping Center
11620 Kelekit Drive

Pittsburgh, PA 15235
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m.
Phone: 412-371-1960

State Office Driver Licensing Center
300 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m.
Phone: 412-565-7781

Allison Park DL Center
Duncan Manor Shopping Center
1701 Duncan Avenue
Allison Park, PA 15101

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m.
Phone: 412-366-3502

Additional information is available from the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles, 800-932-4600.