If you are a foreign national in Houston, getting a Texas drivers’ license can offer a wonderful experience. But, if you are not a US citizen or permanent resident, obtaining a driver’s license can be a little challenging. Here we will discuss why it is important for foreign nationals living in Houston to obtain a driver’s license and how they can do so successfully.
While the Houston public transportation system, Houston Metro, is good, having a vehicle and valid driver’s license is still preferred. Further, local rail services such as METRORail Red Line or Purple Line are limited in terms of routes they serve. Thus, accessible public transportation, including rail and bus, can be particularly problematic for residents who live outside the immediate downtown area; many must rely on old-fashioned bus lines that can be slow due to heavy traffic congestion within city limits. As a result, it’s almost necessary to have a driver’s license in the Houston area. Without one, foreign nationals may find themselves relying on taxis or other ride-hailing services which can often be more expensive than driving themselves. Additionally, having your own vehicle provides greater independence and allows for easier exploration of all that the city has to offer without relying on someone else to get you there.
A driver’s license also serves as an important form of identification. Many places require proof of identity when purchasing products or services, such as renting an apartment, buying alcohol, or signing a cell phone service agreement. Having a valid driver’s license makes these transactions easier and faster, as well as providing peace of mind knowing that businesses are correctly verifying your identity.
Finally, having a valid driver’s license may be required to obtain certain types of employment opportunities within the city of Houston. Many employers will request proof of legal ability to work in the United States before offering employment; having a valid driver’s license demonstrates this capability while also serving as proof that the applicant is able to safely operate a motor vehicle should it be necessary for their job duties.
Who needs an international Driver’s License?
It’s a common belief that foreign drivers need an international driver’s license to drive in Texas. An international driver’s license is simply a certified and notarized translation of your foreign driver’s license. However, unless you are planning to rent a vehicle, you may not need an international license.
Most foreign drivers can use a valid, unexpired foreign driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle in Texas for up to one year, or until you become a Texas resident (whichever date is sooner). However, once you become a new Texas resident, you must apply for a Texas driver’s license within 90 days if you want to continue driving legally. Foreign drivers can also rent a vehicle using their foreign driver’s license. However, the rental company may ask you to provide a certified and notarized English language translation of your foreign driver’s license before they will allow you to rent a vehicle.
Your ticket to ride – How to get driving in the Bayou City for internationals
Fortunately, foreign nationals living in Houston have several options for obtaining a valid driver’s license. While an international driving permit is not required to obtain a local driver’s license or permit, it may be beneficial to carry one. Be cognizant that immigrants are often victimized by companies who claim to offer international driving licenses. Web sites that claim that the U.S. government or any state requires you to obtain an international driving permit are lying to induce you to buy one from them. No government defers its authority to the American Automobile Association or any other private entity.
Depending on their country of origin, some individuals may qualify for an international driving permit which is accepted by Texas law enforcement officers as proof of legal authorization to drive. If your license is in a language other than English, you will need to get a certified translation of your driver’s license.
Other individuals may need to take the written and driving tests administered by the Department of Public Safety to receive their driver’s license; fortunately, DPS offers testing materials and resources both online and at physical locations throughout Houston which can help make this process easier.
Overall, obtaining a valid driver’s license should be viewed as a crucial step towards successful integration into life in Houston for foreign nationals. Not only does it provide a simplified way to get around town, it also provides a form of identification. With these benefits in mind and numerous options available for doing so, there really isn’t any reason not to take advantage of this opportunity!
The process of obtaining your drivers’ license as a foreigner in Houston
The process for obtaining a drivers’ license as a foreigner living in Houston can be confusing to foreign visitors and immigrants. But if you are looking to make the move from your home country, either temporarily or permanently, it doesn’t have to be this way.
First, make an appointment at a driver license office. Complete the driver’s license application before arriving at your local office (This form is also available at all driver’s license offices). Provide the following documentation to the license and permit specialist:
You will need to provide the Texas Department of Public Safety with evidence verifying your U.S Citizenship or lawful presence in the United States, as well as any applicable proof of Texas residency. Some examples of acceptable forms of identity documentation include a birth certificate and Social Security card. If your documents are not in English, you will be required to submit certified translations that are notarized in Texas. Since there is a fee for obtaining a driver license in Texas, please remember to bring along a Visa, MasterCard, or cash. The current fee for a standard driver’s license is $25 (which includes a $1 administrative fee). You will pay this upfront before taking your driving test; if you fail the test on your first attempt, don’t worry–your $25 covers two more attempts within 90 days
Next, you will be asked to take the knowledge and driving tests and a vision test. You will also be photographed, and thumb printed. Finally, you will need to pay the application fee and sign for your driver license. Once done, you will be issued a temporary driver license until the original arrives in the mail.
If your driver license is in a language other than English, you will need to have your license translated into English. The translation must be a certified translation that is notarized by a Texas notary.
Most driver license translation cost approximately $30 to translate to English.
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a certified translation of a driver’s license. These are frequently marketed to unsuspecting travelers as a license that allows holders to drive in countries that have a national language that is different than the one used on their regular driver’s license. However, an IDP is not a substitute for a driver’s license, and by itself has no value in the state of Texas.
Instead, when the IDP can be presented with a valid driver’s license from one’s own country to the Texas Department of Safety in order to get a Texas Driver’s License. The motorist must still pass the written exam, eye exam, state licensing fee and prove that they are in the country legally.
Once you pass the tests, you will be presented with a temporary license that carries all of the authority as the permanent license. The permanent license will arrive in the mail, normally in 2-3 weeks.