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Obtaining a Driver License

Obtaining a Driver’s License

Automobiles – Because public transportation is limited in Nashville, you may want to consider purchasing a car, although many students and scholars are fine without one. In order to drive a car, you have to get a driver license issued by the state of Tennessee – even if you have an international driver’s license.

Driver’s licenses are obtainable from Tennessee Department of Safety offices (often referred to as the Department of Motor Vehicles – DMV).  To obtain one, you must pass a vision test, a written test examining your knowledge of Tennessee’s traffic rules, and a road test (driving test). You can study the traffic rules and regulations from the official website of the Tennessee Department of Safety, as listed above.

You will have to wait at least 10 business days after entry into the U.S. and after your SEVIS check-in before you can apply. You do not need a SSN to apply.

To take practice written tests, please visit DMV Permit Test here. No sign up or information is needed to take them!

The road test (driving test) takes about 10 minutes. There is no parking test except when you actually park your car at the end of the test. However, you should allow a full day to take the test as the testing centers are usually very crowded, and it’s hard to predict wait times.

NOTE: Students and Scholars who have a valid Driver’s License from South Korea, Canada, Taiwan or China may be exempt from taking the written test and road test. To be eligible for possible exemption, individuals must have a translated driving abstract (usually obtained from their embassy) to show to the Department of Motor Vehicles as proof.

Driving in Tennessee

The rules of the road in Tennessee may be quite different than that with which you are accustomed in your home country.  Please note the following important instructions:

  • Buckle up. It is illegal and strictly enforced in Tennessee to drive without your seatbelt.
  • Use your turning signal. Before changing lanes and turning, you must use your turning signal.
  • Right on Red. You may turn right at all red lights unless it is specifically marked otherwise.
  • Never drink and drive. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited and has drastic consequences.
  • Educate yourself. To be sure that your driving etiquette is acceptable in Tennessee, please refer to the Driver License Manual.

Special Notes for Nonimmigrants

  • If seeking a driver’s license for a dependent, he or she must provide their own documentation as described above. You should also include proof of relationship, such as a marriage certificate. The office will verify that your visa’s duration time matches.
  • Be consistent with paperwork. Be sure that you understand the meaning of Family Name/Surname/Last Name versus First Name and enter these names consistently in every form (many errors derive from mistakes in paperwork). If the English alphabet is not used by your mother tongue, make sure the transliteration is understandable and consistently used.  Please note that the computer systems do not recognize accentuation and letters like ñ or é.
  • If you encounter a problem when applying for a driver’s license, be sure that you understand what the nature of the problem is. You may want to ask to speak to a supervisor. You can also contact your ISSS advisor for assistance.

Test Centers

624 Hart Lane Nashville, TN 37216
Tel: 615-532-9780

5216 Hickory Hollow Parkway, Antioch, TN 37013
Tel: 615-770-5701, 741-6925