• Liza B.

Driver's License in MA. Part 1: Getting Learner's Permit

Having to carry your home country passport with you everywhere doesn't just make life more complicated, but also brings a bit of a thrill to your life. If you lose it..... let's not even go there. Yes, there is a bunch of other types of IDs that you can get, but a driver's license is not only useful for identification purposes. Let's cut to the chase and talk about how to get the driver's license in Massachusetts for international students. First step - Learner's Permit

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Things to know about getting the learner's permit in MA

What category should I apply for?

Driving a car falls into Class D driver's license category.

The first step would be to apply for a Class D Massachusetts learner's permit. The permit will let you drive with a passenger who is over 21, is a licensed driver, and has at least 1 year of experience of driving in the US. It is illegal to drive alone when you are on the learner's permit and the passenger has to be sitting in the passenger seat next to the driver's (not in the back). There are also daytime restrictions for drivers younger than 18.

How much is a learner's permit in MA?


Am I eligible?

As of last year, in order to be eligible to get driver's license in Massachusetts, you need to show that you are legally staying in the US for at least 12 months. Your I-20 will work as the proof, so even if your visa runs for a shorter period, your 12 or more months I-20 will be enough.


In your I-20 it says that your program runs for 12 months, you have just 5 months of studies left. In this case, you CAN apply for driver's license, because at the end of your presence in the US it will be 12 legal months. Hope it's clear enough.

What documents do I need to apply for the learner's permit in MA?

  1. Proof of date of birth (i.e. certificate of attendance from your school with the date of birth)

  2. Proof of signature (such as a passport with visa, I-94, and I-20 OR DS-2019)

  3. Proof of Massachusetts residency (i.e. a lease/a printed bank statement with your address)

  4. A Social Security Number (SSN) OR an acceptable Denial Notice from the Social Security Administration. If presenting a Denial Notice, you must also bring:

  5. Proof of visa status

  6. I-94

  7. Current non-U.S. Passport

  8. Proof of 12 months legal presence (mentioned at the beginning, I-20 will work)

Getting the permit

What is a learner's permit exam?

You need to apply for the learner's permit at RMV service center. Once your documents have been approved, you will be asked to pass an online test on road rules and safety. The test is available in 34 languages and you can prepare for it by reading through the driver's manuals on the RMV website.

The test has 25 questions and to pass you have to answer at least 18 correctly. Based on my personal experience, reading the manual is enough to get yourself prepared. There are also plenty of different apps and websites that offer free practice tests.

I used this website to practice.

What is a vision test for the learner's permit?

After you have passed the test you will come back to an RMV employer who will ask you to do a vision test, which is a one minute process. If you have bad eyesight, there will be a mark on your learner's permit indicating that you have to wear contacts or glasses when driving.

You can find more detailed information about how to apply here.

Hope that helps and if you have any questions, get in touch. We will write about converting your learner's permit into license in another blog post. Good luck!

By Liza B. for Alien Thoughts Boston

International Students Blog

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