Getting a DMV-issued ID in the United States

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student 

A person is ID-ed while purchasing alcohol, or while entering an age-restricted setting, such as an R-rated movie at a theater or even a restaurant after a certain time, or when taking a domestic flight within the US. As an international student, my primary ID is my passport. However, I find it cumbersome and unsafe to carry it around whenever I step out of the house.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) comes to the rescue in this matter. It issues three different types of ID, all of which can be used for the various purposes mentioned above. The first, and the simplest to obtain, is the non-driver’s ID, also known as a state ID. It costs about $8. The whole process at the DMV takes a few minutes and the issued ID gets mailed within a fortnight. The list of required documents can be found on the DMV website. The validity ranges from 4 to 10 years.

The second type of ID is a learner’s permit. This is required to obtain an eventual permanent driver’s license but can be used a form of ID on its own too. This typically costs around $70 (the actual cost depends on the age of applicant and other criteria) and includes the cost of obtaining the permanent permit as well. The required documents for this ID can be found on the DMV website, however if an applicant already holds a state ID, no extra document might even be checked. A written test is required for this ID. An applicant is asked to answer 20 questions pertaining to driving and the learner’s permit is issued if 14 or more of these questions are answered correctly. I personally read the content at https://dmv.ny.gov/driver-license/drivers-manual-practice-tests to prepare for the test.

The third type of ID is the driver’s permit. An applicant for this needs to be in possession of a valid learner’s permit and should have completed a pre-licensing course or a driver’s education course. More details about these courses can be obtained from the DMV website. The applicant would need to successfully pass a road test to get this permit. Scheduling this road test takes time as DMVs are usually dealing with a constant backlog of tests so typically the next available date is usually a couple of months away. The cost of two road tests is included while paying for the initial learner’s permit. If an applicant needs more than two tests, an extra charge is levied.

Once a person has any of these three IDs, their passport can be safely kept indoors only to be taken out for international travel. Please remember that none of these above mentioned IDs can substitute the requirement of a passport while crossing international boundaries!

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