Don’t miss this related post: The International student’s guide to buying a car in the U.S.

Students, do you want to drive while you live in Nashville? You have three options to drive legally here:

  • Your driver license from your home country with certified translation to English and your original passport with visa, I-94, and current valid I-20 (only for your 30 days in the U.S.)
  • International Driving Permit issued by your home country and a valid driver license from your country and your original passport with visa, I-94, and current valid I-20 (You cannot get an International Driving Permit while living in the U.S. Do not trust any business or website that offers this to you.)
  • A Tennessee driver license (If you move here from another U.S. state, you must get a Tennessee license within 30 days.)

Why you need a driver license

It is very important to have one of these three licenses if you are driving in Tennessee. If you are caught driving with no license, you may be charged a fine and/or be sent to jail for weeks or months. The judge decides the penalty in each case; even if your friend received a light punishment, you could receive a heavy punishment.

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Even after paying a fine and/or serving a sentence in jail, you will have a U.S. criminal record. You will have to report this on future visa applications and U.S. job applications.

How to get a Tennessee driver license

Please note that this information is for student with F1 visas and their family members with F2 visas. Students with other visa or residence situations should check the Tennessee Driver Services website for more information.

Also, we are focusing on the class D license. This is the license for cars and small trucks. Motorcycles require a different license that you can learn about here.

As an F1 student, you’re applying for a temporary class D license. This license is valid until 60 days after your legal status ends. The fee for this license is $19.50.

There are three steps to getting your license:

  • Vision test (You may wear your glasses or contacts.)
  • Knowledge test
  • Road test

Documents

You need several documents to get your driver license:

  • Primary identification: Your passport with I-94 and I-20
  • Secondary identification: A current bank statement with your name on it
  • Two proofs of Tennessee residency: These can include a current utility bill with postmarked envelope, a current bank statement, a signed lease contract, or vehicle registration

Where to go

There are two Driver Service Centers in Nashville where you can apply for your license. Both are open 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.

  • Hickory Hollow
    5216 Hickory Hollow Parkway Antioch, TN 37013
    (615) 770-5701
  • Hart Lane
    624 Hart Lane Nashville, TN 37216
    (615) 532-9780

Driver Service Centers in other Tennessee cities are listed here.

Knowledge test

You must take the knowledge test before the road test. The knowledge test covers traffic signs and signals, safe driving principles, rules of the road, and drugs and alcohol.

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How to prepare

Read the Tennessee Comprehensive Driver License Manual online or get a print copy at any Driver Service Center. Study the rules in this book carefully as you prepare for the knowledge test. It also includes practice questions. You can also take an online practice test here.

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Taking the test

When you’re ready to take the knowledge test, you can save time by completing the application online. Print it and bring it with your other documents to the Driver Service Center. You will take the knowledge test on the computer at the Driver Service Center. There are no appointments for the knowledge test; it’s given on a “first-come, first-served” basis.

You may take the test in English, Spanish, Korean, or Japanese. You may use a paper translation dictionary with no notes written in it. You may not use an electronic dictionary, smart phone, or other electronic device during the knowledge test. You also may not have an interpreter.

After the knowledge test

After you pass the knowledge test and vision test, you can get a learner permit. This allows you to practice driving if you have someone who is over ago 21 and has a valid US driving license in the front seat of the car. Also, learner permit holders cannot drive between 10:00 p.m.and 6:00 a.m.

If you fail the knowledge test, you must wait seven days before you take it again.

Road test

After you pass the knowledge test, you can take the road test. Schedule an appointment for the road test at any Driver Service Center by calling 866-849-3548.

You will take the road test in your own car. Arrive at least 15 minutes early for your road test, and bring all of your documents (passport, I-94 and I-20, bank statement, and proof of address). If you are more than five minutes late for your appointment, it will be canceled.

You must be able to speak and understand English well enough to communicate with the examiner.

If you fail the road test, you must wait between one and 30 days to take it again. The length of time depends on your score.

After you get your license

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You must have your license (not a photocopy) with you whenever you are driving. If you do not have it with you, you may be fined up to $50.

Never drive after drinking alcohol or using drugs. The penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) are strict, including fines, jail time, suspension of your license, and seizure of your car.

Do not send or read text messages while driving. This is extremely dangerous and can result in a fine.

If you have a child in your car, be sure to follow state laws about child safety seats, booster seats, and seat belt us.

You may drive anywhere in the U.S. with your Tennessee driver license. If you move from Tennessee to live in another state, you must get a driver license from that state.

Local driving schools

If you haven’t driven before, it’s a good idea to attend a driving school so that you can practice before taking the knowledge and road tests. Here are some local driving schools:

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