Issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Driver License or state ID card serves as most people's primary identification document.
Foreign nationals may drive with a valid, unexpired driver's license from another U.S. state for up to 90 days after moving to Texas. A valid, unexpired driver's license from another country is also accepted for 90 days, but we strongly recommend that you have an International Driver's Permit (IDP) with your license. The IDP is a document that can only be secured in your home country, and it serves only as a valid translation of the home country driver's license. It may not be used by itself, as the official home country driver's license must accompany it to be considered a valid driving document. Please check with your home country government office on how to obtain an IDP in your home country. You will not be able to get an IDP once you are already in the U.S. Although the IDP is typically valid for one year, please keep in mind that you are only allowed to drive in Texas without a Texas driver's license for up to 90 days.
Please note that an IDP is not an International Driver's License - the internet has a lot of false information regarding an invalid document called an "International Driver's License". Please do not purchase one of these false documents, as it is not an acceptable legal document to drive in the U.S.
For more information, please see our DPS Frequently Asked Questions page.
Applying for a Texas State ID
For the State ID you will need to complete an application form, show your passport, visa stamp, I-94 card or printout, immigration status documents, proof of residency, and pay the application fee. You must have been a resident of Texas for at least 30 days to apply for a Texas ID Card or Driver License. You may not have both a state ID and Driver License, so if you are applying for a Driver License, there is no need to apply for a state ID.
Applying for a Texas Driver License (TDL)
Buying a Car
Getting around in Houston without a car is not easy; yet owning a car is not a simple matter. One can never seem to be free of worry when they have a car. Some problem, responsibility, or detail presents itself daily: registration, insurance, inspections, license tag renewal, and maintenance, maintenance, maintenance! Still, most people cannot seem to resist the lure of owning this bright, shiny, powerful expression of who they are – or who they think they are – no matter how much trouble a car may be. Are you one of those who HAS to have a car? (Most of us are!) If so, you need to be aware of a few things before you even think of shopping for that Dream Machine. Otherwise you may want to take a look at our "Surviving in Houston without a Car" article.
Purchasing a new car is great – if you can afford it. International students seldom have established credit, and thus, must pay cash for their cars. This puts most, then, in the position of looking at used cars which usually do not require credit references and most of the time can be purchased with cash. However, if you are not careful, purchasing a used car may cost more in the long run. It pays to be informed when making any purchase. Especially when buying a car from a private seller, there are several things one must learn about to ensure that they are in compliance with the law and not being scammed. A former visiting scholar at Rice has provided OISS with the following information:
Perhaps you don’t want to buy a car, but you need one occasionally for moving, shopping, or going on a road trip.
Become a member of the Zipcar program on campus! Any international student or scholar who is 18 years of age or older with an international or U.S. driver license may sign up for this program for a $25 membership fee. Once you sign up, you can rent the car by the hour or by the day and not have to worry about gas or insurance since it is included in the rental price. You can reserve the car online and let yourself in with your Zipcard. If you need to use the car to take a driving test at DPS, you just have to notify Zipcar a week ahead of time so they can produce the insurance letter for the car (which you will need to provide when you get to DPS).
If you do not have a U.S. driver license, you will need to submit a driving record from your home country. Further information about this requirement is available on http://www.zipcar.com/apply/foreign-drivers.
Find out more about the Zipcar and sign up at http://www.zipcar.com/universities/rice-university.