Driving

In Texas, state IDs and driver licenses are issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). Please see information below on how to apply for either of these documents.

Applying for a Texas State ID

Why get one?

A state ID provides a form of identification that is recognized all over the United States in a wallet-size format that can be easier to carry around than your passport. Texas state IDs are READ ID compliant, which means you can use it to board a domestic flight inside the U.S., although we strongly recommend you also keep your passport with you when traveling.

Lawful presence requirement

In order to apply for a Texas state ID, you must provide proof of your lawful status in the United States. For international students in F-1 or J-1 visa status, this means presenting the following documents:

  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Passport and visa
  • I-94 record
  • For students on OPT or STEM OPT: EAD card

If you are a new F-1/J-1 student or scholar, you should wait at least 2-3 weeks after your SEVIS registration or validation is completed before visiting DPS, to ensure that the verification system they use can confirm your lawful status.
F-1 students will receive a new I-20 when their SEVIS registration is complete. The registration date is the issue date on the new I-20.
J-1 students and scholars will be validated in SEVIS once they have completed their OISS check-in.

If DPS is unable to verify your lawful status during your visit, they can initiate a secondary verification process. This can take several weeks to complete and you may only return to resume your application process after receiving confirmation that your lawful status has been verified.

Texas residency requirement

You must live in Texas for at least 30 days before you become eligible for a Texas state ID. To verify your Texas residency, you must provide two documents confirming your address, and at least one of them must also verify you have lived in Texas for at least 30 days.

A list of residency documents accepted by DPS is available on the DPS website.

If you live on-campus, you can get a residency verification letter accepted by DPS from Rice. Please contact David McDonald if you live in a residential college, or your Grad Apartments Office if you live in graduate housing.

Social Security Number

If you have a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN), you must present it. The easiest way is to bring your Social Security Card, but if you have lost your card you may present alternative documents.

If you are not eligible for SSN, you can complete an affidavit attesting to that at the DPS office.

Please note that falsely claiming you are not eligible for SSN can have serious consequences, so if you are eligible for SSN, you must apply for it first before applying for your Texas state ID. For more information about SSNs, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/ssn.

Application form

You are welcome to complete the application form in advance, but the form will also be available for you to complete at the DPS office.

Visit DPS office

It is best to schedule an appointment for your visit.

Make sure you have all the required documentation with you. Visit the DPS website for more information about what to expect when you visit, as well as the current application fees.

Texas state ID vs. driver license

A state ID and driver license both serve as an official form of identification, while a driver license also demonstrates your authorization to drive. You may not hold both a Texas state ID and a driver license at the same time. If you wish to drive in Texas, you should apply for a driver license instead of a state ID. If you apply for a driver license later, you must surrender your Texas state ID at that time.

Address updates

If you move to a new address, you must update the address on your state ID within 30 days of the change. Unless you are a U.S. citizen, this change must be done in-person at a DPS office.

Applying for a Texas Driver License

Why get one and when?

If you want to drive while at Rice, you need a Texas driver license in order to do so legally!

You may drive with a valid, unexpired driver license from another U.S. state or another country for up to 90 days after moving to Texas. After 90 days, you must have a Texas driver license in order to continue to drive legally.

We also recommend securing an International Driver's Permit (IDP) from your home country before coming to the U.S. The IDP may not be used by itself, but it serves as a valid translation when accompanying your valid foreign license. The IDP must be secured while you are still in your home country and you will not be able to get one once you're already in the U.S. Keep in mind that even with an IDP, you must get a Texas driver license to continue driving after 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.

Lawful presence requirement

In order to apply for a Texas driver license, you must provide proof of your lawful status in the United States. For international students in F-1 or J-1 visa status, this means presenting the following documents:

  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Passport and visa
  • I-94 record
  • For students on OPT or STEM OPT: EAD card

If you are a new F-1/J-1 student or scholar, you should wait at least 2-3 weeks after your SEVIS registration or validation is completed before visiting DPS, to ensure that the verification system they use can confirm your lawful status.
F-1 students will receive a new I-20 when their SEVIS registration is complete. The registration date is the issue date on the new I-20.
J-1 students and scholars will be validated in SEVIS once they have completed their OISS check-in.

If DPS is unable to verify your lawful status during your visit, they can initiate a secondary verification process. This can take several weeks to complete and you may only return to resume your application process after receiving confirmation that your lawful status has been verified.

Texas residency requirement

You must live in Texas for at least 30 days before you become eligible for a Texas driver license. To verify your Texas residency, you must provide two documents confirming your address, and at least one of them must also verify you have lived in Texas for at least 30 days.

A list of residency documents accepted by DPS is available on the DPS website.

If you live on-campus, you can get a residency verification letter accepted by DPS from Rice. Please contact David McDonald if you live in a residential college, or your Grad Apartments Office if you live in graduate housing.

If you have a valid, unexpired license from another U.S. state, the 30 day requirement is waived, but you still have to present the required proof of residency documents.

Social Security Number

If you have a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN), you must present it. The easiest way is to bring your Social Security Card, but if you have lost your card you may present alternative documents.

If you are not eligible for SSN, you can complete an affidavit attesting to that at the DPS office.

Please note that falsely claiming you are not eligible for SSN can have serious consequences, so if you are eligible for SSN, you must apply for it first before applying for your Texas state ID. For more information about SSNs, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/ssn.

Vehicle registration and insurance

If you own a motor vehicle, you must provide proof that it is registered in Texas and proof of insurance. For information on registration, please visit the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles webpage.

If you do not own a vehicle, you will need to sign a statement affirming this when visiting DPS.

Required courses

All applicants who are required to take a road test must show proof of completing the Impact Texas Driver (ITD) online course.

Applicants who are 18-24 years old are required to complete a 6-hour adult Driver Education course online or at a driving school. If you have a valid unexpired license from another U.S. state, this requirement is waived. Texas also has a driver license reciprocity agreement with Canada, France, Germany, South Korea and Taiwan. If you hold a valid license from one of those countries, you can choose to surrender it at DPS and waive this requirement.

If you are under 18 years old, please see the DPS website for information for teen applicants.

If you have a Texas driver license that has been expired for less than two years, you are still eligible for a renewal where all tests are waived instead of having to apply as an initial applicant.

Application Form

You are welcome to complete the application form in advance, but the form will also be available for you to complete at the DPS office.

Visit DPS office

It is best to schedule an appointment for your visit.

Make sure you have all the required documentation with you. Visit the DPS website for more information about what to expect when you visit, as well as the current application fees.

Knowledge test

New applicants must complete a knowledge test either at the DPS office or through a Third Party provider.

We strongly recommend that you study the Texas Driver's Handbook in advance as you prepare for your test.

If you have a valid unexpired license from another U.S. state, this test is waived. Texas also has a driver license reciprocity agreement with Canada, France, Germany, South Korea and Taiwan. If you hold a valid license from one of those countries, you can choose to surrender it at DPS and waive the required knowledge test.

If you have a Texas driver license that has been expired for less than two years, you are still eligible for a renewal where all tests are waived instead of having to apply as an initial applicant.

Driving test

New applicants must complete a driving test either at the DPS office or through a Third Party provider. Please note that driving tests typically require a separate appointment.

You will need to provide your own car for the driving test. Please note that Zipcar is not available to use for driving tests, but a rental car may be used. Please visit the DPS website for more information on how to prepare for your driving test.

If you have a valid unexpired license from another U.S. state, this test is waived. Texas also has a driver license reciprocity agreement with Canada, France, Germany, South Korea and Taiwan. If you hold a valid license from one of those countries, you can choose to surrender it at DPS and waive the required knowledge test.

If you have a Texas driver license that has been expired for less than two years, you are still eligible for a renewal where all tests are waived instead of having to apply as an initial applicant.

Texas driver license vs. state ID

A state ID and driver license both serve as an official form of identification, while a driver license also demonstrates your authorization to drive. You may not hold both a Texas state ID and a driver license at the same time. If you already have a state ID, you must surrender it when applying for a driver license.

Address updates

If you move to a new address, you must update the address on your driver license within 30 days of the change. Unless you are a U.S. citizen, this change must be done in-person at a DPS office.

Additional information

For more information, please also see our DPS Frequently Asked Questions at https://oiss.rice.edu/dps-faq.

Transportation options

"Surviving" in Houston without a car

Houston has long been a "car city," but the transportation landscape is shifting. We have gathered a few resources for those who prefer pedal and transit: https://oiss.rice.edu/surviving-houston-without-car.

Buying a car

In 60 seconds - Learn How To Buy A Used Car, Advice, Tips, Tricks video

Complete Guide: How to Buy a Used Car

Make sure to get your vehicle registered with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

Zipcar

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. Please note that Zipcar is not available to use for DPS road tests when applying for a U.S. driver license.

If you do not have a U.S. driver license, you may need to submit a driving record from your home country. Please see the Zipcar website for further information about this requirement.

Find out more about the Zipcar and sign up at https://www.zipcar.com/universities/rice-university.