Driver's Licenses and Car Insurance

Some students may choose to drive during their studies. There are important tasks to complete if you wish to drive or purchase a car while you are here.

Driver's Licenses

If you choose to drive a vehicle in Minnesota, you must have a valid Minnesota driver's license. Minnesota law permits a nonresident to drive with their home country's driver's license for 60 days upon moving to Minnesota.

International Driving Permit

An International Driving Permit is not a driver's license. The permit only verifies that you hold a valid driver's license in your home country. Your home country/foreign driver's license, not the International Driving Permit, allows you to drive legally in Minnesota.

You are not required to have an International Driving Permit to drive in Minnesota. However, the permit verifies, in several languages, that you have a valid foreign driver's license. A police officer who cannot read the language on your foreign driver's license can read the permit.

If you plan to use your foreign driver's license to drive in MN, we recommend that you apply for the International Driving Permit before leaving your home country.

A final note: Different states have different rules. What applies in Minnesota may not apply in other states. If you are unable to get an International Driving Permit and your foreign driver's license is not in English, you may want to carry an official Minnesota Certified translation (which you can obtain from a licensed translator).

Please note: You are required to change to a MN driver's license within 60 days of establishing (temporary) residency in MN.

Minnesota Driver's License

To obtain a Minnesota driver's license, you must pass a road sign test, a vision test, and a driving test.

The first step is to prepare for the written test and road sign test by studying the Minnesota Driver's Manual.

To apply for a Minnesota driver′s license, identification card, or instruction permit, you must present one primary and one secondary form of identification. Please check the Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services website to find out what identification documents you need to present.

On October 1, 2023, a new law related to standard driver’s licenses and state identification cards will go into effect in Minnesota. This law removes the requirement that applicants show proof of lawful immigration status, which will simplify the application process for international students and scholars. For information about the process of applying for a standard driver’s license or state ID card starting October 1, please check the Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services “Driver’s License for All” website.

The following information applies only to applications for Minnesota driver’s licenses and state IDs made prior to October 1, 2023. 

The identification document must contain your full legal name (first, middle, and last) and the month, day, and year of your birth. Please note that your University of Minnesota official transcript does not contain your date of birth. Make sure to request an additional certification letter that will indicate your full name as it appears on your immigration documents and date of birth. You can request the official transcript and a certification letter that contains your birth date from One Stop.

You are also required to present proof of your lawful admission period, such as a form I-20, DS-2019, I-797, or other official immigration document or receipt.

Driver's License Renewal

International students and scholars who apply for a standard driver’s license or state ID on or after October 1, 2023, will not have a “Status Check” date on their document, and will not need to comply with the process explained below. Students/scholars with status checks on current Minnesota driver’s licenses/state IDs will need to renew their licenses prior to the status check date, but will be eligible for the new process after October 1 (which will mean that they will be able to renew by presenting a primary and secondary document from the new list).

A "Status Check" date on your driver's license reflects the expiration date on your 1–20/DS–2019/I–797 document. Before that date, you must go to the driver's license renewal office and present a copy of a new or extended visa status document. (H-1B status holders can use an original USCIS extension receipt to apply for a temporary extension.) You will be asked to fill out a new application. If you do this before the Status Check date, you will not be charged a fee.

You are supposed to receive a letter from the Department of Public Safety, but if you don’t, you are still responsible for going to the driver's license renewal station before the date of your status check. If you do not do this, you will have to pay for a new driver's license. In addition, if you are caught driving past the date of your status check (including during the grace period at the end of your program) you may be arrested or cited and fined.

Car Insurance

Car insurance rules and laws vary from state to state. In Minnesota, all vehicles must be covered by liability insurance. This generally means that coverage will be available in the event you cause an accident and someone else is injured.

Liability policies do not include coverage for your property damage if an uninsured motorist is at-fault in an accident that damages your vehicle. It is possible to purchase additional insurance called “collision coverage” that will protect you in that scenario.

Another add-on option is called “comprehensive physical damage insurance,” which protects your vehicle if it is stolen or damaged by flooding or fire.

If you have questions about purchasing motor vehicle insurance, or if you are involved in a car accident, we encourage you to contact the Student Legal Service to meet with an attorney who may be able to help. You can make an appointment at

Last updated: August 18, 2023