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Getting Licensed to Drive in S.C.

Did you just move to South Carolina from another country? As you may have noticed, our public transportation system is rather limited, so you are probably going to need to drive a car in order to live and work here successfully! Frauke Westrich, a member of the Wetzel Relocation team and an expat from Germany herself, explains below what you need to know about getting your driver’s license in South Carolina.

When you move to South Carolina, you have 90 days until you must apply for a S.C. driver’s license through the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), if you want to drive here. During that time, you are allowed to drive with a valid driver’s license from your previous location.

If your driver’s license is in a foreign language, and you don’t have an international driver’s license, you need to have your license translated by an ATA (American Translators Association)-certified translator, who must complete a translation form from the DMV. Wetzel can assist with this by connecting you with a qualified translator, if needed.

Where do I go?

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may apply for a S.C. driver’s license only at one of the branches that provide services to international customers. The ones nearest to Wetzel are in Greer, Greenville, Spartanburg and Laurens.

Do I need to take a test?

If your driver’s license is from Canada, France, Germany, or one of the other countries that have a formal reciprocity agreement the U.S. (list on this page), then your license can be converted into a S.C. driver’s license. People with licenses from countries without reciprocity agreements need to take a written test and a driving test to get a S.C. driver’s license.

What should I bring?

To apply for a S.C. driver’s license, you need to bring documents including your passport, visa, most recent I-94, and Social Security card or letter from the Social Security office stating that you are not eligible for a Social Security Number. You also need one or two types of proof of residency, depending if you are applying for regular driver’s license or a “Real ID.” See the SC DMV page for International Customers for more information. Also be prepared to pay the fee of $12.50 by cash, check or card.

Real ID vs. regular driver’s licenses

For international customers, there is no benefit to having a Real ID. It is needed to board a U.S. domestic flight or to enter a federal building, but non-immigrant visitors should always travel with their passport from their home countries and visas, which already allow them access to those places. You are not barred from applying for a Real ID, but you must bring a second form of proof of residency. Please refer to the International Customers’ Checklist for acceptable documents.

How long does the license last?

Typically the driver’s license is valid for 2 years or as long as the I-94 is valid. The renewal process is the same as the process of initially obtaining the driver’s license.

If we can help you with your international relocation process, please contact Frauke and the rest of the team at [email protected]