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International Students

The most accurate information about driver licensing regulations in the United States is included here. The Center for International Students and Scholars recommends that you get a Massachusetts driver's license as soon as possible.

Obtaining a Massachusetts Driver’s License

Individuals with a Valid Driver’s License

International driving agreements exist with certain countries around the world that allow citizens of those countries to drive in the United States for up to one year with a home-country driver's license, provided it is readable in English. This applies to individuals who possess one of the following:

If you meet these requirements, you can contact the Registry of Motor Vehicles to make an appointment. You will receive a booklet and must study the Massachusetts road laws. You should then be prepared to take an eye test and a written test; no road test will be necessary. If you pass, you will pay a fee and receive your new Massachusetts driver's license.

If you get your Massachusetts driver's license in this manner, the registry may take away, invalidate, or destroy your home-country or international driver's license. If you want to make sure that this does not occur, please follow the procedures below for individuals with no valid driver's license.

Individuals without a Valid Driver’s License

If you do not have a valid license of any kind, have been here more than one year, or come from a country that does not have an agreement with the United States, you will need to obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license.

To get your license, call the Registry of Motor Vehicles to make an appointment. You will need to bring three forms of identification:

  • Passport and all visa documents (including your Form I-20, IAP-66, or I-797)
  • Bentley student ID
  • Social Security card, if you have one*

You will receive a booklet and must study the Massachusetts road laws. You must then pay part of the fee to take the written test and the eye test. If you pass, you will be given a learner's permit and later will have to take a road test. If you pass all three tests, you will pay the remainder of the fee and receive your new Massachusetts driver's license.

You are not allowed to use a learner's permit in a rented car or to take the road test in a rented car. You will need to take a friend who has a valid license and owns a car with you while learning to drive, and for your test.

*If you need assistance with Social Security numbers, contact the Center for International Students and Scholars.

Registry of Motor Vehicles Locations

There are a number of Registry of Motor Vehicles branches convenient to the Bentley campus.

Massachusetts State Identification Card

If you are not planning to obtain a driver’s license, you may want to consider getting a Massachusetts state identification card as your form of official identification, so you do not have to carry your passport on a daily basis. You can obtain an ID from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. You will need the following three forms of identification:

  • Passport and all visa documents
  • Bentley student ID
  • Social Security card, if you have one*

*If you need assistance with Social Security numbers, contact the Center for International Students and Scholars.

U.S. Driving Regulations

Each state has its own traffic rules, which you can obtain from the Registry of Motor Vehicles in that state. Below are general driving rules that apply everywhere in the United States:

  • Drive on the righthand side of the road.
  • Keep in the righthand lane at all times when driving on two-lane roads, unless you are passing another car in a passing zone.
  • Always signal left or right when you turn or change lanes.
  • Obey speed limits. In most areas, speed limits are strictly enforced and offenders must pay fines. Getting tickets or "points" on your license will also result in an increase in the cost of your car insurance, and may eventually result in the loss of your driving license. Radar detectors are illegal in some states.
  • Although a red traffic light always means stop, some states, but not all, permit a right turn to be made at a red light after you have come to a full stop and checked if the way is clear, provided there is no sign prohibiting the turn. In this situation, you must yield to oncoming traffic. This "right on red" law is in effect in Massachusetts.
  • Passing on a curve, at an intersection, and near the top of a hill is prohibited.
  • Passing a school bus that is loading or unloading children is prohibited, whether you are behind the bus on the same side of the road, or facing the bus on the opposite side of the road.
  • Reduced speed limits are in effect in all school zones.
  • Parking on the highway is prohibited. Pull completely off the road if you must stop.

Purchasing an Automobile

Buying and maintaining a car can be an expensive proposition in Massachusetts. Cars can be purchased new or used. Used cars are either sold through dealers or privately and often advertised in the classified section of the newspapers. It is acceptable to bargain over the price of a car. If you buy a used car, have it examined by a reputable mechanic before you close the deal. You should receive a title or certificate of ownership, and a bill of sale.

Automobile Insurance

All cars registered in Massachusetts must be adequately insured. The owner of the car is financially responsible for any accidents or damages connected with the car, regardless of who drives it. Auto insurance is regulated by the state of Massachusetts, and therefore the prices are fairly uniform, but expensive.

To buy an insurance policy, you should take your bill of sale and the title to an insurance agent. The agent will complete the form for you.

You are required by law to purchase liability coverage that covers the people in the car. If your car is worth more than the amount of the deductible, it is recommended that you also purchase collision coverage, which covers the automobile itself.

Registration and Taxes

To register your vehicle, you should take your bill of sale, title and insurance form to a Registry of Motor Vehicles branch. You will be required to pay a fee to register your vehicle. In addition, you also will have to pay a state sales tax (five percent of the value of the car) when you register it. Later, the town in which you live will bill you annually for an excise tax, for each year that you own the car.