Driving in the U.S.

For many students, owning a car brings many advantages. There are also significant responsibilities and obligations. As an international student, you need to be sure you learn about the U.S. federal laws and the state laws that govern driving and owning a car before you start driving on the road.

Driving Schools in Bethlehem

This private website provides a link to local driving schools. You may also search online via Google or other search engineens. You may wish to check out customer reviews before signing up. 

Buying a Car

Prior to going to a car dealer to purchase a car, please keep in mind that you MUST have a driver's license or a State ID in addition to a proof of car insurance before any paperwork can be completed. Click here to see how to apply for a driver's license or State ID. Click here to see how to get car insurance. 

Buying a new car v. used car? Research is the first step. If you are buying a used car, a popular site to check the history of the car is through CarFax.

When you purchase a vehicle, make sure to obtain proof of ownership, the Title of Ownership. The person from whom you purchased the car should be able to give you the Title at the time you finalize the purchase.

If you purchase a used car from an automobile dealer, they have to provide you with the Title, the proof of ownership. Most automobile dealers send the application for your state vehicle registration and title certificate to the DMV (they may charge a fee for this service).

If you purchase a used car from an individual, the proof of ownership is the Title Certificate that the previous owner has to sign in order to transfer the ownership to you.

  • Obtain the signed copy of the Title Certificate from the owner
  • Make sure the owner does not have a lien on the car (A lien means the present owner owes money on a car loan they used to purchase the car). The front of the title will specify if there is a lien. If the owner does not have the Title Certificate, ownership of the car is probably held by a lending institution.
  • Pay no money to the seller before the Title Certificate is signed over to you
  • Obtain a written receipt for the purchase of the car from the seller

Once you have purchased a car, you must register it with the PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

Documents You Need to bring to PennDOT:

  • A Letter of Certification from the OISS attesting to your full time course registration
  • A valid visa status Proof of ownership (Title Certificate)
  • Proof of your identity and date of birth . DMV office will accept both a driver's license issued by PA and/or a foreign passport with a US visa and a valid form I-94 attached.
  • Verification of insurance (Form FS-20, Insurance Identification Card). You must obtain this card from the insurance agent.

Buying Car Insurance

The owner of a motor vehicle registered in Pennsylvania must purchase auto insurance coverage for the motor vehicle before you can drive the vehicle. You must also register the vehicle with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation before you can drive the vehicle.

This law applies to both US citizens, and citizens of other countries. When you purchase a motor vehicle, the previous owner of the vehicle cannot transfer their auto insurance policy to you. You need to purchase auto insurance for the vehicle yourself.

The level of auto insurance coverage you purchase must include at least liability insurance. All motor vehicles regardless of type (motorcycle, car, truck, van) must be insured. Liability insurance is used for accident-related payments to someone other than yourself. Auto insurance can be costly. All drivers of the motor vehicle must be listed on the auto insurance policy, even if the driver is not a frequent driver of that vehicle.

Documents You Need to Purchase Auto Insurance:

In order to purchase an auto insurance policy, insurance companies require that you present the following:

  • Driver's license. Some auto insurance companies charge a higher fee (premium) if you use an international driving permit and your home country driver's license. It is better to obtain a US driver's license for the purpose of saving on your auto insurance rates (known as "premiums").
  • Payment for Auto Insurance
  • Social Security Card: Requirements for Social Security Number vary from company to company. A Social Security number is required by some credit-based companies in order to verify the information you provide on your auto insurance policy application If you do not qualify for a Social Security Card, request a "rejection letter" from the Social Security Administration, and send it to the insurance company if it asks for it.

Shop around! Look at different coverages and get free quotes! Some common auto insurance providers are as follows: