Friday, March 2, 2012

The US Driving Test... What You Need To Know!

One of the many joys and challenges of moving to a new country, is having to redo some of the little everyday things you have already forgotten existed... Opening bank accounts, rerouting mail, finding a doctor in your area and retaking your driving exam. I myself, was not thrilled to revisit the last one.

My first go around with a driving test is still a bit of a blur of 3 point turns, parallel parking, roundabouts and reversing around corners... due to this I was not keen to relive the pressure of making those kinds of maneuvers accurately, as is required in the UK. My first trip to the DMV here in Knoxville, was during the first week that I entered the US on my K1 Visa and since my husband and I planned on a road trip honeymoon, I wanted to make sure I knew exactly where I stood in terms of legally driving. I was assured on multiple occasions that I had a full 6 months during which I could legally drive in the US on my international license (just my regular old UK one) and then after that it would become void. I inquired a little further thinking it was going to be a fairly simple transfer of information and BOOM a shiny new Tennessee driving license would be whipped up but evidently that is not the way it works. On the same day I visited for information I was able to take my 'Theory' driving exam for a total cost of... wait for it UK folks... $2.00! For those of us who have had to pay and repay a staggering 31.00 British Pounds a pop, that is indeed a fair price, thank you very much.

I was able to cram in less than 15 minutes and pass the theory portion (although I wouldn't recommend that unless you are very comfortable with all the rules unique to the US), book my practical for a week later and I was off, ready to practice and panic just a little. On the day of the Practical Driver's Exam, I arrived ready to test in my own car (nice touch) and had a very chatty, very laid back lady take me down one street, circle a residential area and straight on back to the DMV. That was it. On the way she mentioned to me all the times she had to drive people back to the building herself because they were too unsafe to finish the test. Meanwhile I continued to ignore her and chant 'right side of the road, right side of the road' over and over again in my head.

The tests themselves were very straightforward and painless and took up next to no time and dollar. I earned myself a very fetching new photo ID and was told that this would last me a total of... 30 days. Sigh. I was to return to the DMV before 6 months and once I had either my EAD card OR my Green Card (fat chance!) to renew. If they tell you they can renew for you with your Employment Authorization NOA, in my experience they are befuddled and should not be taken at their word. Many a time did I return after instruction to do so, only to be told to wait for the next piece of USCIS proof to come through the mail. If it is within your time limit (and the 6 months should cover that) my advice is to hold out for your EAD card and save yourself some hassle. I finally have a new temporary Tennessee license that will see me through for another year until my Green Card arrives. Now all I have to do is remember 'right side of the road, right side of the road...'



This post is reflective of my experience with a local DMV here in Knox County of East Tennessee. There can be fluctuations to the license requirements for each individual State, so remember to give 'em a call and check your facts wherever you are.

7 comments:

  1. Well done! The next challenge for you would be to familiarize yourself with US road rules and regulations. That test never ends, but I’m sure you’re doing great by now. I think the road numbering scheme and the routes were some of which you’d be taking some time to get used to. Anyway, what are the differences you like and didn’t like between the UK and US road systems? Marvis Carswell

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  2. I am also a British expat living in the US (Indiana) and am set to take my driving test a week on Friday. Having actually never driven in the UK (I relied on public transportation) I am not so concerned about remembering to stay on the right side of the road, but am a little weary of American drivers!

    On a side note, I have just launched a Blogspot blog dedicated to exploring British/American differences: http://www.lostinthepond.blogspot.com

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