Car Insurance for International Students

Updated on March 6, 2024

At a Glance

  • In the U.S., you can drive with a converted International Driving Permit (IDP) alongside your foreign license.
  • To buy a car and get auto insurance as an international student, you’ll need a U.S. driver’s license.
  • Requirements for obtaining a U.S. driver’s license vary by state, so it’s essential to check with your local DMV for specific procedures and the required documents.

Many international students need a car when they are in the U.S. To get a car you need international student car insurance. If you are an international student, you will be able to get car insurance for international students in the U.S. To make the process easier and a little less complication take a look at our tips and guide below.

Can I use my Foreign License in the U.S?

Most states will allow you to drive with your foreign license if it is converted to an International Driving Permit (IDP) (see below). The IDP does not replace your license so you will need both documents in order to drive legally.

Even though you can use your foreign license in the U.S to drive, you will need a U.S driver’s license to get auto insurance for international students in order to buy a car.

3 Things to Do Before Getting a U.S Driver’s License

The driver’s license application is paper heavy for anyone (such as for those after the h4 driving license), but as an international student, it might be even more so. You’ll also have to take a few extra variables into consideration before you apply.

Make sure you are eligible

Only certain non-immigrant visas allow foreign nationals to obtain a U.S driver’s license. These visas include F, M and J visas.

Contact Your Designated School Official

Your Designated School Official (DSO) will most likely be able to provide you with the license application procedure of your specific state. They will also be able to assist you through the process. This will definitely help ensure your application process runs smoothly.

Be Aware of Timeline Factors

In order to apply for a driver’s license, your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record must be in active status. It is a good idea to wait at least 2 days after your SEVIS record has gone into active status and at least 10 days since your date of entry into the United States before you start the application process.

Some states also require that you have at least 6 months left on your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.

Verify Your Data

With a driver’s license application, small details count. It is very important that your information matches on all the various documents. For example, make sure all the information which is on your SEVIS record are correct and that it matches the information on the supporting documents you are going to submit to the DMV. If any of the info does not match, you won’t be able to get a driver’s license.

7 Documents You Need to Get Car Driver’s License in the U.S.

The documents you will be required to submit when applying for a driver’s license will vary from state to state. Your local DMV or your school’s DSO can tell you which specific documents you will need.

Most states, however, require the following:

Visa and a Valid Passport

Your passport serves as proof of your identity. Your visa is required to show that you are legally in the U.S and will also provide proof that you are on a visa status that is entitled to apply for a U.S driver’s license.

Form I-94

A Form I-94 is an Arrival and Departure record. This form is issued by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). You can learn more about the Form I-94 here.

Form I-20 (for F or M students) or Form DS-2019 (for a J Exchange Visitor)

A Form I-20 is known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status. This document is issued by SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) certified schools and provides supporting information on your F or M status.

The DS-2019 form is known as the Certificate of Eligibility. This form permits foreign nationals to apply for an interview at a U.S embassy or consulate in order to get a J-1 visa.

EAD Card

An EAD is an Employment Authorization Document and is more generally known as a work permit. An EAD provides temporary employment authorization to persons who are not United States citizens. This document is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Form I-797

There are many types of Form I-797s. This form is used to communicate with applicants or petitioners regarding any immigration benefit. This will serve as proof of an immigration benefit you received. To learn more about the Form I-797, take a look here.

Social Security Card

If you are a student on an F-1 or J-1 visa and you are employed in the U.S you will have to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). This is used to track your earnings for tax purposes. Alternatively, you can use a Social Security Association (SSA) form. This is a Form SSA-L676 which is essentially a refusal to process an SSN application.

This is any other document that will prove that you are legally residing in the U.S.

How to Get a Driver’s License in the U.S.

The process for obtaining your driver’s license is regulated by each state respectively so you will have to check the exact procedures you will need to follow with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Most states have the following elements as part of their procedure.

Eye Exam

You will have to have your eyes tested before you can get a driver’s license. The requirements your vision need to meet vary from state to state but in New York, for example, you must have visual acuity of at least 20/40 in either (or both) your eyes. You can have this acuity with or without corrective lenses.

Written Test

You will also be required to write a written test about the rules of the road. Once again, the length and difficulty vary from state to state. You can, however, expect a test of about 20 to 30 questions and you have to get at least 80% to pass. This is not the type of test that you can just rock up without studying so make sure that you get the study guide at your local DMV and take a practice test to see how well you do.

Driving Test

You will, of course, have to do a driving test. You can expect to have to drive in town and on the highway and you’ll definitely need to do parallel parking. Also be prepared to answer questions about the laws of the road while you are driving.

Keep in mind that some states follow the Graduate license program. This means that, depending on your age, you might have to first get a learner’s permit and log a specific amount of driving hours with an instructor.

Getting Auto Insurance for International Students

As an international student, getting auto insurance for international students is not impossible! The process and requirements are a little more strict but you still have a lot of options. Most insurance companies offer car insurance for international students. Some, however, do require you to have three years driving experience in the U.S before they will cover you.

This is where your school’s DSO will also be able to help you. They will most likely be able to provide you with a list of companies that don’t have such strict requirements.

As an international student, you will be buying an International Auto Insurance Policy. These policies are usually more expensive than those available to citizens. This is because insurance companies regard international students or foreign nationals as a higher risk. This is due to the information about your history (which they want to take into account) being limited.

The good news is some companies take your driving experience of your home country into account, which will ensure you get a more competitive rate which is comparable to that of a U.S citizen.

Essential Paperwork to get Car Insurance in the U.S.

Most car insurance companies will require the following documentation before giving you international student car insurance.

Driver’s License

Before you’ll be able to legally drive in the U.S, you will have to prove that you have a valid driver’s license in your home country. Your driver’s license from your home country will be changed into an International Driver’s Permit.

International Driver’s Permit

You can drive in the U.S without a U.S state-issued driver’s license if you have an International Driver’s Permit. You can apply to have your home country driver’s license converted into an International Driver’s Permit at the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).

Beware of companies that try and sell you fake international drivers permits. Only the AAA or AATA can issue valid International Driver’s Permits.

Driving Record

Your driving record from your home country will indicate if you have any outstanding tickets, a record of driving under the influence (DUI) or other issues in your driving history.

Your driving record will influence your insurance rates and insurance policy as this shows the insurer how big a risk you are.

5 Types of Car Insurance

There are various types of coverage relating to your car insurance. Some coverage is required and some is not. It is important to understand the different types of coverage before you take out auto insurance.

1. Liability Insurance

This type of insurance is there to cover you if an accident was your fault. The policy will cover the damages to physical property, as well as any medical expenses from the accident. If you are sued and pay a judgment or settlement, this coverage will also cover those amounts. It even covers you if you were driving someone else’s car without their permission.

This type of insurance is required in every state and driving without it is illegal. Keep in mind that liability insurance does not pay for the damage to your car or for your medical bills – only the liability you have towards the third party with who you were in the accident.

2. Collision Coverage

Collision coverage covers the physical repairs of your car if you were in a collision, irrespective of whether the accident was your fault or someone else’s. This coverage requires you to choose a deductible. A deductible is an amount that you will be required to pay yourself before your insurance will cover the rest. The higher deductible you choose, the lower your monthly premium will be.

Collision coverage is not a legal requirement, but if you have a loan or lease on your car (especially if you’re an international student leasing a car), the lender will generally require you to have this type of coverage.

If you are not required by your lender, you should do some homework before you just decide to get this coverage, as it might not be worth it if you drive quite an old car and the value of your car isn’t very high. This coverage is, however, essential if you drive a newer car as it will save you a lot of money should anything happen.

3. Comprehensive Coverage

This pays for any damage to your car which is not covered by your other insurance policies and which is not caused by an accident or car collision.

Examples of damage you will be covered with is:

  • Weather extremities like windstorms and hail
  • Earthquakes
  • Animals
  • Stolen vehicle
  • Fire
  • Falling objects
  • Explosions
  • Vandalism and riots

It also covers you if your car is stolen. With this coverage, you will also have to choose a deductible and this coverage is required if you have a loan or lease on your car.

4. Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

This type of insurance pays for your or any passengers in your car’s medical bills irrespective of whether the accident was your fault or not. PIP is required in some states and is especially recommended if you don’t have health insurance.

5. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Unfortunately, there are some people who drive without having any insurance even though it is a legal requirement. This insurance covers you if the person responsible for the accident doesn’t have insurance (or sufficient insurance). It will also cover you if you are in a hit and run accident or if fault for the accident cannot be given to either of the parties. This is required coverage in some states.

Is required or minimum levels of insurance enough?

The minimum levels of coverage that are required by states are mere minimums. The minimum required coverage levels are, in most cases, not enough – especially if you are involved in a serious accident. If you can afford higher coverage, increasing your coverage will be highly recommended.

The risk of being underinsured if you are responsible for an accident is that the other party can take you to court for the amount of damage your insurance does not cover. This is not a situation that you want to be in.

Insurance Premiums: Everything You Need to Know

An insurance premium is the amount of money you pay monthly, annually or semi-annually in order to be covered by your specific insurance policy. This is essentially the cost of your insurance.

Generally, car insurance premiums for international students are quite high. Factors that will influence your international student car insurance premium include the following.

Type of Coverage

The more coverage you get or the more comprehensive your coverage is, the higher your insurance premium will be.

Your Personal Information

This information includes your insurance history, age and where you live. Some of your personal information might actually provide you with a discount if you have a good history. Essentially, your personal information indicates what level of risk you are.

For more detailed information on insurance premiums, take a look at this page.

5 Tips for Lowering Your Insurance

If you want to make sure you don’t overpay on your insurance premiums, take a look at our tips below.

Shop Around

This is always a good idea, as it will give you an opportunity to compare quotes from different insurance companies offering car insurance for international students. Comparing quotes ensures that you don’t pay an unnecessarily expensive premium for the same coverage you can get cheaper elsewhere.

Keep Your Records Clean

As insurance premiums are linked to risk, having a clean record means that you will be regarded as less of a risk to a potential insurer. The cleaner your record, the less risk, the lower your premium and vice versa.

Maintain a Good Credit Score

Some insurers look at your credit score to determine your premium. Your credit score is also an indication of the risk you pose to the insurer. This is specifically risk related to defaulting on payment of your insurance premiums. If you have a good credit score, it shows the insurer that you are good at maintaining your payment obligations. This means you are less of a risk so you’ll have a lower premium.

Raise Your Deductible

The higher your deductible is that you pay in case of a claim, the lower your insurance policy will be. Just make sure you don’t make the deductible too high though. If you don’t have cash lump sums readily available in case you are in an accident, and your deductible is high, it might put you in a financially tight situation. Especially if you can’t afford the deductible but you need to make a claim.

Ask for a Deductible

If your current insurance policy doesn’t have a deductible, it might be worth it to ask to have one. The higher your deductible, the lower your insurance premium will be.

Read More


You will be able to use your International Driving Permit or a U.S driver’s license to get car insurance if you are a foreign student. Make sure you submit the right documents in your application and shop around for the best insurance premiums available to you.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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