Driving Legally in NC

In order to drive legally in North Carolina, you must have a valid drivers license. North Carolina will accept a “valid drivers license issued to [the driver] in his home state or country.” (G.S. §20-8.3)

North Carolina does not recognize the International Driving License although if your home country license is not written in English, it is best to have an International Driving License in addition to your home country license.

Under North Carolina law, “Any other new resident of North Carolina who has a drivers license issued by another jurisdiction must obtain a license from the Division within 60 days after becoming a resident.” (G.S. § 20 7a)

In the state of North Carolina, a resident is:

Any person who resides within this State for other than a temporary or transitory purpose for more than six months shall be presumed to be a resident of this State; but absence from the State for more than six months shall raise no presumption that the person is not a resident of this State. (G.S. §20-4.01 (34))

And a nonresident is:

Any person whose legal residence is in some state, territory, or jurisdiction other than North Carolina or in a foreign country. (G.S. §20-4.01 (24))

It is arguable that if you are an international student and/or short-term scholar and are planning to return to your home state or country when your program terminates, you have a “temporary or transitory purpose” and are not obligated to obtain a North Carolina driver’s license.

However, living in North Carolina for sixty or more days allows you to be presumed as a resident, even though you may not be considered a resident relative to your immigration, tax, or tuition status.

If you are stopped for a traffic violation, a law enforcement officer may use this presumption to charge you with an offense pursuant to G.S. §20-7a.You have a legal right to rebut the presumption, but you must appear in court in order plead not guilty.

Students should apply for a North Carolina license so that they may avoid any problems that could arise as a result of this ambiguity, as well as for identification purposes.

For a student to obtain a NC Driver’s License, you must provide proof of identification, residencyliability insurance on the car andlegal presence:

1. Show Proof of Identity through two forms of identification such as: Passport, with valid visa date and I-94 card. I-20 for F-1 & F-2; DS-2019 for J-1 & J-2; I-797 for H-1 & H-4. Social Security Card.

2. Show Proof of Residency by showing an original (not a photocopy) utility bill, or bank statement addressed to you at a street address (not a PO box number), or your signed lease agreement for a local house/apartment, or your school records.

3. Show Proof of Automobile Liability Insurance by showing Form DL123 issued by your auto insurance agent, or an original liability insurance policy binder, or an insurance card with your name, policy number, issuance and expiration date. The UNC International Student and Scholar Services’ address what you should do in the event that you do not own a car and therefore do not have insurance. Please refer to What if You Do Not Own a Car on their page for more information.

4. Show proof of the ability to see, drive, and have knowledge of the rules of driving in NC by taking a four part test that includes a written portion, sign recognition, driving and vision test.


Verified February 2012