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How to get a driver’s license for your spouse in the US of A

Disclaimer – this post is relevant only to non-US nationals who intend to stay beyond 90 days. Also, it’s based solely and completely upon my personal experience.

  1. After landing in the US, wait for 3 weeks before you can apply for your social security number (that’s the amount of time it usually takes for your visa/ immigration information to be updated in the government’s servers)
  2. After the first three weeks, apply for your SSN. If the Social Security Administration office is not able to find your data in their servers (which usually is the case), go to step 11. Complete steps 11-13, and then move on to step 3
  3. Vacillate for a few weeks – whether to buy a car or not? After all, you are planning to go back to your country soon, right?
  4. Realize 4 weeks later that this is the US. Unlike the country where you came from, public transport is close to non-existant. And without a car, life is pretty much miserable. (To the best of my knowledge and opinion, this is what most Americans care about – in the order of highest priority to the lowest – their car, their pets, themselves, their spouse, their kids, their friends, their parents)
  5. Spend between 1-2 months looking for a good deal on a used car. After buying the car, realize that instead of renting cars every weekend to shop for a car, you could have spent that money on the first good car you saw (and did not purchase because it was $500 above the market price)
  6. Make your spouse realize that she can drive here too – after all if she could drive back in your country, driving in the US will be a piece of cake. Everyone follows the rules!
  7. Get a letter from your employer certifying that your wife is a legal resident of the US and would like to have a driver’s license (you got this for yourself when you got your own license)
  8. After a month’s reading through the driver’s handbook, have your spouse go to the DMV. There, she will be told that she needs to carry your passport too. They want to verify whether both husband and wife are legal immigrants – not just her
  9. Go back home, pick up the passport and get back to the DMV (remember – you are traveling by public transport. 1 hour and 3 bus/light rail changes for a 20 min. trip by car)
  10. At the DMV, realize that they don’t have her immigration data in their system (so what if she entered the US 10 months ago and got her SSN without much ado?)
  11. Go to the USCIS/ DMV office in another suburb to submit the relevant paperwork. And be told that the office that processes these items works only Wednesdays. Back home (public transport again)
  12. Next week, go to the USCIS/ DMV office and submit the paperwork. Get to know that you will receive the paperwork in the mail within 2-4 weeks.
  13. 5 weeks later – no news. Go back to the USCIS/ DMV office and be told that everything is fixed in the system, and your wife can indeed apply for a driver’s license
  14. Go to the DMV to apply for a license, and be told that the letter from the employer (step #7) is valid only for 30 days and you need to get a new one

And that’s where we are at right now. A fresh letter from my employer is expected by this weekend, and then hopefully my wife will get her instruction permit (learner’s license) – on her seventh visit to the DMV.

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