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Drivers Licenses and State IDs

Obtaining a Massachusetts driver's license may be useful even if you do not plan to drive while in the US. A license can be used as proof of identity for everyday purposes instead of a passport. Alternatively, you can apply for a Massachusetts state ID card (called 'MassID'), which does not allow driving but also serves as an official proof of identity. Both driver's licenses and state IDs are issued by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, or RMV.

Effective July 1, 2023 applicants for a standard drivers license in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are no longer required to show evidence of legal immigration status as a condition of obtaining standard driving privileges. Please refer to the RMV's site on the Work and Family Mobility Act regarding the removal of immigration status as requirement. Other evidentiary requirements, including proof of identity and proof of residence in Massachusetts, still apply. In addition, it may be possible to enjoy driving privileges on the basis of your foreign driving license.

Registry of Motor Vehicle (RMV) Procedures and Locations

In general, any driver's license and ID card processes must be started online and finished in person at an RMV office. Do not go to the RMV office without first visiting the RMV web site. Once you are ready, you can find the nearest RMV service center on the RMV web site or To find the RMV office nearest you, or click on the links below.

To qualify for a Massachusetts Drivers License or State ID, you must be able to present at least one of the required documents for each of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Proof of identity, date of birth such as: 
    • unexpired passport
    • original or certified copy of birth certificate
    • Foreign driver's license
    • Foreign national identification card
    • Driver's license from any U.S. State or territory
  • Social security number status
    • A social security card or
    • SSN Denial Notice issued by the Social Security Administration with Passport, Visa, and I-94 (dated within 60 days)
  • Proof of Massachusetts residency such as: 
    • Official school transcript for current year
    •  Official letter from school (proof of enrollment) dated within 60 days
    • Tuition for current year
    • Certified school record for current year
    • Utility bill (electric, telephone, water, sewer, cable, satellite, heating)
    • Credit card statement
    • Medical/hospital or health insurance statement
    • Insurance bill (auto, medical, home, rental)
    • Cell phone bill

Please refer to the RMV's Massachusetts Identification Requirements page for a full list of acceptable documents.

In general, the process for obtaining a driver's license requires three steps involving the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV):

  1. Start an online application for a learner's permit
  2. Go to a RMV Service Center with your required identification documents to complete the application and to take your Learner's Permit Exam (study for the exam by reviewing the Driver's Manual)
  3. After you have passed the exam, get your learner's permit and practice driving
  4. Schedule your road test with the RMV
  5. Pass your road test and obtain your license

Effective July 2018, Massachusetts General Law (Chapter 90, Section 10) was changed to allow validly licensed drivers from any country to operate validly registered motor vehicles in Massachusetts. If your foreign drivers license is not written in English or does not contain an English translation, you must obtain and carry either a valid International Driving Permit or an acceptable alternative translation document. There are more requirements that must be meet in order to comply with the law. Review these by clicking the link or reading further below.

Requirements of Foreign Licenses

International Driving Permit (IDP) and Acceptable Alternative Documents

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a translation of a drivers license into 10 major languages. It does not convey any driving privileges but must accompany a foreign license if the license is not in English. If you do not have an IDP, you must obtain a Translation into English of a Foreign Driver License alternative document that properly identifies the license holder and translates the relevant license information into English.  This form can be found on in the “Learner’s permit, driver’s license and ID card forms”  section.

Certain foreign licenses may be converted into a Massachusetts drivers license without a knowledge test or road test. For more information, go to the RMV web site.

Owning a Car

The International Center does not recommend purchasing a car unless you plan to live in Massachusetts for an extended period of time or if you do not have convenient public transportation options. If you do purchase and own a car, you should keep in mind the following considerations:

  • Required car insurance and car title and registration fees
  • Annual car inspection and local car (excise) taxes
  • Potential car repairs
  • Purchasing snow tires and driving safely in snowy and wintery conditions
  • Traffic and congestion
  • Parking fees and restrictions (learn more about parking at Tufts)

To learn more about buying and owning a car in the US, consult this useful resource.

Driving Laws and Immigration

It is extremely important for international students, scholars, and employees to understand and comply with all requirements for driving responsibly while in the US. In particular, you should be especially aware of the consequences of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other intoxicants. A DUI arrest or conviction may lead to revocation of your visa as well as other extremely serious legal consequences. If you are subject to arrest or conviction due for driving under the influence or as a result of another serious driving violation, we encourage you to consult with the International Center and a qualified immigration and/or criminal attorney to assist you.