What can Go Wrong When Getting Your NJ Driver License

LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: If you haven’t read any of my other blog posts on the DMV or the NJ MVC yet, then you may be forgiven for thinking getting your NJ driver license is a shoe-in.  Not to disillusion you too soon but there are many expats who could disagree. They, like myself, know from personal experience that getting your license can be a road lined with cowpats that you will probably step in, if not prepared. If you still think I am exaggerating, then read on for a list of what things can go wrong when getting your NJ Driver License; with some helpful tips to avoid the fertilizer.

What Can Go Wrong When Getting Your NJ License? Too, too many things!

1. You don’t Have ALL the Right Documents

There are a lot of specific primary and secondary documents to take as well as back up documents, or so it seems. Make sure you go through the NJ MVC’s website list which is actually fairly clear about what is needed. Six Points of ID: your passport, I-94 form, and your Social Security card give you 5 out of 6 points. All you need is one more, and there are a number of alternatives that you can use. Then you need at least one residency proof. This isn’t really that hard either. Just sit down and go through it slowly. Be organized before you go and check everything off. In a previous post, on ‘How to Get a New Jersey Driver License as an Expat’, I go through all the documents needed in detail. Check this list when you are planning on the application at the start. Always bring one or two extra ID proofs as a backup.DMV

2. Your Documents are in a Foreign Language and You Don’t Have Translations of these

You may not realize it but any foreign documents you use, either primary or supporting, must be accompanied with a translated copy, done by a recognized authority. Sure you might be able to translate them yourself but that won’t cut it. If getting the translation done here, the NJ MVC has a link to state approved translators on their website. Make sure you include extra time in your planning to get the documents translated, before you go to the MVC. If you somehow forget to get your home license translated, you may be able to use your International Driving License, as a translated version of your license but not all MVCs are this flexible. approved-translations-of-key-documents-needed-when-getting-your NJ-driver-license

3. You Don’t Bring Original Documents

This should be obvious but the MVC don’t accept copies of documents, only originals or certified copies. Nor do they accept certificates that are ceremonial rather than legal documents e.g. for a birth or wedding certificate. Make sure your documents are true originals or acceptable certified copies.

4. Your Name is presented Differently on Your Documents

For most of you with easy names like Jane Smith and so on, this is never an issue. However for other unfortunate people with more complicated names, there can be problems with the way it is recorded. People who have multiple surnames or first names are the most at risk but there can even be problems with names that have hyphens in them. These start to appear usually on things like your visa, your Dept. Homeland Security records (used when verifying your immigration status – perhaps an immigration officer recorded it incorrectly), Social Security and so on. It becomes a much more serious issue when you are at the MVC and your key documents don’t match. Perhaps your middle name is included with your first name or perhaps they left off one of your surnames, or as in my case, where the US online visa application wouldn’t let my name hyphen (the ‘-‘ between Anne and Marie) be entered. This small change meant I had a different name spelling on my passport and visa. This became an issue when at the MVC, where they insisted on treating this as “Anne M Watson”. Although I couldn’t get the visa issue fixed, it is much easier to get through all the rounds of name checking, especially at the DMV, when you have your name spelt and presented correctly. You can avoid this issue sometimes by asking wherever it is recorded to check the spelling or requesting your name be presented the right way for consistency where possible. They may not like you asking but it saves more delays down the track when name spelling comes under scrutiny.


Ensure you enter your name exactly the same as your other documents and that they all match, otherwise there may be an issue at the MVC.

5. They don’t Accept Your Proof of Residence

Normally this isn’t an issue but in a recent case, one of my relocation clients was told that his original lease would NOT be accepted because it was over two months old. This is not information that is shown anywhere on the MVC website. Fortunately he had a US bank statement showing his name and address, so it sufficed. There are time limits on the dating they will accept for bank statements, credit card bill statements, utility bills and most other resident proofs. Check the MVC list for accepted time limits. Residential-lease-NJ

6. You have the recommended documents that fit the MVC list but they don’t accept them

No, I am not crazy – this really does happen. On occasions you get MVC staff who seem to interpret the proof requirements listed in the MVC website differently than others. For instance, the ID proofs you bring are not accepted or they don’t like your residency proof as above. It is always a good idea to bring an extra proof if you can, for both ID and residency. For ID, staff members will not usually argue about your passport and SS card as acceptable proofs. These are straight forward. It is the 3rd proof needed where different rulings seem to apply. If you have an ATM card from a US bank, this is preferable for your third proof with most MVCs. Have another US based proof anyway, as a backup. The same applies to residence proof. Bring both a bank statement and a lease with your name and address on it. Then you have a suitable back up, in case you go to a MVC where the guidelines are interpreted differently.


Hard to believe but the MVC do not accept this type of card as a form of ID.

7. You Can’t Get Your License as Your Expat Partner (L1) Has to be With You

For any L2 visa holders (accompanying an L1 in the US) who are applying for their license, they are technically required to have their L1 partner’s documents (and preferably have them there in person) in addition to bringing all their own documents. Although, not all MVCs actually seem to implement this policy, some do. The same applies to when an L2 renews their license. Although this is not on the MVC website anywhere, there is an implicit understanding that the renewal process, requires exactly the same documents as the initial application. While you can risk going without the L1 holder and their documents, you will risk your renewal being rejected until the L1 is with you. In my book, it’s always better to be prepared for the worst with MVCs, so to take them just in case.

8. Your Immigration Status is not Verified When You Apply

One of the most common issues preventing expats getting their license completed on their first try at the MVC, is that they are told by staff they are ‘not verified’ when their immigration status is checked. If this happens, your license application goes on hold until you are. The MVC will not allow you to proceed until this has been resolved. What does verifying mean? Like the Social Security Administration, the MVC checks your immigration status information against records contained in the Department of Homeland Security databases, including those housed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Updating your arrival information in all government systems takes time. This process usually takes at least 10-14 days after arrival however, it can take up to a month. If you are not verified at the time of applying, the MVC will give you a follow up option for continuing your application again at a later date. This follow up will occur after the MVC receive clearance you are now verified. It may take anywhere between a few days or even longer before this can occur. It is just a temporary delay though, not a problem that is unsolvable (in vast majority of cases). While this is one of the hardest things to control, it can be minimized to some extent by not applying for your license too early after arrival from overseas. It should be a minimum time of 14 days at least before you try, although even this is not foolproof. This waiting time applies to the latest date you arrived in the country. This means if you have relocated here but since been overseas and returned again, the countdown starts from the last time you arrived. Stay-calm-and-carry-on-in-nj

9. You Bring an old I-94 form for your application

Many expats come undone in their applications because they bring their original I-94 form, printed out just after arrival but have been in and out of the country since. This means the I-94 details printed out earlier on, are now out-of-date. You need to get a current form by going to the I-94 retrieval website, which is updated by immigration every time you leave or arrive in the US. Always make sure you print your I-94 out just prior to coming to the MVC, so it is the latest edition.

10. You Fail the Vision Test

As the vision test is relatively easy, most people do not usually fail. However, if you normally wear eyeglasses or contact lenses when driving, then you would be crazy to take the vision test without them. Make sure you remember to bring them with you in the car and into the MVC.   wear-your-glasses-when -getting-your-NJ-driver-license

11. You Fail the Knowledge Test

Every country has its own road rules, and although most of them have basic similarities, it is in the small details that are different and need to be learned from scratch. There is nothing particularly hard about learning NJ driving rules. It is the fact that in NJ, you need to know almost everything in your Driver manual to give yourself the best chance of passing. You see, it is not just the road rules, that you need to learn for the exam. It is all the other extraneous information such as penalties for driving infractions, rules for young drivers, etc., that is often included in the knowledge test as well. Many expats just assume the road rules are what they will be tested on and forget to learn the rest. Needless to say most of them fail. To avoid this, obviously you need to do the long haul for your exam, if you want avoid re-doing the exam, which can only be done one week after your first attempt.


The New Jersey Driver Manual. You’d be surprised at how many details are included in this book that you can be tested upon. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

12. Your Home Country Driver License is Not Enough to Avoid Doing the Driving Test

Even experienced drivers from outside the US, may be required to do a driver road test in New Jersey. According to the MVC website, if your country is one that has signed the UN Convention on Road Traffic, you should be exempt. In practice though, this is not always the case. There are always expats that, for whatever reason, are asked to do the road test, regardless of which country they come from. The countries that are not signatories to this treaty include: Chile, China (Republic of China), Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, the Holy See, Indonesia, Ireland, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, and Venezuela. It is almost certain that expats from these countries will be road tested. Doing the road test may be impossible to avoid but if you come from a signatory country, at least give yourself a chance. Make sure you bring your valid home country license to the DMV, and that you add this information to your license application.


Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: M. mohsin shahzad

13. You fail your Driving Road Test

The last possible problem but certainly not the least is having to sit for the road test, then failing. Like most experienced drivers who haven’t been road tested for a while, I have no doubt lost some of the finesse one has when just newly licensed. That is when you cared if you used an indicator to show you were turning, you didn’t break rules as much, and you felt embarrassed if you parked across two parking spots. Make sure that if you sit the test again, you pass, as there are only three tries allowed before you are forced to wait another six months. If it has been a while since first getting your license, it is well worthwhile to get a driver lesson or two here in New Jersey before the test. Driving instructors can help you understand exactly what it is the MVC officer will be looking for to pass/fail you. They can also add just some extra finesse into your driving which won’t go astray and often helps you pass first go.


Photo source: Wikimedia commons

So there you have it – the monster list of things that can go wrong when getting your NJ driver license. It makes the Great Race look like a picnic, doesn’t it? What downfalls have you experienced at the NJ DMV getting a license?

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79 thoughts on “What can Go Wrong When Getting Your NJ Driver License

  1. Hey there,

    After reading your fantastic articles in your blog, I went out to experience the via dolorosa of getting a license in MVC/DMV yesterday (March 2015).

    I’m a 30 year old expat who lived in Israel his entire adult life, thus having a valid Israeli license for the past 12 years or so, but never any American license.

    I made sure to get all the right papers and documents- my passport, SS card, a current bank statement, the addressed envelope I got my SS card in, and my Israeli license.

    I went to the MVC in Lodi, NJ, and as I’ve expected, there were quite a few people waiting on the various lines. My documents were checked at least 6 times throughout the day, each time by a different person, but happily they didn’t find any problems with them.

    After 3 document checkups, filling out personal information, taking a horrible picture and paying the $10 for the permit, I went to do the vision test and the written test. As you’ve stated, people taking it should make sure to study the material, as they ask a few questions that you’d never know without studying (such as what kind of fine would someone get of s/he does X, etc). I guess without studying any experienced driver with common sense could answer easily 30 questions correctly at least, but you don’t want to take chances. The eye checkup takes about 10 seconds, where I guess anyone without vision issues should pass it.

    After I successfully completed both tests, I went over to the lady at the desk, and she told me to go back to the main building to get my license. I was quite shocked to hear so, as everyone whom I spoke to told me I would have to go through a driving test. She put on a shiny sticker on my permit paper I received earlier that day, and before she was able to change her mind I ran out the the main building.

    At the main building I waited on line again, and happily the lady at the counter didn’t argue with the paper and issued me my very first NJ license on the spot, sporting the horrible picture on it.

    All in all I spent about 3 hours at the MVC, mainly waiting on the various lines, where I showed up at 12PM on tuesday noon. The employees were mostly unfriendly, but most were not as hostile and mean as I expected.

    I just wanted to thank you again for your elaborate articles, and I wish all the other expats lots of luck with dealing with the American bureaucracy.

    • Thanks for the feedback Yitz! So glad you found the articles useful and that you eventually got your DL. I cannot explain the reason that you did not have to do a road test but at Lodi, in my job as a destination services consultant, I have taken several people here, and quite a few Chinese expats have likewise NOT been asked to do the road test.

      Yet at a different MVC, a Chinese expat I took there was required to do the road test. As I mentioned, there are different interpretations of the requirements, between branches, and even between different staff sometimes. Perhaps because there are so many requirements, that they become a little unclear? Who knows!! Main things is, you got through it all without any problems. Congratulations:)

  2. I cleared the knowledge test and is exempted from driving test because of my home country driving license. HOwever, I have not been given the DL so far becasue of ongoing SAVE case check. Its more than a month now and still the DMV office has not received the verification from USCSI/Save. How long does it takes ? Is there a way to check with USCIS for the delay in verification ?

    • Hi Adrishya,
      Sorry to hear about your DL delay. I understand how frustrating these delays can be. Taking a month is sometimes to be expected but rarely. I would follow up with the MVC branch where you were having your status verified originally, and just check hey haven’t notified you or misplaced the notice. Some staff are better than others at follow up and handling expats. To be fair, sometimes Homeland Security does take a very long time. Ask at the MVC if they still report your status as unverified, to see if they can recommend a way to try and address the problem. Tell them you have been waiting over 1 month, and need your license. If the person is unhelpful, ask to see the manager (politely), and see if they can add anything. Knowledge levels amongst the staff vary, so asking the branch manager may help. Other than that I can’t recommend anything. Once your verification check is with the DHS, it is not very transparent to anyone, and it seems they prefer it that way for security reasons. Best of luck!!

  3. Your website is great – nothing can equal a practical lesson like what you have put up. I have a particular question. My husband has come out on an L1 visa and I am therefore a dependant on L2 status. I am not eligible to apply for a Social Security number but do obviously need a licence. How can I address NJ DMV requirement for a SSN?

    Your reply would be apprecaited.

    thanks, Suresh

    • Hi Suresh,
      Sorry for the late reply but in case this helps, you are entitled to an SSN as an L2 dependent-all L2 visa holders are entitled to apply, whether they work or not. To get a DL without an SSN from the NJ DMV, means you must obtain a letter of denial. This is what the SSA will provide you with, IF you are NOT entitled to one. The letter counts as 1 point, the same as an SSN would towards the 6 Points of ID required at DMV.

      However, I know from my work with other expats that the SSA will NOT supply a letter of denial unless you qualify for one. Whether you want it or not, you must apply for an SSN as an L2, if you want to get a NJ driver license.
      If you have any questions, please let me know,

      • Hi,

        Are you sure that SSA letter of denial would count 1 point toward driver’s license?

        Because, this link


        from the state of New Jersey it says:

        “Special Note on Social Security

        To be eligible for a New Jersey driver’s license or renewal, non-citizens who are legally in the country but not permitted to work and do not have a Social Security card should go to their nearest Social Security Office with the documents from the INS that establish their legal status in the United States.
        The non-citizens should request a letter from Social Security confirming that they are not eligible for a social security card. This is a routine request, but must be made in person by the applicant seeking the motor vehicle license.

        This Social Security letter will not have a point value toward the license.”


        • Hi Michael,
          My information comes from the MVC from a few years ago. It is always possible that it is different so I would recommend you call the MVC general enquiries line to check. I would take their advice over another department’s to be certain.
          Anne Marie

  4. Somshri Patnaik says:


    The above article is undoubtedly the best guide for applying for a NJ DL. I have got all my documents ready based on your article. I have 2 questions. 1. Do we have to submit our Original documents? If yes, when are we going to get it back. and 2. Where can I find the list of MVC approved translators.


    • Sincere apologies for the later reply and possibly too late to help you now:
      1. Original documents needed
      2. On this page in the NJ MVC website, there is a link on the right hand side of the page to another website which lists the translation agencies approved by the MVC http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/Licenses/6PointID.htm. The link goes to the NJ Judiciary website which has approved translators, that the MVC also uses: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/interpreters/registry.html
      Apologies again!

      • Somshri Patnaik says:


        Thank You for your response. I visited one of the DMV and found it easier to just go for a new driver’s license. Passed the written test and showed the license of my home country for driving experience to avoid any restrictions on the license. Then the driving test was pretty simple at Wayne.

        I found your detailed information on immigration status check very accurate. I had to wait a week before my written test and also before I was issued my DL due to immigration status check. Both times a case was opened and I was asked to come back after a week.

        Thank you once again for helping me navigate the process.

        Best Regards.

        • You are very welcome!

        • Hello,

          I am on L2 visa, and I visited the Edison MVC today. I have a valid license from India and also an International permit. I passed the vision and knowledge test. However at the final counter, the lady said that my India DL “is no good”, and I still have to do a road test. To make things worse, I have been given a supervised restricted permit, and I cannot take a road test until 3 months after today. So pretty much I cannot drive anywhere alone! Is there anyway I can appeal/contest this to atleast get to give the road test immediately instead of waiting 3 months?

          I am also told that with an international permit I am only allowed to drive for 60 days after landing here, and 60 days expires next week 🙁

          What is your advice?

          • Hi Ram,
            Sorry to hear about your DL problems but the DMV are known for giving people unwanted surprises like this. Do you have any idea why they said your license is ‘no good’. Usually expats from India are allowed to skip the road test as their home license is recognized. Is there something different about your license? Is it expired or in a different name that doesn’t match your IDL? Not wanting to sound negative but you will possibly find it challenging to get someone to listen at the DMV. If you wanted to, you could ask to see the supervisor or DMV office manager to discuss, and see if they can countermand the decision. These places though are like tiny little empires where they don’t like anyone questioning them, so I have found very few symphathetic ears in all my dealings with them as a relocation consultant. If that fails I would try ringing the MVC and ask them if the matter could be reviewed again by someone else. The MVC has a Legal Dept which you could try as a third option.

            Lastly, don’t worry about the 60 days. From my understanding, as long as you have a valid home country license, IDL and have ‘started’ the process of getting a NJ DL, you should be fine. There is nothing more you could have done than this. Make sure though to carry all these documents when you drive in case you are stopped by police (Home license/IDL/NJ Driver permit-DMV paperwork). Not sure if you are supposed to have decals also for you car?

            Good Luck with the whole thing:)

  5. Mahesh Khuspee says:

    I am staying in Bridgewater, New Jersey and visiting my friend which is in Jersey City on next weekend. Can i apply driving license in Jersey City

  6. […] name, or get an MVC employee misinterpret them and turn them away, because according to the blogger Expat Aussie in N.J., it happens pretty frequently. Crikey! A School/College ID can cover another two points, or you […]

  7. They ask to do road test when I have valid pakistan licence for more than 5 years I passed my written test . What should I do ?

    • Hi Hussain,
      Unfortunately the USA, and specifically NJ in this case, only recognize foreign licenses from countries that are signatories to the UN Convention for Road Traffic. If your home country is not on this list of countries, then you are expected to do the road test, no matter how much experience you already have driving. So foreign visitors to the USA from Pakistan, along with China, Thailand and a handful of other countries that are not on the signatory list, will always be asked to do a road test, until their country signs the Convention. There is almost no way to get around this. However, if you have an International Driver License from home, you could try and see if a different DMV branch lets you through without the test. I have heard that sometimes people find the Lodi branch a bit more flexible. However, it is most likely you will need to do the road test so you may need to just accept it and prepare. I recommend a driving lesson or two with a local instructor who can give you some tips on what areas the driving testers look at the hardest, to give yourself the best chance of passing. Also do not be put off if you fail at least once. This is pretty common amongst overseas folk:)

  8. Hi!
    Is my expired ID enough for the 4 points? I can’t find my Birth Certificate anywhere and I don’t have a passport.

    • Did you happen to get an answer to your question?? My license expired on June 30 and I am going to renew on Monday. I am hoping a “current” license doesn’t mean non-expired! Thanks so much

      • Hi Tom,
        My understanding is that you should be fine to still get your renewal but assuming you are an expat you will still need to bring your ID such as passport, immigration papers (I-94), SSN card, US bankcard with your name matching, plus proof of residency. You may get charged a surcharge/late fee as well. However you will need to visit the MVC to renew, it is not something they will allow you to do online. This my understanding but you should check with the MVC yourself-you can call them beforehand to get some advice if concerned or just visit the reception desk and they will inform you of the process.
        Good luck

  9. My mother in law just moved from WA state to NJ. We wanted to change her driver license and they rejected the change. She had middle name initial on Certificate of Citizenship, on current WA driver license but not on Social Security card. According to ssa.gov site they don’t consider middle name as part of legal name, so was that rejection even legal ad MVC office (https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0110212001) ?

  10. Hello,

    I came to USA on 1st of April. I have visited Rahway MVC with all the required documents to get the NJ DL after one and half month. Unfortunately during the ID check process, MVC is not able to verify me in the SAVE system. They took a copy of my I94 and raise a case with SAVE to verify my details. They gave me the case number to verify the status online from SAVE website. They told me that they will call me once verification is done. They got my number. After 2 days, I checked my status and the status showing as ‘SAVE has returned your case to New Jersey – Motor Vehicle Commission’.

    To my understanding, SAVE is able to verify my details and send the information to MVC. I have visited the Rahway MVC to get my DL but to my surprise, they told me that the verification is still pending from SAVE side. I am confused now. Not sure the status in SAVE website is correct or MVC is doing something wrong. Anyone has any idea how long it takes to complete this verification process and what are the steps for the verification.

    Please help me on this.

    • Hi Aziz,
      I imagine this must be rather frustrating or at least I would find it so. I have always found the verification part rather hard to get clear information on, so I probably won’t add anything useful unfortunately.

      If you have checked the status yourself, as directed, can you take a copy of this to show MVC staff? A screen print for instance?

  11. Somshri Patnaik says:

    I got my DL when I was on F2 visa. MY DL is valid till September 2016.

    I returned home to get F1 visa as Im starting school in August 2016.

    My question is when I return to US on F1… will I be able to drive using my current license? or Should I update my new visa information with the DMV before I can drive. My address and other details will remain unchanged.

    • Hi Somshri,
      Wow you ask a great question! You and I are in the same boat as I just changed my visa from L2 to E3 so have to do same process, although I am uncertain just now of what exactly is required. I am finding out today Somshri, so will reply with any information I find later on. Sorry for my late reply,

  12. Hi Aziz,
    I am a H1B holder working in NJ end of May. I worked in California for 4 years and moved here. I went to MVC in first week of June and they told me that my status has not able to verified in USCIS and will call me later. I updated my NJ home address through AR-11 form after I rented an apartment 2 weeks ago. I also went to Canada last weekend and returned to NJ. Should I go to MVC this week or wait for one more week to allow all info updated? It is very frustrating as my California plate also cannot be changed due to my drive lic has not been fixed.
    Do you have any advise on my situation?

  13. Hi there,

    First of all thank you very much for spending time in putting all this things together.

    I am planning to give the Vision and Knowledge test in next few coming days. I just have one query related to 6 point Id verification. I am planning to show my Bank records/statements to earn one point in verification process. My query is as follows: Do I need to carry original statement from Bank or E statement (downloaded from bank website) will work?

    Truly appreciate your help on this.

    Anil Kumar

    • Hi Anil,
      They prefer original statement that is posted to your home or you can visit a bank and they will print out a statement for you from your account. The name and address needs to match all the other documents,

  14. Bhaveshkumar PateL says:

    I went to NJ dmv with all necessary document . but they did not allowed me for computer test because my middle initial name was missing in Homeland Security Record. could you Please help me guiding how can I fix this issue

    • Hi,
      This is one of those annoying things that are hard to comprehend but to get your DL all your documents must have exactly the same presentation and spelling of your names (first, middle and last). The Social security card is supposed to match the Homeland security entry, so if it does not match, then I would revisit the Social Security Administration office where you obtained it, and ask them to adjust it or to advise if Homeland Security should be seen to adjust their records (which is probably the answer) given that they didn’t include all your names correctly when you first arrived. I understand that this is going to require more time and probably frustration but unless you fix the issue with your names, it is unlikely you will get the DL.
      Let me know if you have any other questions and Good Luck 🙂

  15. I didn’t verify in save either, but I’ve been in the country for months. Not sure what’s going on with that, but apparently I’ll be contacted withing 6 business days.

    Thanks for the useful information yet again! 🙂

  16. Hi There,

    My name is Andy, I am an Australian Citizen and on E3. I had my QLD license for more than 2 years, do I need to give a driving test to get my NJ license or just the Knowledge test. Thank you.

    Kind Regards

    • Hi Andy,
      You shouldn’t need to do the road test at all as Australian licenses are recognized by NJ as part of the UN. Road Traffic Treaty. Make sure though that you have your International Driver license with you when you go to the DMV as even though its in English, sometimes staff use the absence of an IDL to decide if you need to do the road test – in other words they don’t check the list! Good luck with the knowledge test!

  17. My parent in law name got totally f’d up at the flemington d m v. First of all her given name has 2 characters in Chinese like many people in this world which meant the spellings on her green card and passport had either a dash or space between the 1st names but her bank statement had the 2 1st names combined with no space or dash. The lady at the dmv couldn’t do the dash or the space but sh can use the 2nd 1st name as a middle name and I had to explain to her we don’t have middle names as if she cares. So we settled on combining the 2 1st names without a space cuz that’s what many people in this case does.

    Regarding her last name Cheung Chan was on her green card and SS card of which Cheung was her husbands family name and Chan was hers. To avoid confusion she wants to put down just Chan on her dmv application only to find out the license came out with just Cheung on it which don’t match any of her docs. So we had the lady who took the picture change this and she agreed but it had to go with the green card and she has to take her picture 1 more time. Then we had to find out the ridiculous result that they combined the 2 surnames with no spaces. We were like WTF. . .this doesn’t match any of her documents so her name was all f’d up. This day and age with the advance technology in this world they can’t get the stupid computer and their workers to record the right names of people how that’s possible is really beyond me.

    • I am totally with you on this one! Wow that is a crazy outcome that will make your mom’s life a nightmare every time she has to use her license for ID. I also don’t understand why their technology is so limited that they can’t all use better software that avoids all these problems. My experience was not so bad but it is kinda annoying that they can’t let me run with my one First name Anne-Marie: all because their visa software doesn’t accept hypens. Not only does that seem daft but the DMV examiner I got checking my license at the end demanded to know why ‘I’ had this problem-as if I would choose to mess my name up…. Amazing!!

  18. Hi,

    I went to NJ DMV to get my license renewed today . I took my original I797A copy. They said, they could not verify my immmigration status and will have to do a SAVE check. I checked your website and figured that I did not print out my latest I94 from the CBP website. They went with the I94 on my I797A document which was probably why they couldn’t verify my records.

    Would it help if I go submit that on Monday in DMV? I am just too worried now as my drivers license is only valid for less than a month and I need to drive. Please help.

    • Hi
      Not sure if I am too late for your question but I wouldn’t bother trying to re-submit anything, as you would probably won’t get your SAVE review back any quicker-they still review SAVE regardless of how recent your I-94 is. Unfortunately once you start this process, you might as well wait till they finish the checkup, as I doubt you will save any time. If your license runs out you still have some period of grace to get renewed – you will get your SAVE check done before the grace period ends. If you are concerned, try calling back personally at the MVC to check out where the case is status-wise. The only real worry might be if the police stop you with your license expired before the SAVE case is finalized but since you have a month before expiry, it is highly unlikely you won’t get an answer back from SAVE within a month. In short you should be fine,

      • Thanks for your response. My license expires September 23rd. They have given a Save case #. The website says 3-5 federal working days as the processing time. However, it’s been more than 5 days and the case status hasn’t changed. NJ DMV said 3-10 business days when I went last week for my renewal. Save check website has posted that if we don’t see a change in case status after 10 days return to the benefit granting agency. I am just too nervous now as I need to be able to drive and my license is expiring soon. Has anyone had this experience earlier?

        • Hi Anna,
          Honestly, I wouldn’t be too concerned just yet that they are taking unusually long-it is common for the SAVE verification to take more than 5 working days and less usual but it is possible to take 2-4 weeks (when there is an issue of clarification needed with your name i.e. spelling etc or other).
          Most likely you will hear back from them within 10 working days, and be in time before it expires. My husband let his license expire accidentally by a week or so and had no problem re-newing it, so that part is not an issue. And technically your license is still valid until 23rd so there shouldn’t be a problem driving now. If however, you are by remote chance still waiting by 23rd Sept for SAVE, I would carry my SAVE case with my expired license, if you are going to drive but maybe a call into the MVC would be worthwhile to check this will save you any tickets from the police if stopped (after 23rd Sept). You still have some time yet though!
          Hope it all comes through soon,

  19. Thank you for your response and suggestions. As far as I know, my name etc., is perfect in all records. I have checked the USCIS website myself and my latest I94 etc., reflects the real date etc. I am not sure why SAVE is taking longer. However, they have posted in their website that due to high volume of SAVE verification cases, their response times have slightly increased. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Hope it all comes through soon!

  20. My wife and I recently moved from TN to NJ. My wife’s driver’s license expired two weeks ago and we want to have her license renewed in NJ.

    We went to a MVC on 9/8 with all necessary documents. Yet, we were told that we need to print out a recent I-94. We switched from J to H visa but haven’t gotten a visa stamp yet. We have I-797C (approval notice). We got I-94 when we were on J visa and its status is D/S.

    Anyway, we visited US CBP website to get a recent copy of I-94. Yet, although we entered correct information, the website says it is not found and suggests us to go to a deterred inspection site. The nearest site from our place is Philly’s international airport. We’re very irritated and frustrated with this. Do we really need to go to the airport to get the most recent I-94? We didn’t go out of the country since we got the I-94 on our passport. Will our I-94 be updated when we switched from J to H? We are not sure what kind of I-94 we get?

    Any idea?

    • Hi Hama,
      I understand how frustrating this can be. I have also had to revisit the International airport to have details fixed by the Immigration/Homeland security people just to have my I-94 with right details! Just what you feel like-another little trip to the airport but without any holiday as reward:)

      I am not a trained immigration lawyer so all I can do is give you my opinion, for what its worth. I suspect that because you are in between visas i.e changed from J to H but not documented in all places yet e.g. need the stamp on visa/correct entry in SAVE database, the government is still in the process of changing everything over. This is why you are not getting an I-94 from website now. You do need a new one if your visa has changed, and since the system has started to record the change, you cannot use the old one no matter when it was generated.

      If you want to do something about your wife’s license, you will either have to do as they suggest (visit airport so an I-94 can be generated on the spot or fast-tracked by your visit) or wait until all details settled but your wife’s license will be getting more out-dated. They do give a grace period for out-dated license-not sure how long this is perhaps 60 days? If you feel uncomfortable about driving with the expired license, personally I would do as they recommend. Anything to get the NJ license changed over. The last thing you want is to be forced to do a full application- I am sure your wife has already been through this fun and games already in TN. I hope what I have said helps but if you need specific advice, you may be better off speaking to an immigration lawyer.

      Good luck



      • My wife and I could recently renewed our licenses. It turned out that we need the actual approval notice with I-94. The receipt notice is not sufficient.

        Now, we are waiting to register our car and get a tag number.

  21. Hi,

    Your article is very helpful! I have one question though. I am a permanent resident living in Jersey City (originally from South Africa), I have a valid South African drivers license, but it is in my maiden name. All my other documents (Green card, SS and prove of address) are in my married name. Would I have to take my marriage certificate with? Will they accept that? I would much rather just do the written test as I do not own a car, but need a drivers license for my new job.

    • Hi Coco,
      It is always difficult to predict what documents are acceptable to any particular DMV as I have perhaps ironically referred to. Some are more demanding than others and it is not well delineated in more complex cases such as your example.

      This would be my approach, albeit this is just an opinion-I am not a trained expert such as a lawyer etc. I would take all the documents you have. Check that your SA license is still valid. If you have an International Driver License I would also bring that and my marriage certificate, and possibly my birth certificate if available. If any of the documents are not in English, you will need to get them translated by an MVC-approved translation agency before going to the MVC. I have the link to the list of such translation agencies in the article I believe. I cannot guarantee it but based on having a Sth African license, you should be able to miss the driving test as your license is recognized under the shared UN convention on traffic. So just the eye test and knowledge test needed most likely:)

      Take all this and see how you go. Stay away from the office at Bayonne. perhaps try Lodi (if convenient).
      Good Luck!

      • Thank you for your response. I went to the Lodi DMV yesterday with all my documents (marriage certificate and birth certificate included). The wait for the ID check was 2 hours. After that, I paid for my permit and was sent to the testing center. Once there, they asked to see my South African drivers license. I told them it was in my maiden name, and they did not seem bothered by it at all! They didn’t even want to see my marriage certificate. I did the eye examination (much easier here than in SA) and took the written test. I passed, yay! They put the silver sticker on my permit and told me to go and get my license!! I could not believe it was so easy! I was dreading having to go through the process again, because in SA it is a hard process to go through. This was so easy and I had my license in my hand within 3 hours of entering the DMV. Thank you for your blog. It really help make this process go smoothly.

  22. Hi,
    My wife recently changed her passport name from Maiden to after marriage and we came to US. The Visa was done on Maiden name so the I -94 reflects the old name. But rest documents we have new Last Name . Since we were in US before she also has SSN in her Maiden name.
    Now we want to have her License done in new name. Please suggest if there will be any issue.

    • Hi Mandar,
      I would think that your wife’s SSN must be changed first to match the I-94 so that your documents are matching, It must have the exact same name spelling and presentation if possible as the I-94.

      Her home country license would also need to be in her new name if possible, although many DMVs accept a marriage certificate to broach that issue. Any supporting documents like the marriage certificate should be in English, and if not then they need to be translated using an MVC APPROVED translation agency as listed in the article. Bring the original document with you.

      Other ID proofs and proof of residency must also use the same name you have in your I-94 and the new (changed) SSN.

      I cannot promise that having your wife’s passport in her maiden name still (while visa is different) will not be an issue but I wouldn’t expect it should be, as long as you have the marriage certificate in English.

      Also when you go to the SSA office to change your wife’s name, you need to take your original marriage certificate with you then too.

      Lastly, when you go to the DMV, do not go to a small agency, try going to Lodi if that is near enough-they are one of the better ones, usually.

      Good Luck, and please let me know how it turns out!


  23. […] of the last documents that expats relocating to the USA have to apply for is their DL. As highlighted in earlier posts, this can be one of the most frustrating things any expat goes through. This is partly due to the […]

  24. Would be curious on your opinion on this one, we are both Australians who have relocated to NJ. I completed the whole process and got my NJ Drivers licence without a road test, my wife completed the whole process but requires a road test. Both of us have exactly the same licence, but my wife’s was considered void and mine wasn’t…

    Logic was because there was no donor code or conditions on the licence (e.g. spectacles) and therefore void as described in the book. I will probably go back to the MVC in Newark to understand the difference and I also curious if we wait until the road test what licence she will get when she passes the test…

    Any opinions / commentary would be appreciated.


    • Hi Anthony,
      I am quite surprised to hear about your experience-the first time anything remotely like this but it is common to get different outcomes from different people in the same MVC or between different MVCs. It is not easy to protest or query these decisions-best done at the time rather than later. However, I certainly believe you have a case to argue for your wife to avoid the road test, when she has same license as yourself. My NSW license doesn’t have donor codes or glasses indicators on it either so that’s a strange judgement they’ve made! Then not unusual behavior for any MVC in my experience. I always tell people to go to Lodi if in Northern NJ, as they can be more on the ball but not perfect either. Stay away from Bayonne or any small agency. Newark should be relatively large and therefore sometimes has the more experienced people.

      I would ask to see the Manager of the MVC and take all your documents w you. If you have no luck, you could try another branch like Lodi. Failing this-you could ring the MVC telephone enquiry line or ask for the MVC legal Dept-then try discussion there-as they are the ones that know the most.

      Your wife’s license shouldn’t be any different to your own except she will have ‘wears glasses’ marked on it. I am wondering if this is the issue that has created the problem-your wife wears glasses now and didn’t in Aussie License ID pic?
      Anyway, let me know if you need any other info. Good Luck!

  25. My license requires renewing, so I went to the local DMV with my 6 points of ID, one being my UK passport with visa and I-94 form printed out by the Global Entry Booth at Newark Airport when I last arrived in the country after a business trip. The TSA officer who issued my GOES approval repeated many times “Keep the I94 from the booth it is the only official proof you are entitled to be in the country”, so I take this as a formal official I94 form. When they checked my ID at the DMV they told me they needed an Admission Number from my I94 and this GOES version did not carry that number, this admission number is used to check my immigration status with the DoHS computers even though this is the official I94 issued by the DoHS system!!! So I had to go home, login to the CBP website and print off the current I94 (complete with Admission Number). I returned the next day, the ID checker remembered me, she said “Oh so glad you brought the right form, but sorry the DoHS website is down today so we can’t check your immigration status, come back tomorrow”…. I’ll update you on tomorrow’s visit…

    • Hi Garry,
      Aah… Nothing ever changes it seems with the DL process. There are always pitfalls to contend with no matter how well it seems you try to be prepared.. I do emphathise!
      I hope you did not then return and find out you are not verified and have to go back again for another time?

      I am currently in the neverland of the S.A.V.E database, awaiting to be verified like so many before me. Took 1.5 hours to just get to the immigration status check, only to be sent home with sparse and useless instructions on next steps. The DMV never fails as a lesson in patience and forbearance it seems!!
      Let me know how you get on:)

  26. I got married a couple months ago and changed my last name at the social security. I changed my name at other smaller agencies too. The SS did not have any issue verifying me I assume bc I was able to get my new social security card with my new last name that day. I arrived at the DMV to change my license after changing at the SS. They could not verify me?! They said I needed a 2nd verification. I had everything. My expiring ID, my marriage license, my EAD, mail, SS, etc. They could not verify me, but the SS could? That doesn’t make sense. So I did my ten day wait, and the system had verified me. I went back and they said it still shows “in review” why is that? When on my end its verified. I need to drive and now I have these two last names. My legal name is changed through marriage and SS but not my drivers license and I feel like this is ridiculous. UGH.

    Help. Any advice?

    Texas Girl, bridget

    • Hi Bridget,
      Oh I do feel for you! This is a problem I have heard before but not experienced myself. Verification should be renamed horrification!
      Is it possible that you may have misadvertently read the SAVE screen? It is a touch confusing on the first screen where it shows an icon for both case-in-review and case-returned. The first time I looked at this, my eye was drawn to the tickbox icon, thinking it was OK. It wasn’t until I clicked thru to the 2nd screen I realized it was not OK but still under review.

      Other than this, I cannot really explain why your SAVE screen says case returned, while DMV screen says still under review! It is common for people to get an extended review such as people who travel a lot, people who travelled recently and I think just some names get examined more thoroughly. However, I wouldn’t expect your SAVE entry to disagree with their screen entry at DMV. However, as you would know, nothing is beyond belief at this agency really…

      Sorry to hear of your frustrations:(

  27. Hi
    I think my case is kind of different from others. Firstly i am an f-1 student from Missouri were i passed my driving test but did not received my DL card. The reason from Missouri motor is that i need to submit my most recent I-20 and it took like almost 3 months for my university to generate my new I-20 because its holidays reason and they are kind of busy but by that time i moved to NJ. But now my DL test paper from Missouri has been expired so do i need to take test here in NJ again or DL paper from Missouri can help here to get my NJ license.

    • Whoa! That sounds a wee bit complicated indeed! I am not really sure how that would be viewed. It sounds likely you may have to do it again but perhaps not. I would try and ask about it as soon as possible, in case you can avoid the driver test in NJ. They may just make you do the knowledge/eye test indeed. Sorry I can’t be more helpful but good luck with it all!

  28. Hi, Loved your article. I went to the DMV to renew my license and get plates. Had my 6 points and filled out forms and submitted them. Computer came up with a error on my Social Security number of. NJ not State of Record. “NJ not state of record.” She told me to call social security to fix this issue and that shes seen this before with a bunch of others. No biggie. Can anyone shed some light on this computer issued error. NJ not state of record.

    • Hi John,
      I am not sure as I have never heard this phrase but would guess it meant that you are applying for a license in a state that is different from where you applied for your SSN originally. Might this be the case?

  29. Indian Expat in NJ

    My first name matches in India driving license but last name in India driving license is like letter but in passport its expanded.

    In such case after clearing online computer test will it be possible to get DL from Lodi ?

    My India International License shows correct Full name first and last, not sure if DMV conside International License because its book and paper type chip based like Indian driving license

  30. I am writing to you to inquire as to whether you have any jobs or work that I can perform in the fields of Data Entry or Virtual Assistance. My other areas of skills are in Writing and Editing.I am an American expat presently living in New Delhi, India. I have experience in Data Entry, Virtual Assistance, and I can perform any work that you may require as long as it can be done online or remotely. If you would like to see my resume please let me know and I’ll gladly send it over to you. Or you can check my online resume at my own site at http://www.CoreyCananza.comThank you for your consideration.Warm Regards,Corey Cananza

  31. Alex Williams says:

    Hello, I need to check whether the foreign Marriage certificate can be used to get points in MVC NJ, coz my passport just got expired. I have an work authorization card, Social Security Card, Debit card and other address proofs. And application for asylum is pending. Not sure what to do next.

    • Hi Alex
      I doubt your marriage certificate would be of any use as an ID, however keep it with you when going to the MVC just in case. It sounds like you have a special case that might need MVC feedback. If you cannot get your passport renewed (I assume this is due to seeking asylum), then you should ask them what other proofs they could accept. You can ring them and ask this advice on their general number Ph: 888-486-3339 or go to an MVC office and ask at reception for a supervisor to see you. If you feel their answer is not clear or helpful, the MVC also has a legal department which you could try calling on the phone.
      When I look at the MVC list of ID’s, there are some alternative’s for people without passports: an ‘I-94 stamped Asylee or Refugee or Notice of Action’ etc., or ‘Refugee Travel document’… Only an MVC employee is going to be able to confirm what exact documents they will accept. I am sorry I cannot be of much more use.
      Good Luck to you:)

  32. Dhimant Bhundia says:

    Hii, I see many related posts/questions here. Mine is similar but not exactly same. Your advice or help is greatly appreciated.

    Let’s say my first name is “ABC”, middle is “PQR” and last is “XYZ”. My name is same in all the documents and in my CA driving license. I just moved from CA to NJ. and I’m here on H1B visa. So, my name correctly appears in all the documents and in CA driving license as “ABC PQR XYZ”.

    Now, in NJ, they are giving me license as “ABCPQ XYZ”. They are truncating the middle name and adding it to my first name. There’s no space between my first name and 2 letters of my middle name”. That completely changes my name. When I asked them, they are like you can change you name in USCIS. I tried calling them a lot but they are not responding at all. What should I do? Shall I accept license as “ABCPQ XYZ”. It will not help me to use my driving license as id anywhere.

    Please advice. Please help.

    • Hi,
      These systems really are designed to drive us all mad I think! Oh how frustrating for you. Seems like California got it right but NJ don’t understand. You should get this fixed as you will end up striking difficulties elsewhere when your documents don’t match, whether at license renewal or other situation. Your Driver ID is important and should match all your other documents, and preferably be your real name-not the new name they seem to have designed for you! I feel frustrated on your behalf:)

      Firstly, I don’t understand why if your I-94 record and Social Security Card both differentiate your first name ABC from your middle name, PQR, the DMV have overlooked this and melded them together incorrectly… It sounds as if something different is in your USCIS file online, which is crazy.

      To get a change for your names at the USCIS will probably require a visit (by appointment made prior) to their offices at Newark or Philadelphia Airport but you need to find this out on the phone first.

      Before you go down that road though I am going to email you directly, to see if I can assist you, so expect an email from me as ExpatAussieInNJ.
      Speak to you shortly

  33. Hi, My passport from my home country (Costa Rica) expired 4 months ago and it is under my Costa Rican name (with surname and two last names).
    When my wife and me did the immigration process and we request an Employment Card and then a SSN I changed my name and I used just my name and my first last name.
    With this two inconvenience, the expired DL and the mismatch between the name in my SSN and EC do you think I will need to do the hole process of the NJ license?

    • Hi
      I am confused because you state that the passport is expired first, then you mention your DL is expired in the 3rd paragraph?

      I have never been to the NJ MVC to apply for a DL with either an expired passport or home country driver license. Even if they were NOT expired, you would still need to go through the entire driver license application process which applies to all aliens regardless of which country you come from. However, I would not personally consider even trying to apply for a NJ license without a valid passport and home license, as these are two basic requirements. I cannot see how you can make it to 6 points of ID without your passport, even if you have an EAD and SSN card.

      The bottom line is that you need to get all your documents matching with your names. If the passport doesn’t match, then maybe you can get this changed when you renew it. Otherwise you will have to get USCIS to change your name to match your EAD and SSN. As long as you have a valid Costa Rica license to take with you, it may be possible that you won’t need to do the Road test portion of the application, as long as you pass all other requirements. My understanding is that Costa Rica is a signatory on the Road Traffic treaty that recognizes other countries licenses, meaning you may avoid the road test. The final say is up to the MVC though, as there can be exceptions.

      While its all inconvenient, its best to follow their process to avoid more problems overall-there is no way to shortcut the system here.

  34. BIANCA, a Romanian (in Europe) moving to Seattle.

    Hello to everyone and thank you for the shared information.
    I am 25 y old, never had a driver’s license and i would like to begin that process as soon as I’m established in the US. i will be coming on a L2 visa (as a spouse).
    Can anyone tell me if i will be eligible for a driver’s permit and what kind of documents i will be needing? Also, how much does the driving school cost and what does it really include for a beginner like me to learn; How much will the writing/driving tests cost?

    Keep being amazing and thank you again,

  35. Hi –
    for non us citizens- would an expired drivers license suffice as proof of driving experience?

    What if the license expired 4 years ago? Is this still considered as driving experience? Or I need to go through the entire process as a first time driver?

    • You could always check but in my experience, they never accept expired licenses at the NJ MVC as proof of driving experience. I guess I could see why – for instance, if you have lost your license for other reasons such as bad driving record etc., they have no way of knowing it was this reason versus that you just missed renewal deadline. At least a valid license tells them you meet your home country driving standards. So I believe you will have to do the full driving license process, unless you can get an expired license renewed back in your home country, wherever that may be. Sorry I don’t have more positive feedback:(

  36. What can I do if DMV made a mistake in my name when they issued me a license? This is not a legal name change request. This is when DMV left out
    my first name from my birth certificate. I don’t know how they did that. Maybe
    I talked them out of it (this occurred in 1994). Yet I still got a driver’s license.
    Is that impossible? What can I do now?

    • Hi James,
      I imagine license procedures were completely different back in 1994 and pre-Sept 11 crisis, as this changed the whole world, including security measures and checks done at the MVC in NJ. It may be a simple matter if your other documents match the name you want to change to, such as birth certificate, SSN etc. If you visiting to apply for this, I would take along original copies of all documents, including proof of residence, and make sure your birth certificate carries the required state or municipal seals. If it is a copy, you need to have this certified prior. I would either ring the general MVC enquiry line to ask what is needed to change your name first to get all the info needed or drop into a branch with all your documents and see if they can start the process for you. Hope that helps! Good luck:)

  37. Hi, I passed my written test at Rahway on Tuesday and when I went up to collect my license the lady told me she couldn’t give me my license because my home license( South African btw) doesn’t have my full name on it. It has the initials of my first two names and my surname, she said it doesn’t match the name on the system and when I tried to tell her that the initials are my first and second name not my last name she refused to listen to me and said I have to do a driving test. Could you please advise me on what to do because the driving test is really unnecessary and even if I pass it, it won’t make a difference because my name will still remain the same on my license.

    • Hi Fay,
      Sorry for the delay in answering your question. Their response is not unusual even if it seems unfair. I have seen something similar just when the license was very worn and a bit dilapidated-they refused to acknowledge it. The only things I would recommend doing to avoid the driving test are:
      1. To ask to see the MVC branch/office manager to discuss your case (at the place where you did the test) and see if they can give you a better answer.
      2. To ring the legal department in NJ MVC administration – never spoken to them myself but others have for a more comprehensive review of circumstances. Not sure of the specific phone number but try 609.292.6500 to start with.

      Otherwise there may not be any way around it. They do make it clear that they have the right to request a driving test if they consider it necessary-terribly frustrating I know. If you do end up doing the test, make sure you get some tips from a driving instructor prior. Just one lesson can help you understand the things they will be looking at like reverse parking etc.

      Good luck!!
      Anne Marie

  38. New Jersey has an out of control traffic problem. Allowing people licenses without a road test is absurd. Your licsence is a privlage not a right.

  39. This page was really helpful to me, so I’ll leave my experience here in the hope that it helps others. I already had a driver’s license from Austria, so I wasn’t required to do the road test. For the 6-point ID I presented my passport, green card, SSN, and a bank statement. The knowledge test had several questions (more than five I believe) about learner’s permits etc. which I didn’t study well because it doesn’t affect me. I still managed to pass albeit with six wrong answers. The vision test took literally 30 seconds. All I had to do was read a line of letters and five colors. I spent around two and a half hours at the DMV and after that I had my driver’s license!

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