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I have been living in Chicago for a couple of years (not continuous) on an F-1 visa. I have not needed a car so far, so I never got an Illinois driving license, but I'll be moving to California soon, and I will definitely need a car there. Since I have only ever driven manual transmission cars, I'd like to practice driving an automatic on my friend's car.

I have a valid Italian driving license, but I cannot figure out if I am allowed to drive with it or not. According to 625 ILCS 5/6-102, a non-resident who has a valid driving license from their home state does not need an Illinois driving license. When I pay taxes (from my job on campus) I have to file as a non-resident alien, so I would surmise that I am not a resident of the US. But I do live in Chicago. Does that make me a resident of Illinois, but not of the US? That doesn't make sense to me, but I don't want to rely on sense alone.

I have asked the office for international students at my university, and they have been no help at all.

  • Whether or not you are considered a resident for federal tax purposes has little bearing on whether you are a resident for other purposes, such as driver licensing. You will likely be considered a resident of Illinois. – Greg Hewgill Mar 25 '14 at 21:28
  • So I cannot drive unless I get an Illinois driving license? – LaC Mar 25 '14 at 22:08
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    The question isn't really about USA, but about Illinois. Each state has their own rules, and they do differ significantly. – vartec Jan 9 '15 at 20:57
  • FYI you might be able to convert your Italian license to some US driving license. – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 7 '15 at 20:55
  • Why don't you just get an Illinois driver's license? It should be cheap, quick and simple. – Kuruma Apr 21 '15 at 15:49
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In California you can drive with out-of-state license if you're not a resident. If you're moving to CA for a prolonged period of time, you may be required to get a CA license. Out-of-state can also be out-of-country if its an international license (I believe all the EU licenses are, but check at the DMV web site).

I can assure you, if you can drive in Italy, nothing will prevent you from passing a driving test in CA (or anywhere in the US, even in Manhattan)...

  • +1 "if you can drive in Italy, nothing will prevent you from passing a driving test in CA" – magma Mar 28 '14 at 14:07
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    One of the questions that I missed when taking the CA written test was the speed limit in an alleyway. One question I missed on the Ohio written test was minimum tire tread, so...you should at least attempt to read the manual of laws for a US state driver's test! – mkennedy Jan 9 '15 at 20:52
  • There is one thing that would prevent anyone from passing a driving test in Manhattan: driving tests are no longer offered in Manhattan. – phoog Mar 15 '15 at 5:47
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On a practical basis, when I moved here I found that getting used to automatic transmission took about 5 minutes. The simplest solution is to wait until you get to CA.

The more detailed answer: being "non-resident" in the immigration sense is unrelated to a state's notion of resident. For a state, "resident" usually means someone who has been living there for more than a certain number of days, often 30.

After the 30-days (or whatever), you will have to get an in-state license. If you are coming from another country you'll probably have to take some sort of test; often just a written one. If you have an out-of sate license issued by another state its a formality; they'll just exchange it.

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