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International Student and Scholar Services

Life at DU

Driver's License and Owning a Car

Colorado Driver's License & ID Card

It is necessary to have a valid driver's license to operate a motor vehicle in Colorado. In most cases, internationals can drive for ninety days using a valid license from another state or country before they must apply for a Colorado Driver's License. Visit the DMV's New to Colorado webpage to review requirements for residency.

The DMV's New to Colorado from another country? webpage explains the process

Students should consider obtaining an International Driving Permit (IDP) before coming to the United States. This document translates a foreign driver's license into multiple languages including English. However, the IDP does not give any authorization to drive in the United States without a valid foreign license.

If you decide not to apply for a driver's license while in the United States, you may apply for a Colorado Identification card (ID Card) which is a form of identification that will be helpful for you in administrative matters (writing checks, completing applications etc) and social matters (admittance to certain establishments with age requirements), as well as give you a form of identification in lieu of your immigration papers. However, it does not allow you to drive.

For more information about applying for a driver's license or ID card, visit the main DMV website and their New to Colorado from another country webpage. You will need to follow the instructions for temporary lawful presence

Applying for a Driver's License or ID Card

Before applying for a Colorado state driver's license or state ID card, it is recommended that you review the DMV's New to Colorado from another country webpage.  

When you are ready to apply for a license or ID card, you will need to take the following documents to the DMV office:

  • Original I-20 or DS-2019 - current and past copies (If your most recent I-20 or DS-2019 does not have a Port of Entry stamp on it, please see Colorado Connection Letter below.)
  • Passport with Port of Entry stamp verifying status
  • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (card or electronic printout)
  • Proof of residential address 

If you are in J-1 status and your program sponsor is not a Colorado school or employer, you will need an original letter from your sponsor listing a Colorado school or employer as the appropriate designee.

Colorado Connection Letter

One requirement for non-immigrants in F or J status is to present a letter verifying a connection to Colorado if they do not have an original Port of Entry stamp on their most recent I-20 or DS-2019.

To request this letter, please complete our Document Request Form (DRF). In Section C, choose Colorado Connection Letter for Division of Motor Vehicles.

Driver's License Testing

Before applying for a driver's license, you should review Colorado state driving laws in the Colorado Driver Handbook . You do not need an appointment to apply for a driver's license or to take the written exam, but you must make an appointment in advance for the road test portion of the application. You may make an appointment by telephone or in person. If you complete a private driver's education course, the written and road test portions of the application may be waived. Many automobile insurance companies offer lower rates for customers who have completed a driver's education course.

If you already have a valid driver's license from another state, you may be able to exchange your current out-of-state license for a Colorado license without taking the exams.

DMV Locations

There are several DMV locations in the Denver area. Listed below are the two that are nearest the DU campus. Both office offer renewal and replacement of driver's licenses, as well as processing of initial applications for a driver's license or ID card.

Name Telephone Location Hours
Denver Central 303-937-9507 1865 W. Mississippi Ave. #C M - F, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Littleton 303-795-5954 Oakbrook Shopping Center
311 E. County Line Road
Littleton, CO 80122
M - F, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Owning a Car in Colorado

Driving in Colorado & Driver Responsibilities

Owning and driving an automobile comes with some major responsibilities. It is recommended that you read the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles' (DMV) Driver Handbook to familiarize yourself with driving in Colorado since the traffic laws and rules of the road can be very different from those of other countries or even other states.

The DMV website provides information on registering a vehicle in Colorado, obtaining license plates for your car, emissions testing, and office locations.

Seat Belts

Wearing seat belts is mandatory for the driver and any front seat passengers. All children sixteen years old or younger are required to be properly fastened with a seat belt or a child restraint system appropriate for their age and weight. It is highly recommended that every occupant of a vehicle wear a seat belt at all times since it is one of the most effective ways to lessen or prevent injuries in the event of an accident.

The Colorado Department of Transportation provides Car Seat Guidelines to ensure that all vehicle occupants especially children are properly secured in their seats.

Using Cell Phone While Driving

Colorado law prohibits drivers from sending or reading text messages while driving. Drivers under eighteen years of age are prohibited from texting or talking on a cell phone.

Winter Driving

Many drivers have not experienced driving in slippery conditions or extreme cold until they moved to Colorado. The How to Go on Ice and Snow guide produced by the American Automobile Association (AAA) gives useful tips to be prepared for winter driving.

Vehicle Maintenance

Drivers must make sure that their vehicles are safe to operate and comply with Colorado motor vehicle regulations. Page 12 of the Colorado Driver Handbook lists several things that need to be properly maintained such as brakes, lights, exhaust system, and tires.

Purchasing an Automobile

Buying a vehicle is different from most other purchases in that there is rarely an opportunity to return the car if you change your mind after the sale is complete. Therefore, it is important to research the many aspects of a vehicle purchase in order to make a good decision. Here are two Colorado Department of Revenue websites which provide information on buying a car.

Motor Vehicle Buying Tips and Consumer Protection
Buyer and Seller Responsibilities

Many commercial websites also provide comprehensive resources for determining the price and quality of new or used vehicles.

Kelley Blue Book

Automobile Insurance

Colorado state law requires car owners to maintain automobile liability insurance that provides coverage in case of accident, death, or injury. You may purchase insurance that provides for the minimum required amounts only, or you may choose to purchase coverage that provides for higher amounts. Many car owners also purchase collision insurance to cover damage to their own vehicle and/or comprehensive insurance which covers other types of loss such as from storms or vandals. Your insurance provider will give you proof of insurance which must be kept in the vehicle at all times

Purchasing Automobile Insurance

When you speak to an insurance salesperson or visit an insurance website, you will be asked a number of questions to determine the type of coverage you would like to purchase. You should be notified of the minimum amount of liability insurance required by Colorado law and be given the opportunity to purchase higher amounts. Make sure that you understand the terms and conditions of what the insurance will cover before agreeing to a plan. We also recommend requesting quotes for coverage from several different companies before purchasing.

Insurance Providers

There are a number of auto insurance providers in the Denver metro area. The following companies are just a few of providers you can choose from.  Neither the University nor International Student and Scholar Services endorses a particular company or insurance plan.

Insurance Provider Toll-Free Phone Number
Allstate 866-621-6900
Esurance 800-378-7262
Farmers Insurance Group 800-327-6377
Geico 800-861-8380
Nationwide 877-669-6877
Progressive 800-776-4737
State Farm 800-782-8332

The purpose of this web page is to provide a broad overview of the subject. It should not be considered an authoritative resource. No company listed above is affiliated with or endorsed by the University of Denver.