Getting a Driver’s License

If you will be in the U.S. longer than 90 days and intend to drive, you are required to get a Colorado driver’s license, even if you already have an International Driver’s License.

Any person who operates a motor vehicle, motor-driven cycle or moped on the public streets & highways in Colorado is required to be at least 16 years of age and have a valid driver license. Many international students choose to get a driver’s license while studying in the U.S. This information applies to any resident alien, not just “students” who will be in Colorado for longer than 90 days.

Apply for a Colorado Driver’s License or Colorado ID

  1. Submit these documents: a valid Foreign Passport, I-94 information printed from CBP website, and either F-1 or J-1 school documents (I-20 or DS2019). Photocopies or notarized copies are not accepted.
  2. Proof of a Colorado residence address. Bring an official piece of mail (bill, statement, etc.) with your name and address.
  3. For Driver’s License Only: Pass all required examinations. (This is not necessary for obtaining a CO State ID.)

Required Tests for Driver’s License

Driving Record Analysis

The Motor Vehicle Division examines your driving record and current driver’s license status to determine eligibility before issuing a new license.

Physical Aptitude Analysis

This is a determination, by the driver license employee, of any physical ailment or disability that may have an effect on your driving. A Confidential Medical Examination Report is required for many physical ailments or disabilities such as epilepsy or paralysis.

Vision Screening

Your vision will be tested to determine if you can see well enough to drive safely. If the test indicates you need corrective lenses to meet the minimum visual standards, your license will show this restriction. Failure to meet the minimum vision standard of 20/40 will result in initial rejection and referral to a vision specialist for correction and recommendations, at your own expense. Please bring your glasses or contact lenses with you to the DMV.

Basic Written Test

Test questions cover the contents of the driver’s license handbook including road signs, driving under the influence, and other driving and safety rules. Study the handbook.

Driving Test

This is the most important part of the examination, as you must demonstrate that you can drive safely (See Drive Test §13). You will be in your vehicle with an examiner who will evaluate your skills and awareness.  An appointment is required for the driving test.  The appointment can be scheduled on the DMV website.

  1. Be fingerprinted (C.R.S. 42-2-107) and photographed (C.R.S. 42-2-114).
  2. Pay the required fee. The current (August 2014) cost for obtaining a State of Colorado Identification card is $14.00. The current (August 2014) cost for obtaining a Colorado license is $50.50 and the cost for obtaining an instruction permit is $14.00.  Separate fees are required for the Instruction Permit and the Driver License.  

There are many private companies that will provide Driver’s Education Instruction in Fort Collins; the DMV offers a list of nearby driving schools on their website.

Please note

  • A Colorado driver’s license, instruction permit, or ID card issued to individuals able to demonstrate temporary lawful presence in the U.S. cannot be used for federal ID purposes, such as for entering a federal building or traveling on an airplane. You will still need to use your passport for federal ID purposes.
  • Please wait 10 days after entering the U.S. before applying for a Colorado driver’s license, instruction permit, or ID card.
  • Students no longer need a SSN or rejection letter before going to the DMV, but the DMV will still be verifying their status in SAVE so they should wait at least 10 days after arriving in the U.S. before applying for a license.
  • Students who have a license from another state will need to switch to the Colorado license (but do not need to take the written or driving tests as long as their out-of-state license is still valid).
  • You will be issued a temporary driver’s license or instruction permit when you apply. Your official license or permit will be mailed to you within 30 days. If you have not received it after 30 days, report it to the Driver’s License Office and they will re-issue it to you at no charge as long it is within 60 days.
  • A Colorado driver’s license, instruction permit, or ID card is valid for 3 years (or until your 21st birthday), regardless of the dates on your I-20 or DS-2019. Therefore, if you intend to apply for OPT or STEM OPT, it is best to renew your driver’s license first.
  • Students with a driver’s license from South Korea, Canada, Germany, Taiwan or France are not required to take the written and driving tests in order to get a Colorado driver’s license.
  • If you are renewing a Colorado driver’s license or transferring your driver’s license from another state, you do not need to retake the written or driving tests as long as your current license is still valid or expired for less than one year.
  • You can bring an interpreter to the appointment or written test if you wish. The interpreter needs to be over 16 years of age and must have a valid license. You are not allowed to bring an interpreter to the driving test.
  • There are many private companies that will provide Driver’s Education Instruction, written and drive testing for a fee in Fort Collins. For additional information refer to Driver’s Education in the Yellow Pages of your phone book.
  • Vehicle insurance is mandatory in the state of Colorado. You must provide proof of insurance to your county clerk and recorder before you can register your vehicle. You may use your insurance card, copy of your insurance policy, or a letter from your insurance company (on the company’s letterhead paper) as proof of insurance.
  • If you purchase a vehicle it must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. For additional information on how to register your vehicle visit the DMV website.

For more information on obtaining a driver’s license or permit visit the state website or call the Colorado Department of Revenue, Driver’s License Office at (303) 205-5600. The Fort Collins office is located at 3030 S College Ave, Suite 100. Their office is open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are closed on federal holidays.