Ohio Driver’s License and State ID Information

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) issues driver’s licenses and identification (ID) cards for people residing in the state of Ohio. A driver’s license provides permission to drive in Ohio and serves as official identification. The ID card does not authorize driving, but serves as official identification. It can be useful to have legal identification from Ohio for activities such as banking, domestic travel, proving your age (such as at 21-and-over venues), etc.

If you have an International Driver’s Permit, you may use that document plus your valid home country license to drive in Ohio for up to one year.  Note: International Driver’s Permits must be obtained outside of the U.S.   However, if you purchase a car and want to register it in your name, or if you do not have an International Driver’s Permit or valid driver’s license from Ohio, you will need to get an Ohio driver’s license. For detailed information about obtaining an Ohio driver’s license or ID card, visit the BMV website.

Getting an Ohio Driver’s License

  1. If this is the first time that you have ever operated a vehicle, consider attending driving school before applying for your driver’s license. You can search online for a variety of driving schools in the Youngstown area, as well as Mahoning County.
  2. Pass vision, written, and road tests.
    1. Download, study, and learn all material in the Digest of Ohio Motor Vehicle Laws. The Ohio BMV has a free online practice exam. DMV.org also has several free practice exams including one to check your knowledge of Road Signs.
    2. Take the vision and written tests at a Driver Examination Station
      • 417 E. Main St., Canfield, OH 44406
      • You must present the documents listed under Required Documents (see page 2) at the time of the vision and written tests.
      • The written test can also be taken in the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Russian, Somali, and Spanish.

If you pass the vision and written tests, you will be issued a Temporary Instruction Permit Identification Card (TIPIC) that will be valid for one year. With your temporary driving permit, you must drive with a valid driver (over the age of 21) and are not allowed to drive by yourself. You will receive a citation and your vehicle may be towed by the police if you do not have a valid driver in the car with you.  If you are under the age of 18, check the BMV website for TIPIC restrictions.

When you have developed your driving skills well enough, schedule a road test online. Note that you will need to take your temporary permit to your road test.  If you pass the road test, you will get an Ohio driver’s license. You must surrender your TIPIC at the time of the driver license issuance.

If you are a new student or a continuing student who is starting a new program, you must wait at least two weeks after the semester begins to apply for a driver’s license. This delay will provide time for the government system to synchronize with the BMV’s database.

Required Documents

Applicants must present current immigration/visa documents and proof of Ohio residency at each ID card or license issuance. The Ohio BMV requires the following items to apply for a state ID card, to take the vision and written tests, and to apply for the TIPIC and/or driver’s license:

  • Valid passport
  • Visa (Exceptions: Canadians & Bermudians)
  • Form I-94 (can be printed from the CBP website)
  • Current I-20 or DS-2019
  • Proof of a Social Security number (if you have one)
  • Proof of Ohio Residency (an official document with your Ohio address)
    • Example: lease agreement, bank statement, utility bill, YSU enrollment verification letter.  The important thing is that your current Ohio street address is printed correctly on the document.
  • Payment for the Driver’s License/ID Card fee (the BMV will accept cash, check, money order or credit/debit card)

To see which specific documents you can use to fulfill these requirements, review the Acceptable Documents List from the Ohio BMV.

Driver’s License Renewals

Your driver’s license will only be valid until the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019. If you receive a new I-20 or DS-2019 with a longer end date, you may renew your license with the new documentation. You should take the new I-20 or DS-2019, the old I-20 or DS-2019 and all of the documents used to apply for your first driver’s license to the BMV. You must do this BEFORE your current driver’s license expires.

If you are in your 60-day grace period and are leaving the U.S. during that period, you will not be able to renew your driver’s license after your I-20 end date.

If your I-20 has expired and your OPT request is pending you will likely not be able to renew your driver’s license until you have your OPT card. Check with the local BMV office.

Driving in the United States

If you purchase a car, it is mandatory that you also purchase auto insurance.  Remember to carry both your license and proof of insurance with you whenever you drive.

If you are driving and a police officer turns on the lights of their car, immediately pull over to the side of the road and wait for the officer to approach you. Provide any documentation that the officer asks for and do not leave until they give you permission.  If you receive a citation, you must follow-up and pay any fines or go to any assigned court dates.

Always wear your seat belt! According to Ohio law, every driver and front seat passenger must wear a seat belt. 

Ohio has a ban on texting while operating a motor vehicle.  Adult drivers caught writing, sending or reading a text face a misdemeanor fine of up to $150.