Driving in Illinois

Common Questions

The Illinois Secretary of State is NOT the same thing as the U.S. Secretary of State/Consulate that deals with passports and entry and exit from the United States. The Illinois Secretary of State cannot deport/remove or exclude you from the United States.

The Champaign branch of the Illinois Secretary of State, commonly called DMV or Driver’s Services, is now located at 2012 Round Barn Road, Champaign.

Is my home country or international driver's license valid while I am a student at the University of Illinois?

Your home country license or international license is valid for purposes of driving in Illinois so long as you are enrolled as a student at the University of Illinois. Your home country/International license must not have "expired" for it to be valid. The Illinois law permitting this can be found by use of google using 625 ILCS5/6-102.

Your home country/international license is valid in Illinois but there are 49 other states in the United States and each state tends to have different rules regarding use of various licenses.

While driving you must have the home country/international driver's license in your possession. While you are NOT required to carry your passport while driving many police departments will ask you to produce your passport as a way of being assured that you are a nonresident lawfully in the United States.

If you are stopped and receive a ticket/citation for not having a valid license please do not panic. Come into Student Legal Service and bring your home country/international license with you to the appointment and we will contact the state to resolve the ticket. Learn how to Schedule an Appointment.

It is advisable to have your home country license translated into English and have the translation certified if the license is not written in English. Carry this translation with you when driving along with the actual license.

Your spouse and children who live with you while you are an enrolled student may lawfully drive in Illinois on their personal home country/international driver's licenses. Your enrollment covers them but they must still have their own license.

How do I get an Illinois driver's license?

  • Produce a current social security card and number
  • Proof of date and place of birth
  • Current resident address and zip code (a piece of mail or lease should be sufficient)
  • The fee for application
  • Pass the computer-based "written" test

    Download the Illinois Rules of the Road (pdf) to study. You can also download the Rules of the Road Workbook (pdf).

    NOW AVAILABLE: Chinese translation of Illinois Rules of the Road (pdf)

    Translated Documents: Please understand that translation is an art. All translations of legal documents on this site have been done by law students or legal professionals who are native speakers of that language. These translations are intended to convey the intent of the original, not a word-for-word translation, especially where there is no word or phrase in the target language for that concept. None of the translations in this website are intended to take the place of legal counsel and are not intended as advice. The translation of the "Illinois Rules of the Road" is current as of when the translation was begun, using the 2014 version. The 2016 version, in English, Spanish and Polish, has recently been released and should be consulted for all current laws and regulations.

  • Pass the driving/road test, which you request in person at the driver's license facility. You must be able to show proof of insurance on the vehicle you use for the driver's test. Weather and number of other people waiting to take the driving test may affect whether you will be able to take the test that day.
  • If you are between age 18 and 21 you must have proof of completion of 6 hours of driver's education if you are seeking your first license. If you are over age 21 proof of driver's education is not required.

How do I get a temporary visitor's license?

  • You must be ineligible to lawfully obtain a Social Security card and number.
  • You must have proof that you have resided in Illinois for at least one full year. A lease signed by you and the landlord, or a residence hall contract along with your Visa should be sufficient.
  • A university transcript of enrollment/grades may also be additional evidence of residency.
  • You must produce a valid, unexpired passport.
  • Pay any fees set by the Illinois Secretary of State.
  • If you are under 21 years of age you must have proof of 6 hours of driver's education.

Common Traffic Tickets for International Students

The three most common traffic tickets for international students while in Illinois are:

  • No valid license
  • Speeding
  • No valid insurance

What to do? Always Schedule an Appointment with Student Legal Services

Driving without a Valid License

Bring proof of valid home country / international or temporary visitor's license to your appointment. In most cases this ticket will be dismissed.

Speeding Tickets

Many international students violate the posted speed limits because of confusion over miles per hour (MPH) versus kilometers per hour (KM/H).

The United States is one of the only countries in the world that still uses the mile as a unit of measurement. The fact that you are from a country that uses the Metric system and that you are unfamiliar with the foot, yard, mile system used in Illinois is not a defense to a charge of speeding. Ignorance of the law of measurement will not get you out of paying the ticket but we may be able to keep the ticket off of your driving record.

The following chart is a basic table of conversions for common speed zones in Illinois:

Miles per hour to kilometers per hour

  • 10 mph = 16.1 km/h
  • 15 mph = 24.1 km/h
  • 20 mph = 32.2 km/h – School bus zones
  • 25 mph = 40.2 km/h – Campus area streets
  • 30 mph = 48.3 km/h – Many residential streets
  • 35 mph = 56.3 km/h
  • 40 mph = 64.4 km/h
  • 45 mph = 72.4 km/h
  • 50 mph = 80.5 km/h
  • 55 mph = 88.5 km/h – Many rural roads
  • 60 mph = 95.6 km/h
  • 65 mph = 104.6 km/h – Some interstate highways
  • 70 mph = 112.7 km/h – Many interstate highways

Driving at speeds more than 26 miles per hour above the posted speed limit may result in a sentence that includes JAIL as well as expensive fines and court costs. Speed limits are posted in MPH in Illinois not in KM/H. The posted sign will say for example; Speed limit 70, which assumes you know it is miles per hour.

Operating an Uninsured Vehicle

You must have valid insurance when driving any motor vehicle in Illinois including one a roommate allowed you to borrow.

If you are stopped by the police you must produce proof of insurance. If you had insurance but not in the automobile at the time you were stopped, your ticket will be dismissed at court when you show proof.

If you did not have valid insurance you will be required to purchase such insurance. Ask your insurance agent about minimum insurance that complies with Illinois law.