Friday, 20 April 2012

Colorado driver's license

I got my Colorado driver's license earlier this week and the process was quite easy but very time consuming. I'm going to write about my experience for future re-locators to the States and those who are just curious. If you're going to get driver's licence in the US, use this information as tips only and double check everything as your case might vary or the informational might be out of date.

The place to get license in Colorado is a Motor Vehicle Office. There are a few offices around and the best place to find the one near you is on this website for Colorado or you'll have to Google it if you're looking for a different state. Make sure that the office you're going to provides the services you're after. I went mid month and mid week as this supposedly is the least busy time. The waiting line on the day was about 30min.

When we arrived in the morning, about 20 min before opening time, there were already a few cars in the car park but I didn't pay much attention to it. We went to see if the door to the office was open so we could wait inside but it wasn't so we just stayed waiting outside. In a moment everyone in the car park got out of their cars and joined the line behind us! So you can either stay in the car until the office opens and wait in the line for a while or wear something warm, wait outside and be in front of the line.

To apply for Colorado driver's license you will need...
  • Passport.
  • Proof of residency in the state like a bill, bank statement, lease agreement, etc.
  • Social Security Number (SSN) or a letter from the Social Security Administration confirming your ineligibility. 
  • Cash or check.
  • For some visa's you might need a letter saying that you're not eligible for diplomatic license or whatever. If you don't know that you need the letter, you probably don't so don't worry about it.  
No one asked me for my foreign driver's license so if your license aren't in English don't worry about translations.

Good to know
  • They ask for your height and weight so know it in feet and pounds. Aussies, for some reason, still use feet for height so it's easy form you mates, but everyone else, be prepared. 
  • You might also want to decide whether you want to be an organ donor as they ask you for a yes or a no. It will appear on your license.
  • They take a photo of you for the permit and then for the license. FYI.
  • They do eye checks on the spot and your sight is meant to be 20/40 or better. If you wear glasses or contacts make sure to bring/wear them. If you don't pass the eye check you won't be able to proceed so if you know that your eyesight is poor, get glasses. And most of all you shouldn't be driving if you cant see well!

Knowledge Test
So at first I did the knowledge test. It's an American test with 3 answers to choose from. 25 questions from which you can get 5 wrong and still pass. To learn to the test in Colorado read this PDF handbook or get a paper copy from one of the offices. Similar handbooks should be available for other states, just search the web. I had many questions that had little or nothing to do with actual driving skills, so even if you're an experienced driver, familiarise yourself with the local rules and regulations.

After passing the knowledge test you get a piece of paper that allows you to take a driving test. If you are over 21 you can do the driving test the same day. For those under 21 it might be more complicated but I'm not sure.

Driving Test
You have 2 options for the driving test. You can either do it through the Motor Vehicle Office or through a driving school. It is more expensive through a driving school (cost me $50) but much quicker as there are no waiting lists. After I got my permit I made an appointment with a driving school and had my driving test the same day! I went through A+ Driving School and they were great. They were recommended to me and I would definitely recommend them as well!

IMPORTANT: You do the driving test in your own car and you need to have a car insurance and of course a proof of it.

The driving test is very easy, especially if you already have driving license and were driving for a while. With this said, make sure not to fall on "experienced driver mistakes" like stirring with one hand, not stopping completely at a stop sign, etc. Also, you can ask any questions you might have before the test. The driving test takes about 10 minutes and it has no parallel parking, no reverse parking... just turns, lights, stops and changing lanes pretty much. Compare this to a 50min driving test in Canberra...

Funny story, a lady tutted at me when I changed lanes during my driving test. People around here have a problem with anyone changing a lane in front of them and usually speed up behind you or get very annoyed if you manage to squeeze in. Well, this is only one of the problems they have with other drivers. Anyway, as long as you follow the rules, take it easy even if another driver gets pissed off with you during the test.

Getting the License
After you pass your driving test you get a letter from the driving school saying that you actually did pass it. You take that letter back to the Motor Vehicle Office. I went the same day but you don't have to.

To get Colorado driver's license you will need...
  • Passport
  • The document from the driving school saying that you passed your driving test.
  • The permit you received from the Motor Vehicle Office the first time you went there.
After they put all the info into the computer you get temporary license (looks just like the permit you got before... very confusing) which is valid for 30 days. Your permanent license should arrive by mail within that time.

Good luck!

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