I’m convinced people are born dreading the day they have to step foot inside the Department of Motor Vehicles. But if you’re new to Austin and have a license to drive in another state, you only have 90 days to trade it in for one with a light blue Texas State Capitol printed on the corner.
State law requires that within roughly three months of establishing in-state residency, newcomers must get their new state license, otherwise they’re considered to be driving illegally. Though the steps for getting a Texas driver’s license as a new resident are the same as anyone getting their license for the first time, the silver lining is you don’t have to re-take the knowledge and road tests (unless you’re from a different country).
There are a number of places around the city where you can get your new license—five to be exact. There’s the DMV North Lamar, one on Denson Drive, one just off the expressway in South Austin, one on Research Boulevard, and, though it’s technically not in the city, there’s one located on the outskirts in Pflugerville.
One good thing to note about the DMV is that now there are plenty of online ways to make your experience much less of a hassle. If you’re planning on going to either the North Lamar or Pflugerville locations, both will allow you to check in online before you go. Though it’s not always the most accurate service, the online check-in gives you an estimate on your place in line, sending out a text notification when your time is near. And if you’re new to Austin, but not to Texas, you can change things like your address online and have it mailed directly to your house for a fee of $11.
But if you’re heading out to the DMV to get your new state license, make sure you have all the necessary documents to prove that you are who you say you are. First, you will need a completed driver’s license application which can be printed at home or filled out at the DMV office. Make sure you take your social security card; documents to verify your identity like a birth certificate and insurance policy; proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence; two documents from different sources showing your name and residential address to verify Texas residency like a utility bill and insurance card; Texas registration and insurance policy for all the vehicles registered in your name; and if you’re younger than 25 years old, a certificate of completion for a driver education course. Lastly, if you’re ages 18 to 24, bring $25 because that’s how much a license will cost you. A full list of everything you’ll need plus examples can be found here.
Once you’ve made it to the office and you’re done going over all that proof with the DMV, you’ll be asked to surrender your out-of-state or out-of-country license. After that, you’ll be given a receipt which you can use to drive legally until your new license arrives. After about three weeks,, your driver’s license should arrive in the mail and if all goes well for you, it’ll be another six years before you have to return to renew again.
So newcomers, best of luck making your way to the DMV or navigating its online resources. Pretty soon you’ll be set to legally join the rest of us on that glorious beast we all know as I-35.