International Residents

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Welcome to Ames! We are glad you are here. If you are new to the United States you likely have many questions about how to travel safely and legally. This portion of our website is designed to help you answer common questions and find useful information that will help you travel safely while you are here. For more information on biking, walking, or driving in Ames click on the links below. If the answers to your questions can't be found please contact our Community Resource Officer.


Bike SMART         Walk SMART        Drive SMART


Frequently Asked Questions


Required Documents (Driver's License, Registration, Insurance)

  • What do I need to do to legally drive in Iowa?
    • You will need a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration, and proof of vehicle insurance.
  • Who needs a driver's license?
  • I am a student and  I have a valid driver’s license from another state/country. Do I need an Iowa driver’s license?
    • The Iowa Department of Transportation provides an answer to this question here
  • How do I get an Iowa driver's license or ID card?
  • What documents will I need to apply for an Iowa driver’s license?
    • The Iowa DOT provides an electronic checklist to help organize your documents here
  • Do I need to take a test to get an Iowa driver’s license.
  • What is proof of vehicle registration?
  • What is proof of vehicle insurance?

    Interacting with Law Enforcement

  • What do I do if I see emergency lights (flashing red and blue lights on police, fire, and medical vehicles)?
    • Slow down and pull to the right as soon as it is safe to do so. This will allow the emergency vehicle to pass safely on your left. Once they have passed you may continue driving.
  • What do I do if I am pulled over by a police car for a traffic stop?
    • This video explains what to expect during a traffic stop. 
    • When you see emergency lights behind you slow down, safely pull over to the right side of the road, put your car in park, roll down your window, and place your hands on the steering wheel.
    • The officer will greet you, tell you why you were stopped, and ask for your driver’s license, proof of vehicle insurance, and proof of vehicle registration.
    • For your safety, and the safety of the officer, stay in the vehicle and avoid sudden movements or reaching for objects unless instructed by the officer.
    • Be polite and respectful to the officer. Do not attempt to argue, bargain, or bribe the officer. Expect the officer to be professional and respectful during the stop.
    • Additional information from the Iowa State Patrol can be found here


    Other Questions

  •  What should I do if I'm involved in a car accident?
    • If anyone is seriously injured call 911 immediately.
    • Move your vehicle out of the roadway if it is safe to do so. 
    • If there are no injuries call the Ames Police Department at 515-239-5133 to report the accident.
    • Do not accept money from the other driver, or pay the other driver, for any damages. 
  • What are the parking rules in Ames?
    • When parking on Iowa State University (ISU) property vehicles are subject to the ISU Parking Division rules. When parked in other areas of the city vehicles are subject to City of Ames parking ordinances.
    • Both the City of Ames and ISU have online interactive maps of available parking.
    • More parking information can be found on the Park SMART page of this website.
  • What is Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)?
  • How can getting arrested for OWI affect my immigration status?
    • Your Visa could be revoked by your Consular Office if you are arrested/convicted of OWI. More information can be found here. You may also consider speaking with a qualified immigration attorney.
  • Am I required to wear a seatbelt?
    • Wearing a seatbelt is always a good idea and can prevent injury to you and other passengers. The driver and front seat passengers are always required to wear their seatbelts and passengers in rear seats can be required to use a seatbelt or child safety seat depending on age, weight and height.
  • Where can I find information on child safety seat requirements?
    • Requirements, useful guides, and other helpful information can be found here.
  •  How do I get around if I choose not to drive a motor vehicle?
    • There are a variety of transportation options such as CyRide, taxis, and services such as Uber.
    • You may also choose to ride a bicycle. Be sure to register your bicycle and check our Bike SMART page for more information about how to ride safely in Ames.



Iowa Driver's Manual and Study Guides

8 things you need to know to get where you need to go

Department of Homeland Security: Driving in the United States


More Information

How to Drive in the United States

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