CA ID and Driver's License

Driving in California

F-1 visa students who plan to drive in California or purchase any motor vehicle (car, scooter, motorcycle, etc.) must obtain a California driver's license and automobile insurance.  Tourists may drive in the U.S. with their valid home country driver's license.

California Identification Card

Students who do not plan to drive should obtain a California Identification (ID) card to use locally, rather than carrying a passport for identification purposes. If your documents are lost or stolen, it is easier to replace the California ID card than a passport and visa!

Check the DMV's License Types for additional information (e.g. "I've never had a DL", "I have a DL issued by another country or state").

  •  Form I-20 (most recent)
  •  Your electronic I-94 record (print a copy to bring with you)
  •  Passport (with visa).  Please ensure your passport is on the Approved Foreign Passport list with the DMV.
  • Two documents showing your proof of residency in California. Most students use a copy of their lease agreement and a utility or phone bill showing their name and US address. If you do not a bill you can use, you may request a copy of your SEVIS record from your International Student Advisor.
  • If you are an F-1 student on post-completion OPT, you must have your approved OPT EAD card.
  • If you do not have a U.S. social security number, you can request a letter from the SSA office verifying you are currently not eligible.
  • If you are a new student, ask your International Student Advisor to register your I-20 to Active status as soon as you decide to apply for a drivers license or CA ID.
  • Wait 10 days after you enter the U.S. It can take up to 10 days for U.S. government systems (including the DMV) to record your arrival information. The DMV will need to confirm that you entered the U.S. in F-1 visa status, and if you submit your DL or ID application too early the process could be delayed or your application could be denied.
  • Start your license or ID card application online with the DMV: Online Application.
  • Make an appointment at the DMV.  If this if your first CA driver’s license, you are required to schedule an appointment. Use the CA DMV Appointment System to schedule an appointment for a driver's license test, behind-the-wheel test, or initial application for an ID card. Interpreters are available for applicants who need assistance communicating in English. 

The DMV has the latest California Driver Handbook, forms and instructions on how to apply for a Driver’s License.  You will also find five sample exams.  The practice exams will help you with the first step of receiving your driver’s license. After you pass the written exam, you may need to take a driving test.

You will also be required to take a Vision Test. If you require glasses, contact lenses, or any other corrective eyewear, be sure to bring it with you for the Vision Test.