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Get your California ID or driver's license.

The following information is intended to help you navigate this process and make it as smooth as possible. Our office can also help with letters of support.

California Identification Card

A California identification card (ID) is commonly used as an official form of identification, and international students and scholars who do not plan to drive should get one. It can be useful if you do not want to carry your passport. You can apply for one at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

California Driver's License

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student and plan to drive a car while you are in the U.S., you must apply for a California driver's license. Your home country's valid driver's license is acceptable only if you are on a temporary visitor/tourist status.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website outlines the process of obtaining a California driver's license. The application process includes a written test and a driving skills test administered by the DMV.

The California Driver's Handbook is a great resource. Samples of the written tests are also available online.

Required Documents for the DMV

In order to verify your birth date and legal status for a driver’s license or ID card the DMV requires the following documents:

  • Valid passport

  • I-94 card

  • I-20 or DS-2019

  • Social Security number

Note: If you are not currently employed in the U.S., you will not be able to apply for a Social Security number (SSN). If this is the case, you are exempt from the DMV SSN requirements. Consider requesting a letter of support to verify this information.

International Driving Permit

The state of California does not recognize an international driving permit (IDP) as a valid driver's license. However, California does recognize a valid driver's license that is issued by a foreign jurisdiction (country, state, or territory) of which the license holder is a resident.

Essentially, an IDP is proof that you hold a valid driver's license in your own country. And it provides a translation into almost a dozen languages, mainly so that police and other authorities in other countries can read your license in their own language.

Visiting the DMV

The wait time at the DMV can take several hours. We recommend that you make an appointment.

Local DMV Office

1180 Canyon Del Rey Blvd.
Seaside, CA 93955
(800) 777-0133