Driving as an International Student

To drive in California, you may use your valid driver’s license issued by your home country if you are over the age of 18.

If the license is not in English, an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is recommended. IDP translates your government-issued driver’s license into 10 different languages. An IDP can be obtained in your home country.

Requirements for holding International Driving Permits vary by state; some require them and some don't. Play it safe by contacting the motor vehicle agency for the state(s) in which you plan to drive.

A valid driver’s license issued in your home country is required, whether or not you obtain the IDP.

Learn more about the regulations for driving with a foreign license in California.

Alternately, if you would prefer or need to get a California driver's license, read the information below.

Getting a California Driver's License

Eligibility

  • All international students over the age of 18
  • Completed the SEVIS Check-In process upon arrival
  • Apply 30 days after the I-20/DS-2019 program start date

How to apply

Step 1: SEVIS check-in

You should have completed your SEVIS Check-in process during the International Programs orientation. If not, please schedule an appointment with the International Programs office.

Step 2: Make an appointment

Make an appointment online with California Deptartment of Motorized Vehicles (DMV).

Note: To allow you sufficient time for testing, DMV does not administer written or audio exams after 4:30 p.m.

Step 3: Complete driver's license application

Complete application form: DL 44

To obtain a DL 44 or DL 44C form:

  • Call DMV's Automated Telephone Service at 1-800-777-0133 (available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week) to have a form mailed to you or
  • Visit your local DMV office to pick one up (the Seasidelocation is closest to campus).

An original DL 44 form must be submitted. Copies will not be accepted. The DMV does not provide the DL 44 or DL 44C online because original signatures are required on the form, and each DL 44 or DL 44C contains a unique barcode which must be scanned or keyed by the DMV employee.

Step 4: At the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

The DMV requires that you present the ORIGINALS of all immigration documents:

  • Passport
  • I-20 or DS-2019
    • Your passport or I-20/DS-2019 CANNOT expire less than 60 days from the date of application. If these documents expire in less than 60 days, you cannot apply.
  • Printout of your I-94 Arrival/Departure record
  • Proof of residence (2 documents needed). These can be official documents that state your name and your address. Examples include: Rental or lease agreement with the signature of the owner/landlord and the tenant/resident, a utility statement,Employment documents, Medical documents, Proof of payment of resident tuition at a public institution of higher education located in California, or Change of Address Confirmation by the U.S. Postal Service (Form CNL 107). 
  • Be sure to bring your driver’s license from your home country to present to the officer at the DMV as it may exempt you from the driving test.

At the DMV you will:

  • Give a thumb print
  • Have your picture taken
  • If you have a social security number, you must provide this. It will be verified with the Social Security Administration while you are in the office.
  • Verify your birth date and legal presence If your current name no longer matches the name on your birth data/legal presence document, see "True Full Name" and "How to Change Your Name" for more information.
  • Provide your true full name
  • Pay the application fee
  • Pass a vision exam
  • Pass a written traffic laws and sign test. There are 36 questions on the test. You have three chances to pass. (Sample Test)
  • If you have a license from another country, you will be required to take a driving test. If you have a license from another U.S. state, the driving test may be waived.

If you have never held a license

You will be issued a permit if you have never been licensed before, which allows you to practice driving with supervision. When you practice, you must have an accompanying adult who is 18 years of age or older, with a valid California license. This person must be close enough to you to take control of the vehicle if necessary. It is illegal for you to drive alone.

To take your driving test, you will need to:

  • Make a driving test appointment. Driving tests are not given without an appointment.
    • You may also call 1-800-777-0133 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, to make a driving test appointment.
    • You have three chances to pass the driving test. If you fail, you may practice for a while, then make another appointment. There is no waiting period, but you must make an appointment.
    • If you fail to successfully complete the driving test on the first attempt, you must pay a $6 fee for each additional driving test that is administered under an application for an original or renewal driver license.
  • Provide proof of financial responsibility. ViewCalifornia Insurance Requirements.

After you pass your driving test, you will be issued an interim license valid for 90 days until you receive your new photo license in the mail. Double-check your address before you leave DMV and tell the DMV representative if you have moved or if your address is incorrect.

If you have not received your license after 60 days, call 1-800-777-0133 and they can check on the status for you. Have your interim license with you to provide information when requested.

Students on OPT

Students on OPT who wish to renew a driver’s license are required to have a Social Security Number (SSN). Without an SSN, the DMV will not approve of the driver’s license extension.

First, take your EAD card and F-1 documents to the Social Security Office to get a SSN. Then take your SSN, EAD card and F-1 documents to the DMV to obtain a license.

You must wait until the start date on your EAD card to submit your driver’s license application for it to be accepted.

Visiting the DMV

The closest DMV to campus is located in Seaside, CA:

1180 Canyon Del Rey Blvd,

Seaside, CA 93955

Phone: (800) 777-0133

Office Hours and Customer Wait Time Information

* To reduce wait time at the DMV office, we recommend making an appointment online.

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