California International Student Life

How to Get Your California Driver’s License as an International Student

May 12, 2017

IEC@DVC students often ask about getting their California Driver’s license. Who needs one? And is it easy to get? IEC@DVC services include help with these questions! Continue reading to learn about the exam requirements and tips.

How to get your CA driver's license international student

How to Get Your California Driver’s License as an International Student


The California Driver’s License test is two parts: the written exam and the driving exam. If you have a driver’s license from your home country, it is possible that you do not have to take the driving skills test. You will have to ask the DMV for confirmation.

Do I need a California Driver’s License?

If you want to drive in the United States, the answer is yes. The State of California does not recognize an International Driving Permit (IDP): this means that your license from another country is not valid. 

Before applying

Before you can apply, make sure that:

  • You are a full-time student.
  • You have paid the SEVIS fee.*

Ask IEC@DVC for more information about these two requirements if you have questions.

You will probably have to take a written examination. Before the exam, go to the DMV in Concord and get the student handbook to study. They have handbooks available in some foreign languages (but not all).

DMV in Concord:

  • 2070 Diamond Blvd. Concord, CA 94520
  • Phone: (800) 777 – 0133

Be sure to make an appointment: it will make your experience much better! You can make an appointment online with the DMV website.

*SEVIS is the “Student and Exchange Visitor Information System” and the SEVIS fee is the payment all students must make to pay for this system.

In college, students have the option to change classes for the first few weeks of the semester. The college usually waits until a week after the add/drop date to ask students to pay for SEVIS. 

Documents required

To apply for a California driver’s license, you must bring the following:

  • Your passport
  • Your I-94
  • Your I-20 or DS-2019
  • Two forms of proof of address: examples are a a bank document from a US bank showing your name and address, your medical insurance card with name and address, a utility bill (gas, water, electricity), a cellphone bill, or other mail that was delivered to your home.
  • Your license from your home country (if you have one).

Important note #1: you must bring the originals of these documents.

Important note #2: these documents cannot expire less than 60 days from the date of application.

How to apply

To apply, you must do the following:

  • Complete an application form at the DMV.
  • The form will ask if you have a Social Security Number (SSN). You are only eligible for a SSN if you have a job offer from an authorized paid employer, so most students are not eligible. If you are not applying for one, then mark on the DMV application that you are not eligible for a SSN. 

Tips for applying

Here are a few things to remember when you apply (and after you apply).

  • You can go to the DMV without an appointment, but expect to wait. It’s better to make an appointment online.
  • If you go to the DMV and you have a problem, remember the name of the DMV employee(s) you spoke with and then make an appointment to meet with OIS for further help.
  • After you take the test and receive your license, you will get a paper copy. The real license will come in the mail (usually in two or three weeks).
  • If your license doesn’t come after three weeks, you must still wait. You must wait at least 30 days before calling the DMV office to inquire about your application. They cannot help you before the 30-day window ends.

For more information, read our IEC@DVC Procedure for Getting a Driver’s License in California form or ask the Student Services for more information. We are here to help!

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