If you are an an F-1 or J-1 student who is planning to drive a car while you are in the U.S. you must apply for a California driver's license. It is important to note that your home country's valid driver's license is acceptable only if you are on a temporary visitor/tourist status.
Any student who is enrolled in a full master's degree program at MIIS should plan on obtaining a valid California Driver's license. Most motor vehicle purchases and the procurement of motor vehicle insurance will require that you hold a valid California Driver's license. The following information is intended to help you navigate this process and make is as smooth as possible.
A California Identification Card (ID) is commonly used as an official form of identification. International students and scholars who do not drive are still able to obtain a California ID. This can be a useful if you do not want to carry your passport.
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 when preparing for these tests. Samples of the written tests are also available online.
In order to verify the applicant's birth date and legal status for a driver's license or ID card the DMV requires the following documents:
1. Valid passport
2. I-94 card
3. I-20 or DS-2019
4. Social Security Number*
The current application fee for a driver's license is $33.
* If you are not currently employed in the United States 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 obtaining a support letter from the Office of Student Services to verify this information.
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.
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