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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 obtain automobile insurance.  Visitors who enter the U.S. with a Tourist visa or as part of the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) may drive rental cars with their valid home country driver's license.

California Identification Card

We encourage students to 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!

  • Check the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV) website for the full  list of required documents. 

    • 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.
    • Make sure your SEVIS I-20 record is up-to date and in Active status. SEVIS is the database that contains all F-1 visa student information, including your current student status, local address, and phone number.  The SBCC International Office will register new students into Active status when you check in for your first semester at SBCC. Continuing students are in Active status, but should wait 10 days from your most recent arrival to the U.S. to apply.
    • 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.