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Driving in the United States

It is always recommended that international students obtain a California Driver’s License if they plan to drive in the United States. A California Driver's License is also required when purchasing a car and obtaining car insurance. For the most current information on applying for a driver's license please visit the California DMV website.

Getting a Drivers License

There are two big steps in getting a license: A written test and a behind-the-wheel driving test. After passing the written test you will be issued a permit that allows you to practice driving with an adult (18 years of age or older) with a valid California license. You may take the driving test when you are ready.

Written Test

  1. Make an appointment online or via telephone at 1-800-777-0133 to save time.
  2. Fill out form DL 44, which isn't available online, as the DMV only accepts its original form. You can pick one up from your local DMV; or call (800) 777-0133; or simply fill it out when you come in for your license exam.
  3. Bring all your paperwork (Original):
    • Passport (with valid visa)
    • I-20
    • FormI-94, "Arrival/Departure Record" This may be a white, paper I-94 card stapled to your passport, or an electronic I-94 record. Obtain a printout from
  4. Pay the application fee of $32 in CASH ONLY.
  5. Give your Social Security number (If you have one) and your true full name.
  6. Have your thumbprint and your picture taken and take a vision test.
  7. Pass a traffic-laws-and-signs test. There are 36 questions on the test. A passing score is at least 31 correct answers. You have 3 chances to pass.

To study for the test you can use the California Drivers Handbook and sample practice tests.

Driving Test

  1. Make an appointment online or via telephone at 1-800-777-0133 to save time.
  2. Have a friend drive you to the DMV, you will be using their car to take the test.
  3. Make sure he/she has:
    1. Valid California Driver's License
    2. Valid Car Registration
    3. Valid Proof of Insurance
  4. Arrive at the DMV at least 30 min before appointment time to take the test.
  5. Once you pass, you will be issued a temporary license until you receive your photo license by mail.
  6. If you fail,You can take the test three times. Although there is no minimum waiting period between tests, you must make another appointment each time you retest. Each additional test will cost you $6.00

Getting Insurance

Before you start driving — even if you are a new driver practicing to take the driving test, you must have car insurance.

Compare online and do some research to find the best option for you.

ID Cards

DMV issues ID cards to persons of any age. The ID card looks like a driver license, but is used for identification purposes only. A regular ID card is valid for six years.