F-1 Visa students who intend to drive in the U.S. must get a California drivers license. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) also issues ID cards to persons of any age.
How to Apply for a California Drivers License
Visit a DMV Office
- Make an appointment online for faster service.
- Make sure to bring your I-20, I-94 card and passport when you go to the appointment.
Complete application form DL 44 and pay the application fee.
Vision Exam and Written Exam
- There are 36 questions on the test.
- You have three chances to pass.
- The DMV provides free practice tests to help you prepare for the driver knowledge test.
- Once you pass the written test you will get an interim driving license that you may use together with your home country driving license to start practicing for the driving 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 state, the driving test can be waived.
- You have three chances to pass the driving test.
- Call a DMV office to set up an appointment. (Driving tests are not given without an appointment.)
- Phone: 1-800-777-0133
Interim Drivers License
- After you pass your driving test you will be issued an interim license valid for 60 days until you receive your new photo license in the mail.
- If you did not present complete documentation to verify birth date and legal presence, you will be issued a temporary license valid for 60 days until you complete the documentation requirements.
- Make sure you provide the DMV with your correct mailing address.
- International students applying for a California driver’s license may have to wait up to one year to receive a permanent license.
- The reason for this is that the DMV is required to verify the student’s immigration status with the Immigration Service before issuing a license.
- If you have not received your license after 60 days, you can write or fax the Sacramento DMV (phone: 1-916-657-7445 or fax: 1-916-657-6419) and ask again that they solicit the verification from the Immigration Service.
- Send a copy of your passport, 1-94 card, temporary driver’s license and phone number to the DMV.
- The DMV will renew your request for verification with the San Francisco USCIS office.
- In the meantime, you should continue to update your temporary license until the permanent license arrives.
- To apply for a motorcycle license, you must complete a motorcycle riding training course given by the California Highway Patrol or the Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Obtain the Motorcycle Driver Handbook for more information.
- A 20/40 visual acuity with or without glasses is the department’s vision guideline.
- The department has authority for administering the vision exam per the California Vehicle Code.
- Bring your eyeglasses if you wear them.
- Applicants who do not pass the eye exam may, depending on the circumstances, be referred to a vision specialist.
- The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or a stronger prescription for the current eyeglasses worn.
How to Apply For California Identification (ID) Cards
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues ID cards to persons of any age. The ID card is similar to a drivers license, but is used for identification purposes only. A regular ID card is valid for six years. For further information please visit the DMV website.