Driver's License or State ID
California Driver's License
A California driver's license will allow you to legally drive a car in the U.S. If you plan to own or rent a car at any point during your time in the U.S., you will need to apply for a driver's license with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). To be eligible for a driver's license, you need to be present in the U.S. for at least 30 days. Applying for a driver's license before 30 days will cause significant delays with your application.
Your driver's license will be valid for the duration of the program as listed on your I-20. If you plan to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and reamin the U.S. for an additional year, you will need to renew your driver's license so that it is valid during OPT.
Please note that if you plan to own a car in the U.S., you are legally required to have car insurance in case you are involved in an accident. It is illegal to drive a car without insurance, so be sure to purchase a car insurance policy before purchasing a car. There are several car insurance providers in the U.S. and it is highly recommended that you research coverage and prices to ensure you have the best policy for your needs.
California Identification Card
If you are not interested in applying for a driver's license, you may apply for a California Identification Card to use as a form of identification. It is recommened to have either a driver's license or identification card so that you do not use your passport as your main form of identification. To be eligible for an identification card, you need to be present in the U.S. for at least 30 days.
How to Apply
It is highly recommended that you schedule an appointment with your local DMV to apply for a driver's license or identification card. Without an appointment, you could wait for several hours at the DMV.
You will need to bring the following documents with you to apply for a driver's license or identification card:
- Valid passport
- Valid I-20 or DS-2019
- Most recent I-94
- Letter of support from the Center for International Programs