How to Obtain a California Drivers License

All J scholars should submit the arrival confirmation form and wait two weeks before applying for a California driver's license.

All international students should be able to apply for a driver's license and Social Security Number (if eligible) 30 days after the I-20/DS-2019 program start date.

ONLY if you need to apply for these services earlier, submit a Student Validation Request. (

Do not submit this form until you have attended a Maintaining Legal Status session and updated your SEVIS(US) address in Axess.

We will validate records on Fridays starting in September through the second week of October.  Your record will be validated if your request is received by 8 am on the dates above. If you miss this deadline, your record will be validated on the following Friday.  You can visit DMV/SSA 10 days after the validation date.

For new students beginning their programs at other times of the year, we will validate records within a week of your student validation request.

How to apply for a California drivers license or identification card:

  • Make an appointment online with DMV (California Dept. of Motorized Vehicles)
  • Complete application form
  • Give a thumb print
  • Have your picture taken
  • Provide your Social Security number (if eligible). If you don't have a SSN, you will get a temporary license which can be renewed once your receive your SSN.
  • Verify your birth date and legal presence
  • Provide your true full name
  • Pay the application fee
  • Pass a vision exam
  • Pass a traffic laws and sign 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.

The California drivers license and identification card have been declared as primary identification documents in this state by the California legislature.

State law requires every applicant for an original California identification (ID) card and drivers license to show verification of birth date and proof of legal presence within the U.S. to help safeguard the accuracy and integrity of departmental documents.

Only the original or a certified copy of one of the following documents is acceptable:

  • Resident Alien Card
  • Temporary Resident Identification Card
  • Canadian Passport or Birth Certificate
  • Nonresident Alien Canadian Border Crossing Card
  • Valid foreign passport with a valid Record of Arrival/Departure (form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record) and I-20/DS-2019.

To take your driving test, you will need to:

  • Make a behind-the-wheel driving test appointment at a DMV office. (Driving tests are not given without an appointment.)
  • Provide proof of financial responsibility/Show evidence of liability insurance

After you pass your drive 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.

WARNING: International students and scholars applying for a California driver’s license may have to wait up to one year to receive a permanent license. The reason is that the DMV has to go through the extra step of verifying 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: 916-657-7445 or fax: 916 657-5834) and ask again that they solicit the verification from the Immigration Service. Send to DMV a copy of your passport, I-94 card/electronic record, temporary driver’s license and phone number. 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.

For further information please visit the DMV website.

How to get to the DMV Office by car:

Redwood City DMV 300 Brewster, Redwood City, CA 94063 / Take El Camino to Woodside Road (East), then turn left on Veterans Blvd., and right at Brewster Ave.
Hours: Monday - Friday from 8am-5pm (except on Wed. 9am-5pm) They are open during lunch time but not open on weekends.

Santa Clara DMV 3665 Flora Vista Ave., Santa Clara, CA 95051 / The DMV is one block east of the Lawrence Expressway, at the corner of Granada and Flora Vista.Hours: Monday - Friday from 8am-5pm (except on Wed. 9am-5pm) They are open during lunch time but not open on weekends.

NOTE: The Mountain View DMV is closed for regular customers, but Redwood City or Santa Clara DMV Offices are available. Phone: (800) 777-0133

Top of page

© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300. Terms of Use | Copyright Complaints | Report web accessibility issue