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International Student Services

Getting Your License to Drive in California

If you are a visitor in California over 18 and have a valid driver's license from your home country, you may drive in this state without getting a California driver's license as long as your home country license remains valid. After that, you must obtain a California Driver's License. However, if you are going to purchase a motor vehicle (a car, scooter or motorcycle), most insurance companies will not provide coverage unless you have a valid California Driver's License.

You may apply for a California Driver's License at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You must first obtain a Social Security number. If you are unable to obtain a social security number, you will need to obtain a "denial notice" (refusal letter, 676-SSAL) from the Social Security Administration, then return to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) so that you may continue with your original request for a driver's license. After you have passed the written test, you will have to show your social security number (or denial notice) and then, after passing the driving test, you will be given an interim driver's license valid for 90 days.

You have three chances to pass the driving test. If you fail, you may practice for a while, then make another appointment. There is no waiting period, but you must make an appointment. We recommend you make the appointment online first.

Visit the Department of Motor Vehicles web site to obtain a California Driver's Handbook. This publication describes in detail the application procedures as well as the written test and driving test requirements. Call the DMV 1-800-777-0133 to make an appointment. The test consists of two parts-a written test and an in-car test. You must bring your own automobile and no official lessons are necessary. You must also present proof of your legal status in the U.S. by showing your valid passport, I-94, and your I-20.

DMV offers alternative methods for completing the driver license written examination. The examination may be conducted:

  • In a foreign language (Amharic, Hindi, Portuguese, Tagalog, Armenian, Hmong, Punjabi, Thai, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, Tongan, Cambodian, Korean, Samoan, Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotian, Spanish, and Farsi/Persian)
  • In American Sign Language
  • By listening to a cassette tape rather than reading the material
  • By having an examiner ask the questions (Oral Examination)
  • It is advisable for an individual with special needs to discuss those needs with the local driver license supervisor to allow him or her to better assist the applicant

Applying for Social Security and Employment

The Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to those individuals who are eligible to work in the United States. The SSN is required in order to be paid for any work you do in the U.S. whether it is on-campus or for practical training. Though the SSN is only required to be paid by an employer, many other institutions in the U.S. ask for a SSN (i.e. banks, cell phone vendors, the Department of Drivers Licenses), and it is generally easier to obtain services from these institutions if you already have a SSN. You are under no obligation to obtain a SSN; however, if you plan to work in the United States, you will need to obtain one.

Effective October 13, 2004, the SSA now requires that a student secure a job offer in order to qualify to apply for a SSN. With this new regulation, you will need to obtain a letter offering you a position before you will be able to apply for the SSN. The Office of Human Resources will provide you with the letter once you have obtained a job on campus.

It takes approximately 2-3 weeks for the Social Security Administration to issue your SSN and card. However, it sometimes takes much longer. The SSA must verify your student status with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before issuing you a number. This process can take from 10 days to 12 weeks to complete. Once you have a SSN, you will use the same number throughout your stay in the United States.

The Social Security Administration is located at 7880 Mission Grove Pkwy South Riverside, CA 92508. Please contact the Human Resources Office for applications, job listings, and clerical testing.

When you go to apply for your number, you will fill out an application form (HR will provide you with a copy). You will then present the application and the following original documents for their review & copy:

  • Valid passport
  • F-1 Visa
  • I-94 Form (white card stapled in your passport)
  • Current I-20 Form
  • Letter from Human Resources
  • If you have been issued CPT authorization for an internship, you may present the I-20 in lieu of a letter from the employer.
  • If you have been approved for OPT, you may present the EAD card in lieu of a letter from an employer
  • Letter from the International Student Office (if needed)
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