» Driver's License

International Driving Permits/Licenses (IDP) 

The State of California does not recognize International Driving Permits (IDP) as valid driver’s licenses. California does recognize a valid driver license that is issued by a foreign jurisdiction (country, state, territory) of which the license holder is a resident. The IDP is only a translation of information contained on a person’s foreign driver license and is NOT required to operate a motor vehicle in California. Citations issued to a person in California who has an IDP, but does not have a California driver license will be placed on the Department of Motor Vehicle database.

Steps to Obtain a Drivers License without a Social Security Number

If you are a visitor in California over 18 and have a valid driver license from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California drivers license as long as your home state license remains valid. If you take a job here or become a resident, you must get a California drivers license within 10 days. See below for how to obtain a drivers license. 

  1. Make an appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for the written test. View the California Driver Handbook, including practice tests. 
  2. The closest Department of Motor Vehicles offices are: Santa Ana: 1330 E First St, Santa Ana, CA 92701; Fullerton: 909 W Valencia Dr., Fullerton, CA 92832; Westminster: 13700 Hoover St, Westminster, CA 92683; Costa Mesa: 650 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627. Or, you may visit the DVM website for more information and appointments
  3. Take all immigration documents (I-94, I-20, passport, two residency documents*) when you go for your written test. Tell the clerk you do not have a Social Security Number and are studying here in the USA.
  4. For a full list of what you will need to complete at the DMV, review this DMV Information. 

*Examples of residency documents accepted are:

  • Rental or lease agreement with the signature of the tenant/resident.
  • Home utility bills (including cellular phone).
  • School documents including any those issued by a U.S. education institution that includes the applicant's date of birth.
  • Medical documents.
  • Insurance documents, including medical, dental, vision, life and rental.
  • Bank or credit card documents
  • Any document issued by a country, state, county

Find the full list here of documents acceptable as proof of California residency

Purchasing a Car in California

  • Be prepared to pay the full cost of a car upfront. You do not need a social security number or California driver’s license to purchase a car.
  • If you purchase a car from a dealership, all Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) paperwork and temporary insurance will be provided with your car purchase.
    • The law requires that you purchase liability insurance if you plan to drive in the U.S. You can get 6 months of insurance coverage when you purchase a car, but you must get a California driver’s license within those 6 months in order to update your coverage.
  • If you purchase a car through a private party, you may save money. However, you will need to take care of DMV paperwork and insurance on your own. *Always check Kelly Blue Book before paying the asking price for a car. That way you know you are getting a fair price.
For additional information about buying a car and driving in California, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles.