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.
- Make an appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for the written test. View the California Driver Handbook, including practice tests.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.