Driver's License

Driving in Los Angeles

Students are encouraged to obtain a California Driver’s License if they plan to drive in the United States. A California Driver's License is required to purchase a car and obtain auto insurance. However, you must wait until AFTER the add/drop date for classes for the current semester before applying. See explanation below under "Application Process."

More information about non-resident drivers is available here.

International Driving Permit

The State of California does not recognize an International Driving Permit (IDP) as a valid driver license. The International Driver's Permit is also referred to as an International Driver's License or International License.


The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website outlines the process of obtaining a California Driver’s License. The steps include a written and driving skills test administered by the DMV. The California Driver’s Handbook is the best resource to help you prepare for these tests. Samples of written tests are also available online.

Application Process

To apply for a driver's license, students must be enrolled full-time and pay the SEVIS fee. If not, there will be significant problems and delays with your application.

Most schools do not do SEVIS class registration until approximately ONE WEEK AFTER the ADD/DROP date for class registration since they have to have final, confirmed class registration.

  1. Students who have a driver’s license from their home country may be exempt from the driving skills test. The DMV requires that you present the ORIGINALS of all immigration documents: passport, printout of your I-94 Arrival/Departure record and I-20 or DS-2019. Your passport or I-20/DS-2019 CANNOT expire less than 60 days from the date of application. If these documents expire in less than 60 days, you cannot apply. Be sure to bring your driver’s license from your home country to present to the officer at the DMV as it may exempt you from the driving test.
  2. Fill-out an application form at the DMV.
  3. If you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN) and are not in the process of applying for one, mark on the DMV application that you are not eligible for a SSN. You are only eligible for a SSN if you have a job offer for authorized paid on-campus or off-campus employment.
  4. OIS strongly advises students/scholars to visit the Hope Street DMV office on Thursdays and Fridays after 1pm.
  5. Students who have problems with their application should record the name of the DMV employee(s) you spoke with and make an appointment to meet with OIS for further assistance.
  6. You must wait at least 30 days before calling the DMV office to inquire about your application. Most licenses will be issued within two weeks of the appointment. They cannot assist you before the 30-day window ends.

Students on OPT

Students on OPT who wish to renew their driver’s license are required to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). Without a SSN, the DMV will not approve of the driver’s license extension. First, take your EAD card and F-1 documents to the Social Security Office to get a SSN. Then take your SSN, EAD card and F-1 documents to the DMV to obtain a license. You must also wait until the *start date* on your EAD card to submit your driver’s license application for it to be accepted.

Obtaining a California Identification Card

A California driver’s license is the primary form of identification. International students and scholars who do not drive can obtain a California Identification (ID) card instead. The DMV website offers detailed guidelines on obtaining an ID card.

Visiting the DMV

DMV office located closest to the USC main campus:
3615 S. Hope St.
Los Angeles, CA 90007

(800) 777-0133

Office Hours and Customer Wait Time Information

USC students and scholars are encouraged to visit this office because of its proximity to campus. The staff at this location is familiar with assisting the USC international community.

DMV office located closest to the Health Sciences campus:
3529 N. Mission Road
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Office Hours and Customer Wait Time Information

To reduce wait time at the DMV office, OIS recommends making an appointment online.