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Driving in California


If driving is the best option for you, here are some helpful tips and information to make your drive smooth and safe:

The State of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not recognize international drivers’ licenses. The State of California, however, does recognize your national driver license as long as it is valid and translated to English. Although the law is ambiguous when dealing with international visitors, we recommend that you get a California driver’s license if you are in California over 2 months.

Driver License

Driver License Application Process

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires a written test and a road test. No appointment is necessary for the written test, but an appointment and a car are required for the road test. A U.S. Social Security card is not needed to apply for a driver license. The DMV is often crowded, so allow ample time to complete the process. Appointments are also available online through DMV’s online services.

Temporary permits can be renewed until the license is received.

Note: ISPO is not authorized to issue residency verification documents for students' driver license applications. For a full list of what verification documents are accepted, please visit the California DMV website.

Where to Apply for a Driver License

The closest DMV Office to UC San Diego is located at:

Department of Motor Vehicles
4375 Derrick Drive
San Diego, CA 92117
(800) 777-0133

For a complete list of DMV office locations, visit the DMV website.

Car Insurance

Keep in mind that automobile insurance is required by law in the United States. Most insurance companies require a valid California driver’s license. For more details, read through California and San Diego Driving Facts (PDF).

Driving Schools

There are driving schools in San Diego. Check the Yellow Pages under “Driving Instruction” to locate driving schools or search the Internet with the search term “Driving Schools San Diego"

State ID for Non-Drivers

The DMV can also issue a non-driver’s identification (ID) card. This is a very convenient form of identification, since a passport is not always recognized for local transactions, such as cashing checks or admission to an establishment where alcohol is served.

The same documents are needed as if applying for a driver’s license, and USCIS will have to confirm I-94 status in the United States. A temporary identification card will be issued but it will not have a photograph. For more information, visit the California ID DMV page.

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