Driver License & Car Insurance

Person driving a car

Overview

It is important for you to carry some form of personal identification (ID) which includes your photograph, name, address, and date of birth. You are asked for this type of ID when you cash a check, open a bank account, register your automobile, etc. Your passport has this information, but it is not wise to carry it with you on a daily basis because it may be lost.

There are two types of ID's available to you from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): the California Identification Card and the California Driver License. 

If you cannot drive or will not need a driver’s license during your stay, you can obtain a California Identification Card. You will not be able to drive with only a California ID card. If you plan to drive while in the U.S., please obtain a California Driver License.


Required Documents for a Driver License or California Identification

  • Unexpired passport
  • Visa and the last admission stamp OR Form I-797 approval notice, in the case of a change of status. Canadians only: a visa is not required.
  • I-797 approval notice if in H-1B, O-1 or other relevant work status
  • Current I-94 record (Date on downloaded copy must be recent)
  • I-20 or DS-2019 if applicable
  • EAD card (form I-766 “Employment Authorization Document”), if applicable (i.e. post-completion OPT; employed J-2 visa holder; pending immigrant with work permission, etc.)
  • Two documents showing a California address:
  • Students who live in UC Davis dormitories must email Student Housing for an address confirmation letter:  
    • The letter will come to you as an attachment
    • Include your name, student ID, email
    • In the email, request a letter showing confirmation of residence address
    • Email studenthousing@ucdavis.edu, with the subject line as: "Attn: Pat Rott"
    • Students living in apartments should consult their apartment office manager
  • Social Security number if applicable*
  • F-1 students only need to provide a Social Security number if they are eligible for one/have one.  
  • H-1B workers and H-4 dependents must provide a Social Security number.
  • J-1 scholars need to provide a Social Security number OR a denial letter from the Social Security office.
  • J-1 students need to provide a Social Security number OR a denial letter from the Social Security office.  J-1 students may want to consult with SISS regarding Social Security eligibility because getting a denial letter can be difficult.
  • Anyone with an EAD card must provide a Social Security number.

* If you are legally present in the U.S., but ineligible for a social security number, you are exempt from the social security number requirement.  However, you must still provide an acceptable birth date/legal presence document (such as an I-20/DS-2019) for any driver's license or ID card application.  Check with the California Department of Motor Vehicles for more information.

Tips for a Successful Visit to the DMV
  • Make an appointment (required in Davis).
  • Bring a recently printed copy of your current I-94 record (not the travel history) unless you have a paper I-94 given at the border.  This record should match the date on the admission stamp in your passport.
  • Make sure the registration card is in the vehicle you use to take the driving test.
  • Make sure the legal name and birthdate on all documents match. 
  • I-20/DS-2019 corrections can be made at SISS.
  • Your SISS advisor can help facilitate I-94 record corrections with DHS.
  • Social Security Card name corrections are processed at the Social Security Office.
  • Visas can only be corrected when renewing the Visa outside the United States. Contact SISS for guidance.
  • Passport name corrections can be made at the consulate in the U.S. that represents your country of nationality. 
  • Renew as soon as a renewal notice is received to prevent a lapse in driving eligibility.  Normal processing time for renewals is 75 days.

Helpful Links


Car Insurance

If you plan to buy a car, you must have car insurance that will cover at minimum the driver and passengers in your car and any car or passengers that could be damaged or injured by you.  You have the choice not to insure the body of your car if you wish.  For information on the minimum legal requirements for California auto insurance, please review the insurance information on the DMV website.