Office of International Programs (OIP)


Obtaining a California Driver License or
Identification (ID) Card

Ordinarily, individuals applying for a California Driver's License or an Identification Card at a local Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)鈥檚 office are required to first have a social security number. However, it is the current policy (as of September 1999) of the Social Security Administration to only issue Social Security Numbers (SSN) to F-1 visa holders who have been authorized to work. If you are an F-1 visa holder and have not been authorized to work, you are exempt from SSN requirement: According to San Francisco DMV鈥檚 website:

Exception to the SSN requirement:

If you are legally present in the US, but ineligible for an SSN, you are exempt from SSN requirements.
However, you must still provide an acceptable birth date/legal presence document for any DL/ID card application OR provide a valid SSN.


To apply for a California Driver License or Identification (ID) Card at San Francisco DMV office, please visit DMV website first at http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/dl_info.htm before visiting the office. Bring ALL your I-20s, I-94, passport with you when you go to the office. Please don't be surprised, however, if you find that different DMV and Social Security Offices follow different operating procedures (and some offices are better informed than others regarding eligibility requirements for F-1 visa holders)! Both the DMV and the Social Security Administration are always revising their regulations, application procedures, and eligibility requirements for F-1 visa holders. Consequently, there is usually a great deal of confusion and we recommend that you consult with an International Student Advisor at OIP to learn more about current application procedures.

For more information about applying for a California driver鈥檚 license or ID card, please see the helpful and informative 鈥淔act Sheet鈥 written by the U.S. Immigration & Custom Enforcement (ICE) office at: http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/dmv_factsheet.pdf


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