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Obtaining A Driver License in California

18 June 2011. 0 comments

Even though you don’t plan to buy a car immediately, I suggest you get your drivers license as soon as you can. First of all, drivers license is accepted as a valid form of identification for most purposes, and it carries more authority over your passport. Another minor reason to get it early is because you pay much less for automobile insurance if you have been licenced in the US for more than 1.5 years. It’s pretty irrelevant whether you drove a car or not during this period. Insurance in around here is very expensive by the way(from $200/yr to up to $1,000/yr). The specifics of getting the license is well documented at Basically, you have to read a booklet called ‘California Driver Handbook’ and take a written test on it. You can download it from the web. It’s pretty easy to pass the written test. After passing that test, you can set an appointment for a ‘behind-the-(steering)wheel’ driving test. You need to study the booklet pretty well and practice actual driving to pass this test. A good summary of information of the written test is compiled here. (Thanks Dave). I’ve seen most people fail at least once or twice. It’s a good idea to get private driving lessons to prepare for it. (Tips: learn your hand signaling, always turn your head to look over your shoulder before lane changes) After you pass, you take a picture and wait for the ID card to arrive in mail. For foreigners, it can take anywhere from 1 month to a whole year to get your ID. I heard this is because DMV waits for the approval from the BCIS(former known as INS)(Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration services ) and this can take a long time. California DMV is notorious for their inefficiency and bad attitude. My labmate was accused (and being yelled at) of being an illegal immigrant despite of showing her I-20 and visa at Oakland DMV. Should this happen to you, report the incident to the manager.

Note:¡¡What DMV means to most people is waiting and waiting in long lines. To avoid the long lines, make an online appointment

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