You have two options for driving in California:
1. Possess a valid driver license from your home country (country of residency).
Note: In addition to your valid home country’s driver license, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is strongly recommended. The IDP is a translation of information contained on your home country’s driver license. The State of California does not recognize an IDP as a valid driver license. The IDP along with your valid home country’s driver license must be presented as needed. You will have to obtain your IDP in your home country before arriving in the U.S.
2. Obtain a California Driver License
To obtain a California Driver License, see: How to Apply for a Driver License.
Note: Motor vehicle insurance is mandatory in California.
An Identification Card is recommended so you do not have to carry your passport with you at all times during your stay in California. You may obtain your Identification Card through the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. To apply, see: How to Apply for or Renew an Identification Card (ID).
Additional Information for Drivers of All Ages
It is illegal to drive after consuming excessive alcohol in any form (including medications such as cough syrup), or taking any drug (including prescription medications), or using any combination of alcohol or drugs that may impair your ability to drive.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits
It is illegal for any person to operate a vehicle with the following:
- BAC of 0.08% or higher, if the person is age 21 or older
- BAC of 0.01% or higher, if the person is under age 21
If you operate a vehicle violating these rules, the DMV can take an administrative action against your driving privilege after you are detained or arrested and the court may take a separate action (suspend, revoke, or delay the license) for the same offense. The court’s action may involve payment of a fine, jail time, suspension, or revocation of your driving privilege and completion of a DUI program.
The above information is an excerpt from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, California Driver Handbook.