I need a driver’s license – What should I do?

Steps to Getting a CA Driver’s License (CDL)

  1. Complete a Driver License Application
    • Apply online - The ‘regular’ driver’s license for driving personal automobiles (not motorcycles, not buses, or big trucks, etc.) is called a Noncommercial Class C License
    • You do NOT need a social security number to apply. F-1 students are exempt from the SSN requirement (unless they already have one due to employment).
    • Don’t sign the application until you are told to do so at the DMV.
  2. Make an appointment at a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) office. At your appointment, you must…
    • Show ORIGINAL proof of identity (passport)
    • Have ORIGINAL Form I-20 – it must be an “Active I-20”
    • Have a copy of your I-94, available at http://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/
    • Show a copy of proof of residency (rental agreement, utility bill, bank statement, etc.)
    • Pay the Fee
    • Give a fingerprint scan
    • Pass a vision test
    • Have your picture taken
    • Pass the knowledge test
    • If you are on OPT, bring your Form I-766, "Employment Authorization Document."
    • If you have applied for a change of status, bring those documents.

    New students often have trouble proving residency. Bring everything you can that is on the list: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/dl/residency_requirement
    Also, for recently arrived students: We have been providing a letter that confirms that you are a student here and it verifies the address you submitted when you checked in at ARC. This letter is not on the Residency list, but it seems to help. If needed, ask ARC for the Letter Request form, mark the box that is ‘Letter with U.S. Address for DMV’ and submit request to ARC.

  3. Make sure that you have an Active Form I-20 before your DMV appointment
    • Wait at least ten days after arriving in the United States before applying for a driver’s license.
    • Use the Request for Reprinted I-20 form. Submit it to ARC to receive an ACTIVE I-20.
      • An Active I-20 reads “CONTINUED ATTENDANCE”
      • The DMV will NOT accept I-20s that show “Transfer Pending – Name of School” or “INITIAL ATTENDANCE”

Excellent Site for California Driver License Information:

Requirements for a CDL (FFDL 5)

In addition to the whole process for applying for a CDL, it has a link to download the entire California Driver Handbook, too.

Dependents on F-2 Visas

If you are on an F-2 Visa and applying for a Driver’s License, the DMV requires both you and the F-1 student on which you are a dependent to be present. Bring documents for both of you.

International Driving Permits

California does recognize a valid driver license that is issued by a foreign jurisdiction (country, state, territory) of which the license holder is a resident. However, the State of California does not recognize an International Driving Permit (IDP) as a valid driver license. The IDP is only a translation of information contained on a person’s foreign driver license and is not required to operate a motor vehicle in California. The IDP is also called an International Driver License, International License, etc.

Source: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/dl/dl_info#international

Social Security Numbers

Many students ask about getting a social security number. Students on F-1 visas can apply for a social security for ONE purpose only – Authorized Employment. You can apply for a social security number only when you have been authorized to work. See more information at one of these sites: “Employment & Tseng College Students”, or at https://www.ice.gov/sevis/employment, and https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/working-in-the-united-states.

NOTE: Language Program students (IEP students) are NEVER allowed to work.

I was admitted incorrectly when I came into the U.S.

If you were admitted incorrectly to the U.S., such as your recent entry information was put in under your old B-2 visa instead of your new F-1 visa, for example, you are responsible for correcting it.

Take your Passport, Visa, printed out I-94, and Form I-20 and visit a local CBP (Customs and Border Protection) Deferred Inspection Site to have your admission corrected. See Los Angeles CBP Deferred Inspection site section below.

Contact a DSO in ARC for help in printing your I-94, or for more information in general.

I'm trying to print my I-94 and it says "Not Found"

If you try to print your I-94 and it says "Not Found", try EVERY possible name combination, including putting in or taking off your middle name(s) or middle initial(s) and also check the spelling of your names, changing first and last name order. If still says "Not Found", go to local CBP Inspection Site.

For more details, go to: CBP INFO Center Home > Find an Answer > What to do if your I-94 is "Not Found" online.

I have incorrect information on my visa entry stamp

Go to your local CBP Deferred Inspection Site.  The Deferred Inspection Sites will only correct errors made by CBP at the time of entry.

ONLY IF you were issued an incorrect I-94 by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), contact USCIS to correct the record. You may schedule an InfoPass appointment for an in-person interview at a local USCIS office, or call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283.

Los Angeles CBP Deferred Inspection site

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
300 N. Los Angeles St., Room 2067 2nd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012

OPEN: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday (Closed Fridays)
HOURS: 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Website: https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports

I have incorrect information on my passport

Contact your embassy to find out how to correct or update a passport. Most embassies will have a website with information for their citizens. Go to https://www.ice.gov/sevis/data-integrity for more detailed information.

I have incorrect information on my visa

Visas are used for entry into the United States. If discrepancies are noted while in the United States, they are not corrected while in the U.S.; they should be corrected when you travel home. Go to https://www.ice.gov/sevis/data-integrity for more detailed information.

Note: Technically, visas can be corrected at any U.S. embassy/consulate outside the United States. However, if students go to a country that is not their home country and the DOS official is not able to verify eligibility from an application or verify the need for a correction, the student will not be readmitted to the United States. It is highly recommended that adjustments to visas be done at the issuing country.

I lost my passport and/or visa

If your passport is lost or stolen while you are in the US:

  1. Request a replacement I-20, if applicable.
  2. Print out of your Electronic I-94.
  3. Contact your local embassy or consulate in the U.S. for a replacement passport.
  4. Submit a copy of new passport to ARC.

Note: Passports can be replaced while in the U.S., but visas are not replaced. (Visas are only needed to enter the US.)

I received a Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement. What should I do with it?

In general, F-1 students can ignore this form. However, receiving Form 1098-T, or being notified that it is available means that it is “Tax Season.” See the next section ‘F-1 Students and Their Income Tax Obligations” for what you should not ignore.

F-1 Students and Their Income Tax Obligations

Q: I did NOT earn any income. Do I have to submit a Form 8843?

A: Yes, you still must file Form 8843.

Each year, international students, along with their dependents, need to file “Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals With a Medical Condition.”

  • Only students who were in the U.S. as an F-1 student during any part the previous ‘calendar year’ are required to submit, or “file,” Form 8843.
  • Keep in mind that this form is not a regular tax form. It is submission of information to the U.S. government, and it is required of all students and their dependents (F-1 and F-2).

Q: I earned some money last year. Do I have to submit a Form 8843?

A: Maybe not. You certainly must file a tax form(s) for federal (U.S.) and also state taxes.

See next section, “F-1 Students and Filing U.S. and State Taxes”

Income Tax Software and Paying to Have Your Taxes Done for You

This software works with Non-Resident Alien (NR) forms: Glacier and Windstar (Foreign National Tax Resource). And H&R Block supports NR forms as long as it is through a storefront, or brick-and-mortar business.

Warning! Turbo Tax and H&R Block at Home do not support 1040 NR forms.

You can file your taxes yourself or you can pay someone to do it for you. If you use a lower-cost service, such as H&R Block, you will be working with a Tax Preparer. If you have anything complicated going on with your taxes, consider hiring a tax professional which is usually a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Timing and Deadlines for Tax Forms

Beginning in January each year, taxpayers in the U.S. begin receiving the forms they need to file their taxes. These forms come in the regular mail or they are made available on line. Employers, banks, investment companies, colleges and universities, etc. are required by law to provide this information to U.S. taxpayers.

You are required to submit, or file, your tax forms no later than April 15th (or a couple of days later if April 15th is on a weekend or holiday). Submitting required forms and documents is referred to as “filing your taxes.”

Exception: If you file only Form 8843, by itself, the deadline is later than April 15th. Look for the deadline in Publication 519, under ‘When to File.’


From Study in the States, International Students: Learn About Filing Taxes, from Study in the States

From IRS, Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
Very comprehensive source for F-1 students and federal taxes

Form 8843: www.irs.gov/Form8843

CSUN’s Tax Clinic, VITA, https://www.csun.edu/bookstein-institute/csun-vita-clinic/resources

Students and Filing U.S. and State Taxes

If you did not earn any money while a student in the U.S., filing a tax return is not required. You only have to file a Form 8843.

If you earned any taxable income, you must file income tax returns.

There are Federal Taxes and State Taxes

Federal taxes are U.S. taxes.

  • Federal taxes are U.S. taxes.
    • The regulations and forms used for federal taxes are the same throughout all 50 states.
    • Federal tax is administered by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).
    • ‘1040’ forms are federal tax forms.
    • F-1 students are considered Non-Resident Aliens (NRA) by the U.S. government.
    • F-1 students use Form 1040NR or FormNR-EZ.
      • If you have dependents, use Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return.
      • If you do not have dependents, use 1040NR-EZ, U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents.
  • State taxes have different regulations and different forms for each of the 50 states.
    • Only California taxes are discussed here.
    • CA State Taxes are administered through the Franchise Tax Board (ftb).
    • ‘540’ forms are California state tax forms.
    • F-1 students are considered Residents by the state of California (Residents for tax purposes only).
    • F-1 students use “Form 540, California Resident Income Tax Return” or “Form 5402EZ, California Resident Income Tax Return.”

Keep in mind that the information on this site regarding federal and state taxes was not compiled by a professional. It is simply the information found at irs.gov and ftb.ca.gov that relates to F-1 students only.

If you have any tax questions – seek help from a tax clinic, a paid tax preparer, or a tax professional. Also, if you are not on an F-1 visa, find the correct person, business, or forms that are appropriate for you.


Both 1040NR forms are available at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/taxation-of-nonresident-aliens

Instructions for the forms: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1098et.pdf

CA state tax forms, instructions, and to file online https://www.ftb.ca.gov/. They have a free online service, CalFile, at https://www.ftb.ca.gov/online/calfile/index.asp.

Information from the IRS:

Commercial (for-profit) tax information website:

My family or friends want to visit me. Do I need an "Invitation Letter"?

No. Officers who work at U.S. Consulates tell us that these types of letters are unnecessary. However, if your parents or family feel that an Invitation Letter is important, you can request one using the invitation for family visit request form. Attach a copy of the person’s passport and make sure to include the relationship between you and the person in the letter. Allow at least one week for processing.

Can my mother, brother, sister, etc. be a dependent?

No. Only a spouse (husband or wife) and/or children can be dependents on an F-1 visa. When your spouse or children become dependents on your F-1 visa, they will be on F-2 visas. See SEVIS – Dependents, F-2 Visas and Request Dependent I-20 (for F-2) form.

I’m in the U.S. on an F-1 visa and I’m having a baby. How do I take time off?

Student visas were designed for students to come to the United States to study and then return to their home country. There are a few very specific regulations in place to help students continue their studies after an emergency that requires a long stay in a hospital, for example. Being pregnant is not an emergency. The only exception would be a dangerous pregnancy that causes a woman to be unexpectedly hospitalized. Otherwise, if you are not studying, you are expected to return home. If at any time you quit school, you lose your SEVIS status.

I need to take a session or term off. How do I request time off?

If you are in status and you will not be leaving after a session or term has already started, your first step is to meet with your academic advisor. For IEP students, that is IEP Academics. For graduate students in a Tseng College program, see the Program Manager so that you will not be automatically enrolled in the session.

  • If you will be out of school, and out of the U.S. for less than 5 months, fill out a Travel Request form.
  • If you will be out of school, and out of the U.S. for more than 5 months, contact ARC a couple of months before you plan to return to request a new Form I-20.