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

A California driver's license is a card that gives you permission to operate (drive) a motor vehicle. This card must be in your possession anytime you operate a motor vehicle (drive a car). A California driver's license is issued by a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.

Everything on this page refers to a (regular) driver’s license, not to the newer “REAL ID” card.

F-1 students are eligible for the REAL ID, but it takes much more effort and requires much more documentation to obtain a REAL ID, and you do not need it. However, if you want to apply for a REAL ID card instead of a standard driver’s license, use the DMV website to see the requirements and how to apply.

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/
    • Have proof of residency. See below.
    • 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.

    Proof of Residency:

    The DMV will not accept an application without a residency document. They accept photocopies or computer-generated documents for proof of residency purposes.

    All residency documents must list the applicant’s first and last name and the California mailing address must match the mailing address listed on the driver license application.

    Here are documents you can use:

    • Rental/lease agreement with signatures of the owner/landlord and the tenant/resident.
    • Home utility bill (including cellular phones).
    • Insurance document including medical, dental, vision, life, home, rental, and vehicle insurance.
    • Medical document.
    • U.S.-issued credit card bill in your name.
    • Deed/title (ownership) of the home listed on your application, or a mortgage bill with your name and address.
    • California vehicle Certificate of Title or registration (if you own a car).
    • Employment document (if you transferred into Tseng College after completing OPT).
  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”

DMV Websites:

DMV Overview of CA Driver License: Requirements for a CDL (FFDL 5)

To Prepare for your Knowledge (the Written test) Test and Driving Test, review the California Driver Handbook. It contains a lot of important information, so give yourself a few days to get through it.

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 recognizes 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. An IDP is not required to operate a motor vehicle in California, nor is recognized as equivalent to a California driver's license.

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 "No Record Found"

If you cannot retrieve your Form I-94 at the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) website, first try EVERY possible name combination, and different spellings for your name. Also switch your birth month and day. If you still cannot get your I-94, you must submit a Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Record to the USCIS. Form I-102 and instructions are available at: https://www.uscis.gov/i-102.

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.)

How do I renew my F-1 visa?

Remember, visas are only required for ENTERING or RE-ENTERING the United States. In fact, once in the U.S. an expired F-1 visa cannot be renewed.

While studying in the U.S., as long as you stay in status, you can stay here on an expired F-1 visa as long as you are a student (even if you transfer to another school, or move from one education level to another).

However, if you travel outside of the U.S. and are eligible to return in the same F-1 status, then you must obtain a renewed visa to reenter the U.S.

The same application and application process are used for a new visa and to renew one. Go to How to Apply at the Travel.State.Gov website, and follow the instructions.

Note: NEW students are restricted to entering the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the start date on their I-20. CONTINUING students may (re)enter the U.S. any time before classes start.

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

Most Tseng College F-1 students do not need this form to file their annual income taxes. 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.”

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, must submit a Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals With a Medical Condition.
  • A Form 8843 must be filed for each dependent as well as the F-1 student.
  • Form 8843 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 students are required to submit, or “file,” Form 8843 if they were in the U.S. for any amount of time during the previous calendar year.

Q: I earned some money last year. Do I have to file taxes?

A: Yes. You must submit a Form 1040-NR, with supporting documents.

As of 2020, Form 1040-NE-EZ is obsolete. All F-1 students who earned money (even if it was a very small amount) must now use Form 1040-NR.

Do NOT use Form 1040. Use 1040-NR.

Q: I’ve been in the U.S. for more than 5 years. Am I considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes?

A: Yes. Probably.

Use the Substantial Presence Test for the calendar year and see a professional for help with your taxes.

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 (When April 15th falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the deadline to file is the next business day.)

Submitting required forms and documents is referred to as “filing your taxes.”

Where to File

Tax returns that cannot be eFiled must be mailed. Tax returns cannot be faxed or emailed to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Forms 8843 and/or 1040-NR
must be mailed to:
Form 1040-NR, if enclosing a payment
must be mailed to:
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Austin, TX 73301-0215
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 1303
Charlotte, NC 28201-1303

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

This software works with Non-Resident Alien (NR) forms: TaxSlayer, Sprintax, 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 may not support 1040 NR forms.

Note: This university does not endorse, recommend, or profit from any of the above tax software. The company names were only given as a convenience for our students.

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).


Forms and Instructions

General Information

Students and Filing U.S. and State Taxes

There are Federal Income Taxes and State Income 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 1040-NR.

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 usually considered Residents by the state of California (Residents for tax purposes only).
  • F-1 students usually use “Form 540, California Resident Income Tax Return” or “Form 540 2EZ, California Resident Income Tax Return.”
  • If you are considered a Non-Resident or a Part-Year Resident, use “Form 540NR.”

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.

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.


Resources from the IRS

Resources for California state taxes

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.