A car isn't necessary at UCSB, especially if you live in the residence halls or Isla Vista. Many students at UCSB choose to use bicycles or the Santa Barbara MTD bus to get around. (Undergraduates get to ride the public bus for free!)

If you would like to drive a car or motorcycle in California, you will need to apply for a California driver's license (CDL). Driver's licenses are issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The driver license can also be used as a form of identification in the U.S. If you don't qualify for a driver's license, you can apply for a California Identification Card. The ID card doesn't give you the right to drive, but it can help if you want a state ID.


California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Website

Study in the States: Driving in the US – For F-1 Students

When to Apply

International visitors must check in with OISS when they arrive in the U.S. Wait at least 10 days after that check in to apply for a driver's license (this allows time for your immigration record to be properly updated).

How to Apply

To get a driver's license, you must pass a written test and a behind-the-wheel driving test. Prepare using the driver's license handbooks and sample tests here.

You must make an appointment at the DMV to take your exam. You can make an appointment with the DMV online.


Required Documents

When you go to the DMV to apply for your driver's license, you will need:

  • Passport
  • I-94
  • Form 1-20 (visa status F-1 or F-2) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 or J-2) or Form I-797 
  • (H-1B, H-4, TN, TD, E-3, or E-3D)
  • Social Security Number (SSN). If you do not have an SSN, read more about the SSN Exemption below.

Be sure your name and date of birth are consistent on all your documents. 

Where to Apply

There are two DMV offices nearby. The office closest to UCSB is the Goleta DMV office. The Santa Barbara DMV office is in downtown Santa Barbara.



DMV Social Security Number Exemption

If you are legally present in the U.S., but ineligible for an SSN, you are exempt from the DMV SSN requirement. You may start an application for a noncommercial driver license or ID card, and once your eligibility status is verified, the DMV will complete your application.

You must still provide an acceptable birth date/legal presence document for any future DL/ID card application or provide a valid SSN. You may not start an original CDL A, B, or C application until DMV visually verifies your SSN.

Read more about this on the CA DMV website here.