This month, after several of them waiting because of the pandemic, I finally got my California driver’s license. The process isn’t too complicated but for futures participants of the j1-visa program, I would like to share it , in order to give them and idea and some advices to make it easier for them.
Important note: I have to say that each state have their own rules according to driving license, so I just want to make clear that this is for DMV California and it might not apply for other states.
The first step in order to get your license is to give your info and pass the written test. You have two options:
1- you can make an appointment to go to dmv (in this case the waiting list is usually about 1-2 months )
2- you can complete the process by internet sending all your scanned credentials and after that you can show up whenever you want to any of the offices without appointment.
I did the second option and my recommendation in this case is to go early in the morning so you won’t have to wait too much to be attended.
Once you get there, I had to bring with me all my credentials ( just for a double check) pay the fees and take a picture of me. Try to look nice that day, this picture it will be with you for a long time. All this process took around 20 min, so after that I was ready to take the written test. This one is not too complicated and can study at home . There are several web pages that offer free test like the DMV one with same questions and you can also find some material for study at the DMV web page.When you pass your test, congratulations, you will get your provisional permit. This one allows you to drive with the companion of other person with a license.
The next step is the behind the wheel test. You will have to make an appointment for this one, there is no other way. My recommendation is to do it as soon as you get your provisional permit because the waiting list it could be 3 months. Other tip it will be that it doesn’t matter where do you pass your exam as long as it is in a dmv so you can check in near cities if their waiting list is shorter if you don’t mind to drive a couple of miles more.
In the US you don’t really need to go to driving lesson if you don’t want, you can learn by yourself with someone else in your car (otherwise you are driving ilegaly). My recommendation is before you do your driving test, go to the area of your DMV and drive around in order to familiarize with the streets and the problems that you could find during your test, in order to be aware of them.
The testing day is here and I’m heading the DMV office. Don’t forget at anytime, that you have to bring someone with you to prove that you are not driving alone, which is ilegal. It wouldn’t be the first time that happens ( I know people and they had to reschedule their test and it took them another 3 months waiting for it)
If you already knew how to drive, just stay calm and everything will be ok. As a reminder, you have to provide the car for the test, that means your own one, from a friend or a rental one. After driving 15 min around Chula Vista neighborhood, I passed my test and got my driver’s license. They provide you on the same day a provisional one, and within 1-2 weeks you get the real one in your mail.
In my case it took me 8 months to go through the whole process, because of Covid but it usually takes around 2-3 months .
I hope this info can help any new californian j1 visa in order to get they license. Now it’s time to get the road and explore the country. Be safe