This post will detail exactly what you need to do if you’re an Australian living in California and want to drive. I’m writing it in the hopes that you won’t have to go through the frustration that I did.
Establishing residency means that you have a signed lease with your address on it, or have utility bills, insurance documents, or student bills that prove you live in California.
This can be established at different times depending on which visa you’re on. I’d suggest double-checking with the DMV. There’s more info on this in the “What You Need” section below.
Those found to be driving on an Australian driver’s license after that time, could be charged with Driving Without A License, which is a serious offence in California. It’s a misdemeanor, meaning they can haul you off to the cells then and there.
If convicted, it becomes part of your criminal record and is likely to appear on any background checks.
- Up to six months jail time
- A fine of up to $1,000, not including fees
- Up to three years informal probation
- Impounding your vehicle for up to 30 days
CALIFORNIA DRIVER HANDBOOK
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- DL 44: You can either call the DMV phone line and ask them to mail you a DL 44 form, or they will give you one at your appointment (these are not available online). A DL 44 is just the application form that you need fill in and sign.
- Proof of residency documents: These take the form of any official document with your address on it (please note your address needs to be exactly right on these documents otherwise they will not be accepted). You will need TWO of these. Examples include:
- Utility bills (includes mobile phone bill)
- Lease agreement signed by you and your landlord
- Mortgage bill
- Vehicle Registration documents
- Insurance documents
- Student bills
- A signed employment contract
- I-94: This form is distributed to resident aliens and records their arrivals and departures to and from the US. It’s issued by the US Customs and Border Protection and US Citizenship and Immigration Services. You can download and print a copy of yours from this website. If you are in the US on an E3-D visa, you can use your work permit or EAD card instead of the I-94.
- Passport: Please note if you have renewed your passport since getting your US visa, you will also need to bring your previous passport, containing your visa.
- Social Security Number: If you have been issued a SSN, the DL 44 form will ask you to list it. However, it is not necessary if you don’t have one.
- Patience: I’m not even kidding. You’ll need much of this.
Post Script: On advice from reader, Monika, I’ve got to add a caveat (you can read about it in the comments if you’d like).
This blog is written from the point of view of an E3 visa holder. Monika, however, is the proud owner of an E3-D visa, which adds certain restrictions such as not being able to hold a job for at least three months after arriving in the US.
She says it best:
“I’m in the US on an E3-D Visa and you’re actually allowed to drive for more than 10 days on an Aussie Licence (on E3-D) because US residency is only automatically in effect on arrival for E3 visa holders, not E3-D holders (who are not required to be immediately employed as part of their visa).”
It’s a 36-question, computerised multiple choice knowledge test. Fair warning: the test costs $33 and they will take your thumb print and use it as identification.
You have three chances to pass it. If you don’t know the answer to a question you can skip it. But you may only skip three questions. Once you complete the test it will let you know whether you have passed or failed..
Return to the line of very patient people waiting for their interim license. From here on out you are allowed to drive if you have a Californian resident who is 18 or older in the car with you.
Once you pass that, you’ll get a card with a phone number and website to make an appointment for the driving test. And here’s the process for taking that test. Enjoy!
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