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Can F-1 Students Drive in California with a Foreign Driver's License? I did a little research on this and below are my findings.

Just get a California Driver's License!

There's nothing wrong with that, but it's a bit more complicated.

It's Best to Get a California Driver's License


Students and scholars are encouraged to obtain a California Driver’s License if they plan to drive a car in the United States.

A California driver’s license is the primary form of identification.

If you want to drive in California, a California driver's license is seemingly the best choice. But if you are a newly-arrived F-1 student, you could wait for a long time before getting one.

But You Might Have to Wait...

According to USC OIS,

Students must wait patiently to ensure that their SEVIS record has been registered in SEVIS. SEVIS class registration takes place approximately one week AFTER the add/drop period occurs to allow OIS to confirm your final class registration for the semester.

Therefore, it could take some while before you are even eligible for the application, not to mention the lengthy process you might go through, so it's good to know whether you can drive with a valid driver's license from your home country.

Can I Use a Driver's License from My Home Country Instead?

Simply put, it depends.

CVC 12502 (a)(1):

(a) The following persons may operate a motor vehicle in this state without obtaining a driver’s license under this code: (1) A nonresident over the age of 18 years having in his or her immediate possession a valid driver’s license issued by a foreign jurisdiction of which he or she is a resident, except as provided in Section 12505.

So it seems the key to the question is whether you are considered "resident".