Late September I'll be arriving to San Francisco on my H1B visa. I intend to get California driver's license, but I expect that might take some time.

Is there a period after arrival during which I can drive using my EU (Polish) driver's license in California?

  • @Karlson I was wondering if there ought to be tag for California given number of questions related to that state. Apparently this question is the first one tagged ;-)
    – vartec
    Jul 17, 2014 at 14:57
  • 2
    In this particular case yes. Drivers are not licensed by the US at the country level but by the individual states and the rules and laws for licensing and requirements vary from state to state.
    – Karlson
    Jul 17, 2014 at 15:04

1 Answer 1


According to California DMV you can use your driver's license in California until you become resident of the state:

If you are a visitor in California over 18 and have a valid driver license from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California driver license as long as your home state license remains valid.

If you become a California resident, you must get a California driver license within 10 days. Residency is established by voting in a California election, paying resident tuition, filing for a homeowner’s property tax exemption, or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.

The only problem is that you cannot apply for a driver's license as you will need to receive a Social Security Number first. So until you receive that, you won't be able to apply anyway. You will be able to use your Polish driver's license until you're eligible to apply or, as stated in the quote above, it is no longer valid.

  • 1
    Actually I'm lucky enough to already have the SSN from my previous stay in US.
    – vartec
    Jul 17, 2014 at 14:48
  • BTW. you're saying that even on H1B visa and having permanent address in California I'd be considered a visitor until I vote, get own house or some state benefit?
    – vartec
    Jul 17, 2014 at 14:51
  • @vartec Usually a rental agreement/deed/utility bill will suffice but I won't say definitevely yes or no since they don't provide a sufficient proof of residency document list that I was able to find. A DMV branch would be able to to say what's sufficient.
    – Karlson
    Jul 17, 2014 at 14:56

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