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Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Old Oct 22nd 2016, 1:52 am
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Default Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

So if all goes well at the embassy next month my wife and I will be flying out to San Jose around the 6th of December and I'll be starting work the following Monday. This doesn't give me much time to sort stuff out before I start work, so I'm thinking about the most efficient way to get things done. Our plan in to use airbnb to find somewhere to stay for the first couple of months and look for somewhere more permanent in slow-time.

Drivers licenses seem a bit tricky, the literature says from the point you are resident in California you can only drive for 10 days on a foreign license, after that you need to have CA license. Obviously, trying to get a license within 3 days of landing with no permanent address doesn't seen realistic, so I am not going to have a US license before I start work. However, I've been checking the DMV's website out and I found the following:
"How to apply for a driver license if you are over 18?
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."
from here:
https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/de...dl_info#two500

You could interpret this as meaning, unless you do any of the above you don't need to class yourself as a resident and you're fine on a foreign license. Whilst we are still in temporary accommodation would it be ok to stick with a rental car and and drive on our UK licenses until we have found somewhere to rent long term and then buy a car?

Any thoughts?

Luke
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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 2:23 am
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

As you noted, it is for all practical purposes impossible for most people to comply with California's requirement to get California driver's licence within 10 days of becoming resident.

So, you just do the best that you can. Yes, in practice it's fine to just drive a rental car on your UK license for the first month or so. Once you have your SSN and are ready to get your license it's worth trying to find a DMV office which typically isn't too busy to increase your chances of getting a test sooner rather than later. - this probably won't be the one nearest to you ...

(Note, by the way, that the list of things that can make you a California resident is deliberately vague and non exhaustive. If you have a job in California and are living in California you will definitely be presumed to be a California resident)

Last edited by md95065; Oct 22nd 2016 at 2:27 am.
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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 2:32 am
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Originally Posted by md95065 View Post
As you noted, it is for all practical purposes impossible for most people to comply with California's requirement to get California driver's licence within 10 days of becoming resident.

So, you just do the best that you can. Yes, in practice it's fine to just drive a rental car on your UK license for the first month or so. Once you have your SSN and are ready to get your license it's worth trying to find a DMV office which typically isn't too busy to increase your chances of getting a test sooner rather than later. - this probably won't be the one nearest to you ...
Thanks for the quick reply. Sounds like there is a workable plan there.

Just to consider one other option: do you know if it would be possible for a CA resident to add me to their car insurance using my UK license before I get a CA drivers license?
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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 2:34 am
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Originally Posted by Luke_A_P View Post
Thanks for the quick reply. Sounds like there is a workable plan there.

Just to consider one other option: do you know if it would be possible for a CA resident to add me to their car insurance using my UK license before I get a CA drivers license?
Are you going to be driving their car? They could probably add you, at a significant premium increase, are you willing to pay them back for that?

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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 7:07 am
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Originally Posted by Luke_A_P View Post
Thanks for the quick reply. Sounds like there is a workable plan there.

Just to consider one other option: do you know if it would be possible for a CA resident to add me to their car insurance using my UK license before I get a CA drivers license?
Short answer: yes (I'm assuming you're talking about borrowing someone's car on a temporary basis)

Long answer: we have Geico insurance and they don't charge us any extra to insure my mother when she visits from the UK. Most policies follow the car, so long as the driver has the owner's permission to use the vehicle, but there may be limitations on the coverage so the person in question would need to get the full story from their own insurer.

The 10 day stipulation in CA always sounds scary to new residents. In practice, it's really a non-issue. Make an appointment with the DMV within those 10 days and you'll be fine.
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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 7:08 am
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

By the way, welcome in advance to the Bay Area!
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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 2:00 pm
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

California has a list of what makes you "resident" for DMV purposes. One of those things is "taking up employment". Others include buying or renting a house, or putting your child(ren) in school. There are others which I don't recall, but if you start a job you will be resident as of the day you start.
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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 4:42 pm
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Interesting; the CA DMV webpage I found doesn't list taking a job as something that makes you resident. Seems a bit odd if it doesn't make you resident. Anyway, I will check before I do anything stupid. Thanks for the input everyone.
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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 5:22 pm
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Originally Posted by Luke_A_P View Post
Interesting; the CA DMV webpage I found doesn't list taking a job as something that makes you resident. Seems a bit odd if it doesn't make you resident. Anyway, I will check before I do anything stupid. Thanks for the input everyone.
Here you go, (third subheading) that's a longer list of what makes you resident in California, also from the DMV website.

While that link relates to registering vehicles, obviously for most people they will need both a license and to register a vehicle, but the vehicle list is clearly indicative of what the DMV thinks makes you "resident", rather than the short list you found prefixed with "such as ... ".

HTH.
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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 6:17 pm
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Regardless what is or isn't listed as examples of things that make you a resident, you're clearly becoming a resident and trying to argue the toss about it in a court isn't going to work - far easier just to make the appointment with DMV.
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Old Oct 22nd 2016, 7:13 pm
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Originally Posted by Wintersong View Post
Regardless what is or isn't listed as examples of things that make you a resident, you're clearly becoming a resident and trying to argue the toss about it in a court isn't going to work .....
Exactly! ..... And it only usually becomes an issue after you have had a wreck, at which point you're in danger of being found driving without a valid license, which immediately puts you at risk of having your insurance voided, which is particularly bad if you have just had a accident!
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Old Oct 24th 2016, 7:01 pm
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

My timeline was something like this:
1) Get my SSN
2) Take a written test. I believe you can still get an actual temporary license (as opposed to a learning permit) if you have a UK license; my Canadian one was good for one a few years ago.
3) Buy my own car and insure based on the temporary license
4) Take the driving test in my own car

I drove around in a rental car for a few weeks, and since I didn't have my car insurance at the time had to pay for full coverage from them. Taking the driving test in a rental car can be tricky - you'll need to make sure the contract is in your name (and not employer's for example) and doesn't explicitly prohibit tests - but I know some people have done it. IIRC Enterprise works while Avis wouldn't. Or you can always use a driving instructor and their car...
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Old Oct 24th 2016, 7:37 pm
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Originally Posted by FinnDiego View Post
2) Take a written test. I believe you can still get an actual temporary license (as opposed to a learning permit) if you have a UK license; my Canadian one was good for one a few years ago.
Yes you can.
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Old Oct 24th 2016, 8:10 pm
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Originally Posted by Noorah101 View Post
Are you going to be driving their car? They could probably add you, at a significant premium increase, are you willing to pay them back for that?

Rene
We added my FIL to our insurance, when he came over to visit. Adding him actually brought the cost of our premium down, and when we called to take him off the insurance, they told us just to leave him on as it lowered our cost
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Old Oct 24th 2016, 8:12 pm
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Default Re: Getting a drivers license on arrival in CA

Originally Posted by N1cky View Post
We added my FIL to our insurance, when he came over to visit. Adding him actually brought the cost of our premium down, and when we called to take him off the insurance, they told us just to leave him on as it lowered our cost. .....
Please can you send me his name so I can put him on our insurance too?
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