Services for International Students and Scholars (T)530-752-0864
University of California, Davis (F) 530-752-5822
Extending a Driver’s License in California for H-1B and H-4 Visa Holders
This Fact Sheet is intended to provide H-1B or H-4 visa holders with basic information on extending a driver’s license or a state identification (ID). It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the driver’s license or state ID application process. For detailed information, visit: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/
Who is eligible for a driver’s license or ID?
Any H-1B or H-4 nonimmigrant may apply for a driver’s license or ID as long as he or she is in lawful status and presents the necessary supporting documents required to verify legal presence in the United States.
Can a nonimmigrant apply for a driver's license if his or her Form I-797 has expired and he or she only has a receipt for an extension or change of employer for H-1B or H-4 status?
Unfortunately, the California State DMV does not accept an I-797 receipt notice as proof of H-1B or H-4 status so a driver’s license cannot be granted while an H-1B or H-4 extension or change of employer is still pending.
If I need a driver’s license and my H-1B is still pending, what can I do?
Unfortunately, there is only one way to expedite the approval of a request for an H-1B extension or change of employer, in order to have an I-797 approval notice with which to apply for, or renew, a California driver’s license. A request to extend the H-1B status can be expedited by converting the case to a premium processing case. This requires a check to DHS for $1225 (which may come from either the H-1B employee or the department), along with a request to SISS to convert the case to “premium processing.” Once the case is converted, it will take up to 15 calendar days for a decision on the petition and approximately 3 weeks total to have the actual approval notice in hand, in order to apply for an extension of the driver’s license at the DMV.
What if I have an H-1B approval notice, I am applying for a new or extended driver’s license, and the DMV still states that my status is not valid?
If the DMV states that the status is not valid even though you have an I-797 H-1B approval notice, please consult with your international scholar advisor. In general, this sometimes happens when different government databases have inconsistent information and/or one database has not been updated based on a different database system. In general, this can be corrected fairly easily by reporting the problem to SAVE.
What is SAVE and how do I report a problem?
SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) allows local, state and federal agencies that grant benefits to verify the status of aliens in the United States. When an alien applies for a benefit (for example a driver’s license), the benefit-granting agency then inputs their immigration information in SAVE electronically, to verify their status. However, sometimes data is missing. To clarify the problem you can contact the USCIS Verification Program. Be prepared to give your WAC file number (from the upper left side of your I-797 approval notice), your name as it appears in your passport, your date of birth, and your social security number (if applicable). For more information and contact information, visit: http://www.uscis.gov/save
What if there is an error on my name, birth date or immigration status, either on my I-797 approval notice or on my I-94 online record?
If there is an error on any of your documents, you should report the problem to your international scholar advisor immediately. If there is an error on your electronic I-94 record from when you last entered the US, your international scholar advisor can often get it corrected through the Deferred Inspection Office. If there is an error on the I-797 receipt or approval notice, your international scholar advisor will determine the cause of the error and how it can be fixed. Either way, DMV will often deny the granting or extension of a driver’s license if the information on your immigration documents does not match your passport. Therefore, please review your documents carefully each time your receive documents from SISS and/or enter the US, and please report any errors promptly.