Having a driver’s license can be very convenient even if you aren’t planning on getting a car. You’ll be able to rent Zipcars if you have a driver’s license, and your driver’s license can also serve as a form of ID. You’ll need a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to get your driver’s license, so the first thing you need to do is to get an SSN if you don’t have one yet.
Before taking the driving test, you first need to take a written test in order to get your permit. I highly recommend making an appointment for the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) online here so that you don’t have to wait too long at the DMV. Go to the California DMV website and make an appointment to take the written test. There is a DMV in Santa Clara at 3665 Flora Vista Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95051. Make sure to bring your passport with you to the DMV as a form of ID. If you have a driver’s license from another country, bring that with you as well. The application fee for a Class C license (for personal vehicles) is $33.
The “written” test is taken on a computer, and I found it fairly straightforward. Once you pass the written test and get a permit, the permit is valid for a year. If you are under the age of 18 than there are some restrictions placed on you with your permit, you can read them here. Make an appointment at the DMV for a driving test within the year. If you don’t have a car to use for the driving test, find a friend that is willing to let you borrow their car. If you don’t know how to drive or are a little rusty, practice driving with someone who has a valid California driver’s license and is over 18 before your test. When you go to the DMV to take your driving test, bring evidence of insurance on your car (or your friend’s car). Insurance requirements are laid out here, and it is important that you have insurance if you have a vehicle. The last thing to do is to pass your test! After you pass your test, you’ll be given a temporary license, and you’ll receive your new one in the mail.
I hope this brief overview helped you understand how to get a driver’s license. Good luck!