The State Bar of California includes attorneys who have been educated abroad. They do not have to be citizens to be a licensed attorney in California, but they do have to fill out some extra paperwork.
If an applicant wants to practice law in California as a foreign-educated applicant not admitted to practice law in any United States jurisdiction, the information and forms are below.
These guidelines do not apply to attorneys who are already admitted to the active practice of law in a foreign country or in another U.S. jurisdiction and are in good standing. These attorneys are qualified to take the California Bar Examination without having to complete any additional legal education.
The requirements are different for those who have received a first degree in law from a law school in a foreign jurisdiction than those who may have completed study in a foreign law school, but did not receive a degree. For the specific requirements, refer to the admissions rules.
State Bar rules require applicants to:
Applicants for admission are also required to provide a Social Security number. If you don't have a Social Security number, request the form to request an exemption when you register with the State Bar.
Law students who received their first degree in law from a law school outside the U.S. must establish their eligibility to take the California Bar Examination by showing that their degrees are equivalent to a Juris Doctor (JD) degree awarded by an American Bar Association (ABA)-approved or California-accredited law school in the U.S.
They must also show that they have successfully completed a year of law study at an ABA-approved law school or a law school accredited by the committee in the areas of law as outlined in the committee’s “Guidelines for Implementation of Chapter 2, Rule 4.30" of the admissions rules.
Law students in this category seeking to qualify to take the California Bar Examination must provide the following to the State Bar’s Office of Admissions in Los Angeles:
Read more about the admissions guidelines for applicants who have a foreign law degree.
Law students who completed their legal education outside the United States without receiving a qualifying first degree in law must establish their eligibility to take the California Bar Examination by showing they have:
Law students who do not have a first degree of law who want to take the General Bar Examination must provide the following to the State Bar’s Office of Admissions in Los Angeles:
Documents in a language other than English must be accompanied by a notarized translation by a disinterested party, which is attested to with respect to accuracy.
Information provided by a credential evaluation agency regarding the completion of a law degree and number of years of study is considered advisory; the Committee reserves the right to make the final decision with regard to law study equivalency and how much credit the law student will receive toward qualifying to take the General Bar Examination.
A determination of eligibility will be made after review of all required documents and applicants will thereafter be notified of their status regarding eligibility to take the California Bar Examination, exemption from the First-Year Law Students’ Examination or the requirement to take the First-Year Law Students' Examination, and whether any additional course work is required. First-Year Law Students’ Examination exemption is established by passing the bar examination of another jurisdiction or successfully completing the first year of law study at an ABA approved or California accredited law school.
Read more about the admissions guidelines for foreign students without a law degree.
General and attorney applicants who intend to seek admission to practice law in California must register in accordance with the Business and Professions Code, Article 4, section 6060(2)(d), and Title 4, Division 1 of the Rules of the State Bar of California (Admissions Rules). The registration form is not an application to take an examination.
Answer all applicable questions on the registration form. Answers must be specific and complete. If the space for an answer is insufficient, the answer may be completed on a separate sheet of paper, which should be attached to the registration form. Before filing the registration form, make sure all questions have been answered, the registration form is signed and the correct fee is included.
Any registration form not meeting these requirements is considered incomplete and will not be considered filed until it is brought to a complete status. If there are deficiencies in the registration form, you will be notified. Registration forms not brought to a complete and filed status within 60 days of receipt will be deemed abandoned. No fees will be refunded if a registration is abandoned.
After completing and signing the registration form, the form and correct fees in the form of a cashier's check or money order payable to the State Bar of California must be mailed to the following address:
The State Bar of California
Office of Admissions
845 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017-2515
All applicants seeking admission to practice law must register with the Committee of Bar Examiners (committee) prior to filing any applications, petitions and requests for waivers or before any services can be provided. If an applicant has registered previously, there is no need to complete the registration form or pay the fee.
General Applicant Registration Fee: $119
Caution: Separate and distinct application forms are required for the bar examination and moral character determination. The "Application to Take the California Bar Examination" and/or "Application for Determination of Moral Character" will not be processed prior to completion of the registration form.
All correspondence from the committee and the State Bar's Office of Admissions will be mailed to the current mailing address (initially as shown on the registration form). It is the applicant's responsibility to notify the State Bar's Office of Admissions in writing, of any changes in name, address or law school. If notification of such changes is not received by the State Bar's Office of Admissions, it may result in the applicant's failure to receive important information.
It is the applicant's responsibility to maintain compliance with the Admissions Rules. Copies of amendments to the Admissions Rules are not routinely sent to registrants. The current Admissions Rules are available online at www.calbar.ca.gov/admissions or upon request from the Office of Admissions.
You must attach an evaluated law degree equivalency report and a "Foreign Law Study Evaluation Summary," which must be completed by a credential evaluation agency approved by the Committee and a certified transcript of all legal studies completed, which must include the beginning and ending dates of enrollment, each class taken, the grade or mark received for each class and the date the degree was awarded.
General information to assist in completing the registration form follows:
Question #1.1 - United States Social Security Number
All applicants for admission to practice law in California are required to provide a Social Security number pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 30 (State of California's tax enforcement provisions) and Family Code section 17520 (Child Support Enforcement Programs).
Applicants without a Social Security number because they do not qualify for one, may request that they be exempted from the requirement of providing one at the time they register as a law student or as an attorney. Such applicants may request an exemption from the Social Security number requirement by completing page 4 of the Registration as a Foreign-Educated General Applicant Not Admitted to the Practice of Law in any United States or Foreign Jurisdictions application and attaching the requested documentation.
Question #2.0 - Names, former names and aliases
If an applicant's name has been changed by court order, a photocopy of such order should be attached. This includes divorce decrees or dissolution papers.
Question #2.2 - Foreign Legal Education
All foreign law study completed or currently in progress should be indicated, even though there is no intention to claim credit. An evaluated law degree equivalency report, which must be completed by a credential evaluation agency approved by the Committee, a completed "Foreign Law Study Evaluation Summary" form and a certified transcript of all legal studies completed, with a notarized translation if in a language other than English, must be attached to the application form.
Question #2.3 - United States Law School Education
List the law school you are attending in the United States, and any other
United States law school where study was previously completed, and indicate
whether you intend to receive credit for law study obtained at the school
toward qualifying to take the California Bar Examination. If you are intending
to qualify to take the examination as an foreign educated applicant with a
first degree in law through an additional year of law study at an ABA approved
or California accredited law school, in addition to listing the law school,
indicate the degree program in which you are enrolled, the courses in which you
are enrolled and the date you intend to complete the program. Refer to the
Committee's Guidelines for Implementation of Chapter 2, Rule 4.30 of the
admissions rules for the specific courses that must be completed in order to
qualify to take the California Bar Examination.
Registration forms may not be withdrawn. Registration fees that accompanied
forms that are abandoned because they are incomplete will not be refunded.
Applicants for registration found to be ineligible due to a lack of pre-legal
education will qualify for a refund.
A file number will be assigned to you. The file number is the permanent
identification number and must be indicated on all subsequently filed
applications and on all correspondence. Registration confirmation letters will
be mailed approximately four weeks from the date of approval of the
Communicating with the Committee of Bar Examiners or Office of
An official record of all communications is required. All inquiries must be
submitted in writing and sent to the Office of Admissions in San Francisco or
Los Angeles. This will enable the staff to review the inquirer's record prior
to responding and to provide specific rather than generalized responses.