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How to Apply for a New Driver's License in California

More Important Information on New Driver's Licenses

Types of Drivers Licenses in California

Before you dive into the application process, you should know that there are various kinds of driving licenses available to you in California:

  • Class C driving license: regular, noncommercial vehicle operation (passenger car or truck).
  • Class A driving license: noncommercial vehicle operation of the following types of vehicles:
    • Travel trailers that weigh more than 10,000 pounds and are not for hire
    • 5th wheel travel trailers more than 15,000 pounds
    • Livestock trailers that are between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds
  • Class B driving license: RVs or motor homes up to 45 feet long.
  • Motorcycle license
  • CDL license: commercial vehicle operation

CA Driving License Requirements

There are a variety of instances in which you must apply for a drivers license in California. These include if you are:

  • A California resident that has never received a driving license.
  • A new CA resident who wants to apply
  • A new CA resident who wants to transfer driving licenses
  • Planning to drive any noncommercial vehicle
  • Legally present in the United States and California

In contrast, there are circumstances in which drivers do not need to get a California drivers license:

  • If you are visiting California from out-of-state with a valid driving license and are at least 18 years old.
  • If you are an active member of the armed forces or a dependent stationed in CA with a valid out-of-state drivers license.
  • If you only drive farm vehicles, which are always off public highways.
  • If you only drive off-highway vehicles that are registered.

Drivers Education

In the state of California, drivers education is required by the CA DMV for all teens between 15-and-a-half and 17-and-a-half years old. So if you want to have the best understanding possible of all things road-related, make sure to register for drivers ed today.

Study Guides and Practice Tests

There is no better way to sharpen your driving wits than by using study guides and a practice permit test. Both the Driver's Study Guides and Driver's Practice Test prompts feature topics and questions from the California Driver's Handbook, which makes them the perfect tools to help you get drivers license credentials. As long as you study the material that is available to you, getting drivers license documents should be a cinch.

DMV Written Test

The California written test is available for you to take in three different languages:

  • English
  • Spanish
  • American Sign Language (ASL)

To pass the written test, you will have to answer 38 of the 46 questions correctly. In addition, your vision will also be tested before you are allowed to take the driving test. If your vision is worse than 20/40, you will have to obtain corrective lenses before you are allowed to take the road skills exam.

California Driving Test

While you needed to pass the written knowledge exam in order to obtain your California drivers permit, you will now have to take and pass the road skills driving test in order to get your CA drivers license. Fortunately, the same road signs, traffic laws and safety techniques that you had to learn for the written test apply to the driving exam. It is important to remember that:

  • There is no mandatory waiting period between tests.
  • You must make an appointment at the DMV to take the exam.
  • You have three chances to pass the test.
  • The cost for the first driving test is included in the drivers license application fee, which must be paid with:
    • Cash, check, money order, or debit/ATM card
  • Each test after is $6

Once you pass, you will receive a temporary, 90-day CA license to drive until your permanent one comes in the mail.However, if you fail on your first attempt, the CA DMV offers you two more tries. You can schedule your next test at your convenience.

Locate a DMV

Getting your drivers license is an exciting period, however don't forget to find a nearby DMV location beforehand. This is where you are going to have to take your written exam and your road skills test, so make sure that you find a location that is close and convenient come test day. As soon as you have a test date in mind, make sure to call the DMV locations and set up an appointment because they can fill up fast.

Car Insurance

Car insurance is a state requirement in California, even when you are just taking the driving test. If you want to drive legally in the area, you must purchase at least the minimum car insurance requirements. If you decide not to do so and continue to drive on public roadways, you run the risk of being caught by a law enforcement officer and receiving substantial penalties, including:

When New Residents Must Apply for a Drivers License

If you are new to California, then applying for drivers license documentation must be done within 10 days of setting up a newresidence. Residency is established when you take part in benefits not offered to nonresidents, including in-state university tuition, in-state voter registration, and more.
Keep in mind that the California DMV will likely waive your previous driving exam if you have a valid out-of-state license. However, if you have never received a license to drive, you will need to take the written test to get your driving permit before beginning your drivers license application.

How to Apply for a Drivers License in California

If you want to apply for drivers license credentials in California, then you must pay a visit to the local DMV office because you cannot get a CA drivers license online.While at the DMV, you will also have the chance to obtain your CA voting registration.In any case, you have to follow all of the steps below closely to successfully complete the process:

  1. Make an appointment with your local DMV office for the vision and written test
    • No tests are administered after 4:30 p.m.
  2. Fill out the Driver License or Identification Card Application
  3. Have one proof of your Social Security Number:
    • Social Security card
    • Military ID card
  4. Have one proof of your full name (only originals or certified copies):
    • Birth certificate
    • U.S. passport
    • Marriage certificate/divorce decree (if name changed)
  5. Have one proof of your birthdate/legal presence in the United States (only originals or certified copies):
    • U.S. passport
    • U.S. birth certificate
  6. Get your thumbprint taken
  7. Get your picture taken
  8. Pay the $33 fee:
    • CA DMV accepts cash, checks, money orders, and debit/ATM cards
  9. Pass written permit test, which will give you the driving permit (to be used to practice for your driving exam)
  10. Pass the driving exam with a vehicle that has proof of car registration and car insurance

Note: Military drivers in the state of California must go through the same application process as civilians.

How to Apply for a Drivers License as a Non-Citizen

The application process for non-citizens is very similar to that of U.S. citizens. However, you must show proof of the following items to complete adrivers license application:

  • One proof of Social Security:
    • Social Security card
    • Medicare card
  • One proof of date of birth and legal presence (only originals or certified copies):
    • Birth certificate
    • Passport
    • Permanent resident card

Employment Authorization Cards, Valid I-94s, or Temporary Resident Identification Cards can be used to prove birth date and legal presence. However, after the requirements have been met, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will verify how to determine your drivers license as either a:

  • Limited Term (LT) license, if your birth date/legal presence document expires in less than five years from your drivers license application date.
  • Full drivers license, if your BD/LP document expires more than five years from your application date.

Buying a Car

If you are looking to buy a car after getting your drivers license, there are a many things to consider. Purchasing a vehicle can be a difficult process. It takes research, work, and above all, it can be extremely time-consuming. The first thing you want to do is ask yourself these questions:

  • How long is my commute?
  • How many seats do I need?
  • How important is performance/safety?

Once you have answered these questions, you will be able to shop at a dealership or even buy a car online. recommends buying a car from the comfort of your home, as you will be able to:

  • Avoid the salespeople at dealerships.
  • Compare multiple quotes without going from dealer to dealer.

Out-of-State Drivers

For those drivers leaving California to visit other states, your CA drivers license does remain valid. However, your driving license's active status will end if you decide to establish residency in another state. Once you move to another state, such as Florida, you will have to obtain a newdrivers license within that new state DMV's stipulated time period.

Related Links

Reviews of How to Apply for a New Driver's License in California

Will California accept a Learner's Permit from Florida (19 year old)? i.e. Would my student be able to take the driving test, or would she be required to take the California written test first? Also, will the online 4 hr. Drug and Alcohol Class that she already took and passed be accepted?

I have a Nevada Driver's license and am moving to California. What documentation and tests do I need to take to convert my driver's license to a CA one?

I lived abroad for 30 years and coming back to live in Calif again. I don't have a car yet may I pass my test with a rental car that is insured?

I had a MA drivers license for over 40 years and moved to CA in 2011. My MA license expired in 3/2012. I am eager to obtain a CA drivers license and want to know other than the Drivers Test and Vision Test what else I need to do?

I have a brazilian drivers licence and I´m gonna be staying in california for a month, can I drive there??

I'm 18 and never have driven before, what requirments do I need ti meet in order to obtain a license

Hi, I have passed my driving test but due to my immigration status I was told that I could not get a permenant driving license but someone told me that I could get my permenanat driving license through the AB 60 form. Please be so kind as to advise me on what I should do. Thank you. Amir Asli.

Did you ever found out about the AB 60 DL?

Both custodial parents have to sign a minor's initial license application (DL44). Do both have to come to the DMV to sign it in person, or can one sign it at home and the other in person?

Please answer the above question.

Hi I lived CA from 2011 I had a CA driver's license . I moved back to TX in 2013 and now have an TX license and my car is registered in TX. How do I get CA driver's back Because I move back here in CA now Do I have to take the test again?

Hi I lived CA from 2011 I had a CA driver's license . I moved back to TX in 2013 and now have an TX license and my car is registered in TX. How do I get CA driver's back Because I move back here in CA now Do I have to take the test again?

Hi I am moving to california with a texas learners license can someone tell me how can i apply for a cal drivers license.

You must have to take California Test for writing no have to driver test


I need to get my drivers permit, I'm 17 years old

I have been driving for 30 years and have a valid driving license in India. Now, I will be moving (family immigration) to California on 01 May 2015. I will become a Legal Permanent Resident in California thereafter. How long can I drive in California using my driving license from India after 01 May 2015 ? Once I apply for California DL, can I still drive around using my valid DL from India, till I get a California DL ? Can I legally hire a car and use it with my DL from India, till I get California DL ?

hi dmv!!

i have pass the exams in december 4,2014..but i havent got my license till now??

its gonna expire on march 3,2015..if this expire what will you give another temporary license???

i need a card because i have applied for a new job and its gonna be a field courier..and the company dont want my temporary license for this job

i have came to your new dmv office in senter road twice..

i give all the neccessary documents to the dmv's,.etc..

all is good!so why is it taking so long to receive my official license??

I moved from California in 2012 but I have recently moved back to California.

I have the same car & actually the tags in storage. Do I need to follow the steps for New Registration/License? Or will they renew?

I have been to the DMV 3 times trying to get a CA drivers license. Every time I have been denied because 18 years ago I had a CA DL under a different name. I have been divorced 18 years and they will not issue me a DL in my current name because I do not have my divorce papers from 18 years ago. I have a current DL in my correct last name as well as my SS card. Will they issue me a DL if I show up with a passport or do I still need to try to track down my divorce papers.

Hi I lived here from 1996-2010. I had a CA driver's license and had my car registered here all those years. I moved back to Ohio in 2010 and now have an Ohio license and my car is registered in Ohio. How do I get renewed back here in CA now that I am back to stay? Do I have to take the test again?

I need a help to the same question listed above.

I have a Louisiana license I use to be a California resident now I'm moving back to California do I have to take another test..

hi, i have a friend coming over for a visit from Egypt and he is only staying here for 2 weeks does he need to make an international driver license or can he just use his country's Valid license ?

Thank you

I have a friend who is visiting on a tourist visa for several months and does not have a drivers license. Can he get a temporary California drivers license being of age if he passed the tests ?

I need apoiment for drivers licence in San Ysidro CA next week in the morning


I would like to ask a question I was told that I could make an appointment for a Driver license for illegal immigrant my husband

is in the process of because a residence of the USA but it will take a year

or so please let me know when I can make an appointment for him to get a

driver license

I have a roommate from Oklahoma and he NEEDS a California drivers license in order to get a driving job out here. What does he need to do, besides take the written test again? I mean how much is it and can he do it online? I went to the DMV here in Tracy and he has the handbook, but how much is it and could he take the written test online?? Please get back to me, Thank you.

Hi!, I'm 17 and 10 months, I have to wait until 18 years old for my drive license?

No you don't have to wait until you're 18. That's crazy. You can get your license when you're 16 years old. 15 & a half for a learners permit here in California. So that means, you can get your license NOW. You'll make an appointment for the written, pass the exam, then if you've never driven before, they make an appointment for you, and you'll take a driving test with an instructor. I took drivers ED: (A private driving school) it was a lot easier and in a classroom setting. My teacher was awesome!Make sure you use an automatic car if you don't know how to drive a stick. You should've had your license when you were 16! :)

I'm 23 years old live in CA and never have had a permit or driver license. I'm ready to get my drivers license. What steps do I need to do? Do I take my written test first or just go for behind the wheel? And what type of appointment do I make?

Where can I make the testing appointment online?

where can i make an appointment for written test appointment online? are utility bills, other mail showing my address sufficient for california proof of residence?



i want to make a appoinment for a driving license

We're can I make a appointment online

I want make a appointment for my firts license driver

driving test

make an appoiment

I Saira Galvan want to make an appoiment for the written test.

want to make an appointment

Want to make appt, need California license, I'm from out of state

need appointment to go renew my driver license in san Bernardino ca.

need appointment to renew my drivers license


I would like to make a appointment text

I would to like make appointment for behind the wheel test, i have the permit already

i have permit, need to pass the driving test. How do I make an apoointment

I would to like make appointment for behind the wheel test, I have the permit already