How to Apply for a Driver’s License in California
New drivers licenses cannot be obtained online or by mail. Instead, you must apply for a new license in person at a local DMV. While there, you must pass a vision screening, a written exam and a skills test. To make sure that you are prepared, download our informative online drivers license guide. Our guide contains everything you need to know to complete this application easily and quickly. In it, you will get in-depth details on how to complete other important licensing transactions, such as updating personal information on your license, renewing your license and replacing a lost one.
2. In Person at the DMV
To obtain a new drivers license at the DMV, you must submit identification documents and pass mandatory tests. A birth certificate or passport can verify your name and age, and a utility bill can prove your state residency. Generally, you must pass a written knowledge exam and a road skills test. You must also fill out a drivers license application form and pay the applicable fees. However, you may not know which forms to complete or if you are already eligible to take your exams. Arriving at the DMV unprepared may result in long wait times and potential mistakes, which could mean having to redo the process.
Without a valid California drivers license, you are not legally authorized to operate a motor vehicle in the state. Thus, it is important for you to understand how to obtain the appropriate driving credential before driving in public streets. Knowing where to get a driver’s license and which steps must be taken can make a big difference in how easily and quickly you are able to get your first license.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the process for getting a California drivers license as a motorist who is 18 years of age or older is different from the process of applying for a new driver’s license as a motorist who is younger than 18 years of age. As a teenager, you are only eligible for a provisional license, and there are more steps involved with getting a license with full privileges. To learn more about these different driving credentials in California and how to get them, read the sections below.
How to Apply for a Drivers License in California as an Adult (18 or Older)
If you are 18 years of age or older, you may apply to get your first driving credential as long as you meet the California drivers license requirements that are set in place for a standard license. In general, this application process is not very complicated, as long as you are familiar with the steps and know what you need to bring beforehand. You are typically eligible to get a CA DMV driver’s license that is not provisional as long as you are at least 18 years of age. This license is a standard non-commercial credential that allows you to operate a motor vehicle without restrictions in the state.
Additional drivers license eligibility requirements that you must meet before obtaining this type of license include being a California resident, providing valid proof of identity and being able to pass the required written knowledge test. In order to obtain your first driver’s license in California, you must follow certain steps. These steps include the following:
- Make an appointment at your local California DMV office. It is not possible to get a driver’s license online in CA.
- Fill out the Driver License or Identification Card Application (DL 44) Form and provide your Social Security Number (SSN) on that form.
- Provide original or certified copies of documents that establish your full name, date of birth and legal residency or status in the U.S.
- Have your fingerprints
- Pass a vision exam.
- Pay the applicable DMV license
- Pass a written knowledge test and a road skills exam.
- Receive your license.
FAQ: How long does it take to get your license in the mail in California? Once you pass the driving skills exam, you will be issued a temporary driver’s license that lasts for 90 days. You will receive your permanent CA license in the mail within 60 days.
For more answers to frequently asked questions, including questions on CA DMV license renewal, check our CA FAQ page.
Changing Your Drivers License to California From Out of State (New Residents)
After moving to California, the DMV requires that you get a CA driving license within 10 days. To do so, you must be mindful of all of the driver’s license information detailed in previous sections. These steps include providing the documents needed for a California driver’s license and taking a knowledge test. On the other hand, because you are already a motorist who was licensed in a different state, you will likely not be required to take a road skills test as part of the process to transfer driver’s license credentials to California.
How to Apply for a Drivers License in California as a Teen (Younger Than 18)
If you are a motorist who is younger than 18 years of age, you may qualify for a provisional DMV drivers license. This type of driving credential will allow you to operate a motor vehicle under certain restrictions. For instance, these restrictions include not being allowed to operate a car between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., or transport passengers who are younger than 20 years of age. To avoid those limitations, you must be accompanied by a licensed motorist who is older than 25 years of age.
It is essential that you understand how to get a California drivers license as a teenager so that you can be well-prepared before beginning the process. To learn more information about this credential, read the sections below.
California Driver’s License Eligibility Requirements for Teens (Younger Than 18)
In order to apply for a driver’s license in California as a minor, you must meet certain eligibility requirements first. For example, you must:
- Be between 16-18 years of age.
- Have held a valid learner’s permit for at least six months.
- Provide proof of completion of driver education.
- Have completed 50 hours of driving practice (10 hours at night) and have a parent/guardian and instructor sign your learner’s permit, verifying the completion of these practice hours.
- Pass the DMV driving test.
You must hold a learner’s permit, also known as an instruction permit, for at least six months in order to get a CA driver’s license. In general, this permit can be obtained as long as you are at least 15-and-a-half years of age, but younger than 18 years of age. Thus, adults who apply for a license do not need to obtain a learner’s permit first. To be eligible for a learner DMV license, you must provide acceptable documentation, pay the applicable fees, have your fingerprint and photograph taken and pass both a vision and a written knowledge test.
If you are younger than 18 years of age, you must complete a driver’s education program when applying for a new driver’s license or learner’s permit. On the other hand, if you are 18 years of age or older, you are not required to provide proof of completion of a driver’s ed course.
Steps for Getting a Driver’s License in California as a Teen (Younger Than 18)
Knowing what you need to get your license before you apply can be very beneficial for teenagers in California. That is because the process of getting your first license to drive can be confusing if you are not aware of the steps involved. To apply for a DMV license as a teen, you must:
- Make an appointment at your local California DMV office, then visit during your appointment time.
- Fill out the Driver License or Identification Card Application (DL 44) Form and provide your Social Security Number (SSN) on it.
- Provide parent/guardian signatures on the DL 44 form stating the completion of 50 driving hours.
- Provide original or certified documents that establish your birth date, full name, in-state residency and legal status in the U.S.
- Provide proof of driver education completion or enrollment.
- Scan your fingerprints.
- Pass a vision exam.
- Pay the DMV license
- Schedule and pass a driving test.
- Receive your license.
California Drivers License Costs
There are certain drivers license costs that are worth noting before you fill out the CA driver’s license application. For instance, in order to apply for a California driver’s license, you must pay the non-refundable $35 fee. This fee payment remains valid for 12 months, giving you three attempts to pass the knowledge tests and one attempt to pass the road skills exam.
If you fail the driving test on your first try, you will need to pay $7 for each subsequent retest. After three failed attempts the application will no longer be valid, and you will need to reapply. Furthermore, there is no reduced fee for drivers license applications.
Note: To renew your driver license after its expiration date or to replace a lost drivers license in CA, you will have to pay separate fees based on your situation.