How to Get Your California Drivers License
It’s incredibly exciting to get your California learners permit and California drivers license. But it can be pretty overwhelming, too. I Drive Safely is here to demystify the process and give you all the information you need to get where you’re going. Here’s an easy how-to guide detailing every step of the process – from signing up for California Drivers Ed to getting behind the wheel with a drivers license.
- STEP 1: Take Our California Drivers License Course
- STEP 2: Know Your Behind-the-Wheel Training Options
- STEP 3: Get Your Permit at The DMV
- STEP 4: Pass a Behind-The-Wheel Training Course
- STEP 5: Practice! Practice! Practice!
- STEP 6: Apply for your first-time Drivers License
- About CA’s Graduated Driver Licensing Process
STEP 1: Take Our California Drivers License Course
If you are under 17 ½ years old, you are required to pass a drivers education course before you can earn your learners permit or drivers license in California. You must be at least 15 ½ years old.
- Pass the course. (Which you’ll do. We guarantee it.)
- Once you pass the course, we’ll send you your certificate of completion (Form OL 237).
- Be sure to bring your certificate of completion form with you when you go to the DMV. This proves you’ve passed the course and allows you to take your drivers permit test. Now you're one step closer to getting your California drivers license.
STEP 2: Know Your Behind-the-Wheel Training Options
If you’re between 15 ½ and 17 ½, you need to complete a driver training program at some point on the path to get your drivers license. And, when you go to the DMV to take your permit test, be sure to provide proof that you:
- Have a driver training certificate of completion, or
- Have a certificate of enrollment in a driver training program
STEP 3: Get Your California Permit at the DMV
Be sure you have all your forms in order before you head to the DMV to take your drivers permit test.
- Take the DMV Form DL 44, our certificate of completion (Form OL 237), and proof that you have completed driver training or are enrolled in a driver training program, to the DMV.
- Pass a written traffic law and sign test.
- There are 46 questions on the test. A passing score is at least 38 correct answers. You have 3 chances to pass the drivers permit test. If you fail, you must wait 7 days before taking it again.
- Pass a vision exam.
- Pay the fee.
- This fee entitles you to 3 exams of any type within the 12-month period and pays for both the instruction permit and the drivers license. If all requirements are not met within the 12-month period, the application becomes void and all steps must be completed again.
- Get your driver license picture taken.
- Have your fingerprints taken.
- You’ll also need to provide documents that prove your identity.
Forms You’ll Need to Present at the California DMV
- DL 44 – The state of California does not provide the DL 44 online. You MUST get this form either at the DMV, or by mail. To obtain a DL 44 by mail, call DMV’s automated phone service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (800) 777-0133. Original signatures are required on this form. Each DL 44 contains a unique barcode which must be scanned or keyed by a DMV employee.
- You’ll need to submit a completed DL 44 (yours and your parents’ signatures must be on this form). Signing this form means you agree to submit to a chemical test to determine the alcohol or drug content of your blood when required by a peace officer. If you refuse to sign this statement, the DMV will not issue a permit or license.
- Certificate of completion (Form OL 237) – Once you successfully complete our online course, we’ll send you your approved Form OL 237. This ensures the California DMV that you have successfully graduated and are qualified to take the written permit exam.
Other Documents You’ll Need:
Proof of Age and U.S. Citizenship or Legal Status
Some acceptable documents include:
- U.S. birth certificate
- Proof of Indian Blood Degree
- U.S. passport
- Official U.S. Armed Forces Identification Card
- Naturalization certificate
- Permanent Resident Card
- Passport from another country or Mexican Border Crossing Card (with a valid I-94 form)
Social Security Number
Your Social Security number will be verified with the Social Security Administration. You must supply legal documents stating your true full name as a result of adoption or marriage, if applicable. Legal documents should contain your legal name both before and after the name change. Acceptable documents may include:
- Adoption documents that contain your full legal name after adoption
- Marriage certificate
- A registration document or declaration certificate which gives validity to a domestic partnership
- Proof of divorce/annulment, or other document which shows marriage dissolution, which gives your full legal name post-court action
*Note: If you are over 17 ½ but under 18 years old, you can get your permit without providing driver education and driver training certificates. However, you will not be able to take the driving test until you turn 18.
As soon as you pass your written test and fulfill these other requirements, you will be issued a California driver’s permit.
STEP 4: Complete a Behind-the-Wheel Training Course
- Complete at least 6 hours of professional driver training.
- Legally, you must complete this course before moving on and practicing with your parent or legal guardian.
STEP 5: Practice, Practice, Practice!
- You’re done with the professional driving instructor – now you’re required to driving 50 hours with parental supervision. (Word to the wise – stay calm, smile a lot, and try not to get too frustrated.)
- Remember that 10 of these hours must take place at night.
- Once you pass our California drivers ed online course and your behind-the-wheel training, you will need to wait 6 months before applying for your new California drivers license. Use this time to get as much practice as you can!
STEP 6: Apply for Your First-Time California Drivers License
You must be at least 16 years old to apply for your first-time drivers license, and you will need to have held your permit for 6 months.
You’ll need to bring a few things with you to the DMV when you go to apply:
- Proof that you completed drivers ed and behind-the-wheel training
- Your permit, which must be signed by your parent, guardian, or instructor
- Valid vehicle registration
- Proof of insurance
- An acceptable document that proves your birth date/legal presence
- Proof of your true full name
- Your Social Security number
NOTE: You are required to make an DMV appointment for taking your exam.
After that, you just need to pass your driving test, and you’ll have your California drivers license! Good luck!
Provisional California Drivers License Restrictions
Your California drivers license is called “provisional” for a reason: it’s not unrestricted yet. If you are a new driver who is at least 16 years old, but younger than 18, the following driving restrictions will apply:
- For the first year (or until you turn 18), unless a licensed driver age 25 or older is present, you can’t have any passengers under 20 years old in the car. Exceptions can be made for family needs.
- For the first year (or until you turn 18), you cannot drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a licensed driver 25 or older. There are exceptions to the rule: If you have a statement from the appropriate school official, employer, doctor or parent/guardian stating why you should be allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., you may be allowed to drive during these hours.
Any violation of these rules can result in either court-ordered community service or a fine. Tickets will be issued if an officer stops you for another violation.
Keep in mind that maintaining a clean driving record is important. One citation or at-fault crash will result in a DMV warning. Two or more violations will result in a restricted or suspended drivers license. Not to mention these violations can keep you from getting your full California drivers license.
If you have no outstanding DMV or court-ordered restrictions, suspensions, or probation when you reach the age of 18, you can get your full California drivers license! And best of all, you don’t have to go back to the DMV to do so–the DMV will automatically upgrade you. Enjoy your full California drivers license!
Need More Help?
Should you need further information on how to get a California drivers license, please visit California’s Official DMV Website.