Updated January 2020
Here's the ultimate guide to getting your driver license at the California DMV. We've simplified the entire process for you so you can save time.
What You’ll Need to Get your California DMV Driver License
You'll need 3 documents to get your California driver license.
- You'll need proof of your Social Security number (Social Security card or Military ID).
- You'll need proof of your birth date and legal presence (i.e. original U.S. passport, original birth certificate, or certified copy of birth certificate).
- You'll need two proofs of your California residency (i.e. a mortgage bill, utility bill, cell phone bill, signed rental or lease agreement).
You'll need to pay $36, by cash or debit card. Credit cards are not accepted at the California DMV.
What You’ll Need (Non-US Citizens)
In order to be eligible for a license to drive, your F-1, J-1, H-1B, TN or E-3 status (or your spouse's status, if you are on a dependent visa) must have an expiration date 30 or more days beyond the date that you submit your application.
Additional Eligibility Requirements:
- Must be physically present within the United States at least 10 calendar days
- If you are on a student visa, you must wait at least 48 hours from the date that your record is validated in the SEVIS database
You'll need to bring original copies of the following to the DMV:
- Passport with visa and port of entry stamp
- Most recent I-94
- I-20, if in F-1 status
- DS-2019 and social security card, if in J-1 status
- Most recent I-797A, if in H-1B status, TN, or E-3 status AND have had either an extension or a status change (this is the stamped form that says your visa extension or status change application was approved and came attached with your most recent I-94). If you have not had this happen, your I-94 will be adequate and you will not be required to bring an I-797.
Bring 2 pieces of evidence of your California residency (copies or printouts are OK!), and make sure your CA address is 100% correct on each.
- Mortgage bill;
- Utility bills such as mobile phone, electricity, internet
- Rental or lease agreement signed by your landlord
- Signed employment contract
- Insurance documents
- Vehicle registration document
- Student tuition bill
$36, by cash or debit card
Individuals applying for a California driver's license or identification card are often asked to have a Social Security Number, but it is not mandatory if you are in a status that is ineligible for SSN (e.g. students). If you encounter any problems while applying at the DMV, please speak with a DMV Representative familiar with international students or scholars.
Dependents who are legally present in the US, but who are ineligible for an SSN (such as J-2s) must follow additional steps in order to be eligible for a drivers license. In short, J-2s must apply for a SSN and receive a denial letter from the SSA. The J-2 must then present the denial letter to the DMV, along with documents demonstrating legal presence, to apply for their driver's license.
California DMV Driver License: What You’ll Do
- Step 1: Prepare for the written test by completing a practice exam
- Step 2: Make an appointment for earlier than 4:30pm at your nearest DMV office
- Fill out the Driver License or Identification Card Application (Form DL 44; and we recommend filling it out online in advance) for a Class C (non-commercial) driver’s license
- Complete the vision and written tests (not administered later than 4:30pm)
- Provide the required documents and ID
- Have thumbprint and ID photo taken
- Pay $36 fee
- Receive your learner’s permit
- Step 3: Practice driving with a licensed driver over 18 years old
- Step 4: Schedule your road test
- Arrive for the test with a vehicle plus proof of vehicle registration and insurance
- Pass the test
- Receive a temporary license that is valid for 90 days
- Need access to a car and driver? Here's our car and driver service.
- Step 5: Receive your new Class D license via U.S. mail (within 60 days)
How to Get your California Driver License, 3 Minute Video
Ryder from Skip did a quick how-to video to help answer your questions
California DMV Driver License: More Questions?
Visit our California DMV information page.
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