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California Driver Handbook - Obtaining a Driver License


California Driver Handbook - Obtaining a Driver License

When you apply for an original California DL, you must present acceptable documents establishing your identity, residency and birthdate, and provide your social security number (SSN), if eligible. When a document is required, with the exception of proof of residency, the document(s) provided:

  • Must be a certified copy, or an original document.
  • May contain an impressed seal or original stamped impression.
  • Must not be a photocopy.
  • Must not present self-laminated cards or documents.

If you present a legal presence document, your DL/ID card may expire on the same date as your legal presence document. If the name on your document is different from the name on your DL/ID card application, you must also bring an acceptable true full name document. Your fingerprint, signature, and photograph will also be taken (refer to the “Application Requirements for a Basic Class C Driver License” section below). For any other DL/ID card transaction, you must present photo identification.

  • Examples of acceptable documents include: U.S. Birth Certificate, U.S. Passport, U.S. Armed Forces ID Cards, Certificate of Naturalization, Permanent Resident Card, or a foreign passport with a valid I-94. The I-94 expiration date must be more than 2 months from the DL/ID card application date.
  • Examples of true full name verification documents include: adoption documents containing your legal name as a result of the adoption, name change documents containing your legal name both before and after, a marriage certificate, a certificate or registration document verifying the formation of a domestic partnership, or a dissolution of marriage document containing your legal name as a result of the court order.
  • Examples of acceptable residency documents include: home utility bill (including cellular phone), insurance documents, California title or registration for a vehicle or vessel, or record of a financial institution. A parent, legal guardian, or child may use a birth certificate, and a spouse or domestic partner may use a marriage license or domestic partner registration certificate to trace their relationship to the individual to whom the acceptable residency documents were addressed.

A complete list of acceptable documents is available at


How the REAL ID Act Impacts Californians

Beginning October 1, 2020, the federal government will require your DL/ID card to be REAL ID compliant if you wish to use it as ID to board an airplane for domestic flights or enter military bases and most federal facilities.

The California DMV will provide a federal compliant REAL ID DL/ID card as an option to customers beginning on January 22, 2018.

If you have a U.S. passport, passport card, military ID, or another form of Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) approved ID, these documents will still be accepted to board an airplane. A federally compliant ID will also be required to access military bases and most federal facilities.

The federal REAL ID Act of 2005 was passed in response to the events of 9/11. For more on the REAL ID Act, visit the Department of Homeland Security website.

Do I Need a REAL ID?

The federal compliant REAL ID DL/ID card is optional.

If you have a valid U.S. passport or passport card, military ID, or other federally approved ID, you may use this as your form of ID to pass a TSA checkpoint at airports nationwide and visit a secure federal building or military installations at any time.

If you know you will not be boarding a domestic flight or visiting a secure federal facility or military base, you do not need a REAL ID DL or ID card.

You do not need a federal compliant REAL ID DL or ID card to do any of the following:

  • Drive.
  • Vote.
  • Apply for or receive federal benefits (Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration (SSA), etc.).
  • Enter a federal facility that does not require ID (i.e., a post office).
  • Visit a hospital or receive life-saving services.

How Do I Prepare to Apply for a REAL ID Card?

To apply for a REAL ID card, you must do the following:

  • Provide proof of identity, such as your certified birth certificate or passport.
  • Show a California residency document.
  • Present proof of your social security number (SSN).
    • Note: You can request a replacement social security card online.

Note: The DMV website will be updated to include a full list of acceptable REAL ID documents in the coming months.

Married, Divorced, or Name Change?

You may need to provide a name change document.

Name change document(s), such as a marriage license, may be required to issue a REAL ID DL or ID card in your true full name. If the name on your identity document is different from the name you provided on your application, you must submit a document that establishes your true full name. For example:

  • Adoption documents that contain the legal names as a result of adoption.
  • A name change document that contains the legal name both before and after the name change.
  • A marriage certificate.
  • A certificate, declaration, or registration document verifying the formation of a domestic partnership.
  • A dissolution of marriage/domestic partnership document that contains the legal name as a result of the court action.

Application Requirements For A Basic Class C Driver License

To apply for a Class C DL, you must:

  • Submit a completed and signed Driver License or Identification Card Application (DL 44) form. Signing this form means you agree to submit to a chemical test to determine the alcohol or drug content of your blood when requested by a peace officer. If you refuse to sign this statement, DMV will not issue a permit or DL.
  • Present an acceptable document(s) establishing your identity and birthdate.
  • Provide your true full name.
  • Present an acceptable residency document(s) if you have never had a California DL/ID card.
  • Provide your SSN, if eligible, which will be electronically verified with the SSA.
  • Pay a nonrefundable application fee. The fee is good for 12 months and allows you to take the appropriate knowledge test(s) 3 times. If you fail the knowledge or driving test 3 times, your application will be void and a new application and fee are required. This fee pays for both the instruction permit and DL, if you qualify for both documents within the 12-month period. If the application expires, you must resubmit documents, repay the application fee, and retake the required tests.
  • Pass a vision test. You must be able to pass a vision test, with or without corrective lenses, with visual acuity better than 20/200 in at least one eye without the use of a bioptic telescopic lens or similar bioptic device to meet the minimum vision acuity standard (CVC §12805(b)).
  • Have your photograph taken.
  • Give a fingerprint scan.
  • Sign your name.

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