New to California

Welcome to the Golden State! If you’re new to California, learn how to get your driver’s license and register your vehicle.

New to driving in the Golden State? See the California Driver’s Handbook to learn all there is to know about driving in California!

You are considered a resident of California if you are present in this state for six months or longer within a 12-month period,California Vehicle Code (CVC) §516 and you are not visiting on a temporary or transient basis.

  • You are registered to vote in California.
  • You are gainfully employed in California.
  • Your place of business is located in California.

This does not include military personnel.

  • You pay resident tuition at a public institution of higher education such as a university or college.
  • You have dependents who attend a primary or secondary school.
  • You are a homeowner with a property tax exemption.
  • You rent a property in California.
  • You have claimed residency to obtain a license, privilege, or other benefit that non-residents cannot obtain.
  • You have a current California driver’s license or ID card.
  • You are determined to be a resident because of acts, occurrences, or events that indicate that your presence in the state is more than temporary or transient. 

Everything you need to get set up in California

Registering Your Vehicle

A nonresident vehicle is a vehicle last registered in another state or country. Registration fees for nonresident vehicles must be paid to DMV within 20 days of the date they become due.

Getting a California Driver's License

If you become a California resident, you must get a California DL within 10 days. Residency is established by voting in a California election, paying resident tuition, filing for a homeowner’s property tax exemption, or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.

Driver's License and Identification (DL/ID) Cards

You need a valid California DL to operate a motor vehicle in California. Learn more about the types of DL and ID cards available, and how to apply.

More Vehicle Registration

A vehicle must be registered in California if it is based in California or is primarily used on California highways (CVC §4000.4).


Beginning May 7, 2025, you will be required to present a federal compliant ID such as a valid U.S. passport, military ID, or REAL ID DL/ID card in order to board a domestic flight and enter federal facilities like military bases, federal courthouses, and other secure federal sites.

License Plates, Decals, & Placards

Vehicles registered in California need California license plates. Learn more about the types of plates, decals, and placards that identify vehicles on California roads.