Veterans and Active Duty Military

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Operating Vehicles in California

Nonresident military personnel and both military or civilian members of NATO who are not citizens of the U.S. are permitted to operate a vehicle with valid license plates from either:

  • The individual’s home state or country.
  • The state or country where the individual was regularly assigned and stationed when the license plates were issued, if the following requirements are met:
    • The license plates displayed on the vehicle are valid plates issued by a foreign jurisdiction.
    • The vehicle registration and license plates are issued to the military person or spouse of the military person.
    • The vehicle registration and license plates are issued by the foreign jurisdiction where the military person was last regularly assigned and stationed for duty by military orders or a jurisdiction claimed by the nonresident military person as the permanent state of residence.
    • If the vehicle is a motor vehicle, the owner or driver has insurance.

Military orders do not include orders for leave, temporary duty, or other assignment of any nature requiring the military person’s presence outside the foreign jurisdiction where the owner was regularly assigned and stationed for duty.

This section applies to all vehicles owned by the military person or spouse except any CMV used in any business manner.

Military personnel who are also California residents but are deployed to a location outside the state may qualify for a renewal penalty waiver for penalties incurred during deployment. The application for registration renewal must be submitted with the appropriate fees within 60 days after termination of deployment.

To qualify, the registered owner must be ordered to temporary military duty during a period when a Presidential Executive Order specifies the U.S. is engaged in combat or homeland defense and the registered owner is a member of one of the following:

  • Armed Forces
  • Armed Forces Reserve
  • National Guard

Deployment does not include:

  • Temporary duty for the sole purpose of training or processing.
  • A permanent change of station.

Complete a Miscellaneous Statements of Fact (REG 256) stating:

  • That you are a member of the armed forces, armed forces reserve, or the national guard.
  • The termination date of deployment.

Any person entering California following discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces is exempted from registration of passenger vehicles and trailer coaches provided the vehicles have out-of-state plates and registration.

Registration becomes due when you accept gainful employment in California or become a California resident (as defined in CVC §516) and must be paid within 20 days following that date to avoid penalties.

If you are on active duty, you may operate a CMV owned by you without obtaining California registration provided the vehicle has valid registration in your home state or the state of military assignment at the time of registration, and is not used in a trade or business.

Any CMV owned by military personnel used in any business manner that provides compensation is subject to California registration.

Military personnel stationed in California are exempt from VLF payment on any vehicle owned or leased and registered in California provided:

  • The nonresident military owner is shown as a lessee or registered owner of the vehicle.
  • The vehicle is not operated “for hire.”

In order to obtain the VLF exemption, military personnel must:

Frequently Asked Questions

Eligible veterans have the opportunity to add the word “VETERAN” to the front of their DL/ID card to indicate that they have served in the United States (U.S.) military.

To apply for the veteran designation on your DL/ID card, you will need to:

Veterans can request benefit information whenever they submit to DMV a DL44/eDL44, Commercial Driver License Application (DL44C) form or when renewing their DL/ID card online by checking the “Yes” box when asked if they would like to receive veteran benefit information.

Statutory Authority: California Vehicle Code (CVC) §§12811, 14901.1

The Extension of License for Person in Armed Forces (DL 236) card shows CVC §12817, which authorizes the extension of you and your spouse’s DLs if you are out of state on active military service in the U.S. Armed Forces or U.S. Foreign Service. It is important to update your driving record to prevent it from being purged. Your DL is not valid if it has been suspended, cancelled, or revoked.

If on duty in another state or country, check with authorities whether they will honor your extended DL. You and your spouse’s extended DLs are good for 30 days upon return to California. If honorably discharged, carry both your DL and discharge papers during those 30 days.

When you and your spouse return to California, you will need to:

  • Complete a Driver’s License & Identification Card Application (DL 44/eDL 44) or a Commercial Driver’s License Application (DL 44C) before you go into DMV.
  • Visit a DMV office in person, where you will:
    • Pay the nonrefundable application fee. This fee grants you 12 months to complete all required licensing requirements, and three attempts to pass each of the required knowledge tests. If all application requirements are not met within that 12 months, or if you fail the knowledge test three times, you will need to complete another application and pay the nonrefundable application fee again.
  • Give a fingerprint scan.
  • Pass a vision exam.
  • Have your photograph taken.
  • Pass a knowledge test.

If you will not be returning to California:

  • Go to DMV in your new state of residence.
  • Follow the state’s requirements.
  • Present your California DL with your DL 236 card when requested.

If your DL has expired and out of state or your dependent’s California DL is expiring, apply for a DL renewal by calling DMV at (916) 657-7790 or they can request a no-fee one-year extension by writing to DMV at:

Department of Motor Vehicles
PO Box 942890
Sacramento, California 94290-0001

Be sure to include the full name as it appears on the DL, DL number, birth date, and address in the request.

Through the Military Even Exchange program, qualified and eligible military service members seeking an initial commercial driver license (CDL) may apply for a waiver of the CDL knowledge and skills tests. Qualified applicants will be issued a California (CA) CDL that is applicable to the type of vehicle(s) they operated during their military service.

Qualified applicants must submit a completed Commercial Military Waiver (DL 965) and meet all the requirements for a CA CDL:

  • Active service members (active duty, reserve, or national guard)
  • Within 12 months of discharge and provide the proper documentation to support their application.

Learn more by visiting the Commercial Driver’s License page.

Applicants must meet all licensing requirements. This Exchange program does not apply to the School Bus (S) endorsement.

The Troops to Trucks program makes it easier for personnel trained by the military in the operation of heavy vehicles to obtain a civilian commercial driver license (CDL). The CDL driving test can be waived for qualified military service members who are, or were, employed within the last year in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public roads and highways. The driving test will not be waived for a school bus and/or passenger endorsement.

To meet the requirements as detailed in federal regulation an applicant must certify that, during the 2-year period immediately prior to applying for a CDL, they have not had:

  • More than one license (except for a military license).
  • Any license suspended, revoked, or cancelled.
  • Any convictions for any type of motor vehicle for the disqualifying offenses:
    • Any alcohol or drug related offenses.
    • Leaving the scene of an accident.
    • Commission of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle.
    • Driving a CMV while your CDL is suspended, revoked, disqualified, or cancelled.
    • Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a CMV, including, but not limited to, manslaughter, homicide by motor vehicle, and negligent homicide.
    • Use of a motor vehicle in a felony involving manufacturing, distribution, or dispensing of a controlled substance.
    • Violation of state or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control (other than a parking violation) arising in connection with any traffic accident and has no record of an accident in which they were at fault.
  • More than one conviction for any type of motor vehicle for serious traffic violations:
    • Speeding in excess of 15 mph.
    • Reckless driving.
    • Making improper or erratic lane changes.
    • Following the vehicle ahead to closely.
    • A violation arising in connection with a fatal accident.
    • Driving a CMV without obtaining a CDL.
    • Driving a CMV without a CDL in possession.
    • Driving a CMV without the proper class or endorsement.
    • Violating a state or local law or ordinance prohibiting texting while driving.
    • Violating a state or local law or ordinance prohibiting the use of a hand held telephone while driving.

An applicant must provide evidence and certify they:

  • Are regularly employed or was regularly employed within the last year in a military position requiring operation of a CMV.
  • Were exempted from the CDL requirements in Code of Federal Regulations §383.3(c).
  • Were operating a CMV equivalent to a civilian commercial vehicle for at least two years immediately preceding discharge from the military.

The certifications may be made using the following forms:

Submit the following documents to a DMV office:

  • DL 965
  • Acceptable identity document
  • Social security card, medicare card, or U.S. Armed Forces ID card
  • DD 214 – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (Veterans)

A CDL is required in California to operate large trucks and buses. You must complete a Commercial Driver’s License Application (DL 44C/eDL44C).

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