Driver’s Licenses

Online Forms

A California driver’s license (DL) is a card which gives you permission to operate a motor vehicle. A DL includes your true full name, birthdate, mailing address, signature, photograph, and physical description. The card must be in your possession anytime you operate a motor vehicle. 

Planning future travels? As of the new May 7, 2025 deadline, you will not be allowed to use your driver’s license to board a domestic flight unless it is REAL ID compliant. Learn more.

You need a valid California DL to operate a motor vehicle. Learn about the types of DLs offered and the requirements for applying for one.

You can start your application for a DL online and finish the process at a DMV office. There’s an application fee for original, renewal, and replacement DLs.

License Types

There are two main categories of DLs: noncommercial and commercial. Within the noncommercial category, there are sub-types of licenses that authorize drivers to operate specific types of motor vehicles. Details about the categories and sub-types of licenses can be found below, as well as in the California Driver Handbook.

There are four types of noncommercial DLs:

  • Basic DL (Class C): A standard vehicle or truck for personal use on California roadways. With a Class C driver’s license, you may tow:
  • A single vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less (including a tow dolly).
  • With a vehicle weighing 4000 lbs. or more unladen, a:
    • Trailer coach or fifth-wheel travel trailer under 10,000 lbs. GVWR when towing is not for compensation.
    • Fifth-wheel travel trailer exceeding 10,000 lbs. but under 15,000 lbs. GVWR, when towing is not for compensation, and with endorsement.
  • Motorcycle (Class M1 or M2): 2-wheel motorized vehicle. Learn how to apply for a motorcycle license.
  • Travel trailer/fifth wheel (Noncommercial Class A): Over 15,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or a trailer coach over 10,000 pounds GVWR (when the towing is not for compensation).
  • Housecar/motorhome (Noncommercial Class B): Over 40 feet, but not over 45 feet (with endorsement).

All noncommercial DLs are available as either REAL ID compliant or federal non-compliant cards.

Once you complete the requirements of your provisional instruction permit, you are eligible to take your driving test. You must:

  • Be between 16-18 years old.
  • Have held your provisional instruction permit for a minimum of six months.
  • Have completed driver education.
  • Have completed six hours of professional driver training.
  • Have completed 50 hours of practice with an adult 25 years old or older who has a valid California DL and can certify that you completed the 50 hours of practice.
  • Practice driving at night for at least 10 of the 50 practice hours.

To take your driving test:

  • Schedule a driving test appointment (driving tests are not given without an appointment). You may also call 1-800-777-0133 during regular business hours to make an appointment.
  • Provide proof of financial responsibility (insurance) that meets or exceeds California insurance requirements.

If you fail your drive test, you must wait 14 days (not including the day the test was failed) before you may take the test again. There is a fee of $7 to retest. If you fail the driving test three times, your application is no longer valid and you must reapply.

Once you pass the driving test, DMV will issue you a temporary DL until you receive your new DL in the mail. The temporary DL is valid for 60 days. You will receive your DL via mail within 3-4 weeks. If you haven’t received your new DL after 60 days, call 1-800-777-0133 to check the status.

If you are 16 or 17 and have a valid driver’s license from another country, you may drive in California for a maximum of ten days. You may drive for more than ten days if:

  • You obtain a nonresident minor’s certificate from DMV.
  • You have filed proof of financial responsibility with DMV.
  • Your driver’s license, nonresident minor’s certificate, and proof of financial responsibility are in your immediate possession when driving.

All California residents need to have a valid California DL to operate a motor vehicle. Application requirements vary based on your individual situation (see below).

Situation #1: “I’ve never had a DL.”

If you are over 18 years of age and you have never had a DL in any state or country, you may obtain an instruction permit until you are ready to take your driving test.

A provisional instruction permit is only for drivers under the age of 18. An instruction permit would be issued to a person over age 18.

Once you complete the requirements of the instruction permit, you can take the driving test to get a California DL.

Situation #2: “I have a DL issued by another state.”

Here’s how you apply for a California DL if you already have a valid DL that was issued by another state:

Situation #3: “I have a DL issued by another country.”

If you have a DL issued by another country, follow the application process listed above for “I have a DL issued by another state.”

You’ll also need to pass a driving test to obtain an original California DL.

To take your driving test:

  • Schedule a driving test appointment (driving tests are not given without an appointment).
  • Provide proof of financial responsibility (insurance) that meets or exceeds California insurance requirements.

If you have a valid DL from another country, an accompanying driver is required to and from the drive test.

Your application fee allows you three attempts to pass the driving test. If you fail the driving test, you must schedule a new driving test on another day and pay a $7 retest fee. If you fail the driving test three times, your application is no longer valid and you must reapply.

Situation #4: “I am ineligible for a DL, but can prove legal presence in California.”

Any Californian who can prove their current legal presence in the United States (U.S.) with one of the accepted identity documents (original or certified copy) is eligible to receive a standard or REAL ID driver license or identification (DL/ID) card. This includes all U.S. citizens, permanent residents who are not U.S. citizens (Green Card holders), and those with temporary legal status, such as recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and holders of a valid student or employment visa. For Californians with temporary legal status, their DL/ID card will expire depending on their immigration status, will expire on the same date as their U.S. legal presence document, and they can receive a new card with a documented extension of their legal status.

See the full list of acceptable identity documents for a Federal Non-Compliant or REAL ID Compliant DL/ID card.

There are many other ways to prove that you are legally present in the United States:

  • If you were born in the U.S., you may provide a U.S. birth certificate, passport, or passport card.
  • If you are an immigrant to the U.S., you may provide a U.S. citizen naturalization or citizenship document, or a Permanent Resident Card.
  • If you are a non-immigrant, but are authorized to be in the U.S., you may present a Temporary Resident Identification card or other temporary resident documentation.

Your DL will remain valid until the expiration date printed on the card.

If you no longer maintain U.S. legal presence, you can convert your DL to an AB 60 DL.


REAL ID compliant DLs are noncommercial or commercial licenses that also allow you to board domestic flights, enter military bases, and enter most secure federal facilities.

All California REAL ID compliant DL cards contain a California grizzly bear and a star on the front upper-right corner of the card.

Individuals applying for a DL through AB 60 are unable to apply for a REAL ID compliant card.

Additional Card Markings

  • Veteran designation: Eligible veterans can add the word “VETERAN” to the front of their DL to indicate that they served in the United States (U.S.) Military. This designation may grant individuals access to certain privileges, benefits, or compensation associated with being a veteran without having to carry and produce a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD Form 214).
    • You must provide a completed Veteran Status Verification Form (VSD-001) (issued by a County Veterans Service Office) at the DMV office to receive the veteran designation on your DL.
  • Organ and tissue donor: When you add your name to the Donate Life California Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, you’re legally authorizing the recovery of organs and tissues in the event of your death. A pink “DONOR” dot will be printed on your DL.

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