California Driver’s Handbook

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Section 5 of 22

Section 2: Getting an Instruction Permit and Driver’s License

If you do not have a driver’s license from California or another state, you must apply for an instruction permit before taking the behind-the-wheel drive test to get your driver’s license.

What You Need

To apply for an instruction permit or driver’s license, you must provide:

  • Proof of identity: Proving who you are.
  • Two proofs of residency: Proving you live in California. Exceptions may apply.
  • Legal full name document: Proving your current name if the name on your identity document and application do not match.
  • Social security number: Exceptions may apply.

For REAL ID requirements, current acceptable documents, and eligibility, visit

Register To Vote

For information on registering to vote, visit California Secretary of State at

Applying For An Instruction Permit

To apply for a Class C instruction permit:

  1. Complete a Driver’s License & ID Card Application.
  2. Provide your documents.
  3. Pay a non-refundable application fee.
  4. Pass your knowledge test(s).
  5. Pass a vision test.

For more information, visit for a complete list of application steps and requirements.

If you are under 18 years old, you will also need to:

  • Be at least 15½ years old.
  • Complete a driver education program.
  • Have a parent or guardian sign to approve the application and accept financial responsibility (see Section 10). If your parents or guardians share joint custody of you, both must sign.
  • Wait to use your instruction permit until you start behind-the-wheel driver training with an instructor who will validate the permit.

Driving Schools

Driver education and driver training are offered at DMV-licensed driving schools and some high schools. Instructors must carry an instructor’s ID card. Ask to see it.

See the Driver Training Schools page at for more information about selecting a driving school.

Applying For A Driver’s License

To get your driver’s license after you have your instruction permit, you need to:

  • Practice driving with a California-licensed driver who is at least 18 years old (25 for minors). This person must sit close enough to take control of the vehicle if needed.
  • Pass a behind-the-wheel drive test.

If you are under 18 years old, you will also need to:

  • Be at least 16 years old.
  • Have an instruction permit from California or another state for at least 6 months (or turn 18 years old) before scheduling your behind-the-wheel drive test.
  • Prove that you completed both driver education and driver training.
  • Practice driving for at least 50 hours with a California-licensed driver who is at least 25 years old. Ten hours must be at night.

See the Driver’s Licenses page at for the complete list of application steps, requirements, the Parent Teen Driving Contract, and Driving Performance Evaluation (DPE) Score Sheet.

Minor’s Restrictions and Exceptions

When you are under 18 years old, your driver’s license will have the word provisional. As a provisional driver, you cannot drive:

  • Between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. during the first 12 months you have your license.
  • With passengers under 20 years old, unless your parent or guardian or other California-licensed driver (at least 25 years old) rides with you.
  • For pay or operate vehicles that require a commercial Class A, B, or C license.

There are exceptions to these restrictions if you:

  • Have a medical need and cannot reasonably find another way to travel. You must carry a note signed by your physician. The note must have your medical condition and date you are expected to recover.
  • Drive for schooling or a school activity. You must carry a note signed by your school principal, dean, or designee.
  • Must drive for work reasons. You must carry a note signed by your employer. The note must confirm your employment.
  • Must drive an immediate family member. You must carry a note signed by your parent or legal guardian. The note must state the reason you need to drive, the family member, and date when the need will end.

A parent or guardian may cancel their teen’s license by completing a Request for Cancellation or Surrender of a Driver License or ID Card form.