California Driver’s Handbook

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Section 5 of 28

The California Driver License

Who Must Have a Driver License?

California Residents

California residents who drive on public highways or use parking facilities that are open to the public must have a California DL, unless they are:

  • An officer or employee of the U.S. government operating a vehicle owned or controlled by the U.S. government on federal business, except when operating a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Driving or operating implements of husbandry not operated or moved over a highway.
  • Driving or operating an off-highway vehicle across a highway.

California Resident Military Personnel (U.S. Armed Forces)

If you are out of state on active military duty and have a valid California DL, you and your spouse’s California DL will be valid for the full time you are absent from California and for 30 days following your discharge date, if you are honorably discharged outside of California. Carry both your DL and discharge or separation documents during those 30 days (CVC §12817).

Call 1-800-777-0133 to obtain an Extension of License for Person in Armed Forces (DL 236) card which extends your California DL.

Your DL is not valid if it is suspended, cancelled, or revoked.

Nonresident Military Personnel Stationed in California

If you are 18 years old or older, refer to the “California Residents” and “Adults Visiting California” sections in this handbook for additional information. Licensees eligible for military extensions should carry documentation from their home state to verify their status to law enforcement.

New California Residents

When you become a California resident and you want to drive in California, you must apply for a California DL within 10 days. Residency is established in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • Being registered to vote in California elections.
  • Paying resident tuition at a California college or university.
  • Filing for a homeowner’s property tax exemption.
  • Receiving any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.

Adults Visiting California

Visitors over 18 years old with a valid DL from their home state or country may drive in California without getting a California DL as long as their home state or country DL is valid.

Safety for the Aging Driver

DMV has a handbook specifically for senior drivers. Visit to view or download a copy of the Senior Guide for Safe Driving (DL 625), call 1-800-777-0133 to request a copy be mailed, go to a local DMV field office, or contact the Senior Driver Ombudsman Program in your area:

Los Angeles and Central Coast Counties
(310) 615-3552
Sacramento and Northern California Counties
(916) 657-6464
Orange and San Diego Counties
(714) 705-1588
San Francisco, Oakland, and Bay Areas
(510) 563-8998