New to California

SUMMARY: New California Residents

If you're new to California, there are many things you need to remember to do, such as applying for a California driver's license and registering your car in the state, both handled by the Department of Motor Vehicles. You'll also need to register to vote, as well as read up on any exemptions or requirements if you're active duty military now stationed in California.

CA State Departments

As a resident of California, it's important to understand which agencies handle your DMV-related tasks. In California, your main agency is the Department of Motor Vehicles, which handles:

  • Licensing services:
    • Driver licensing, non-driver ID cards, teen licenses and learner's permits, etc.
  • Vehicle services:
    • Vehicle registration and renewal, titling, title transfers, boat registration, etc.

Traffic tickets are typically handled by the California court system, though ticket points can affect your DMV driving record. Voter registration and elections are overseen by the California Secretary of State, though you can also register to vote at a DMV office when you apply for your driver's license or ID card.

Just Moved?

Find all the information you need to finish your moving requirements with the DMV.

California Vehicles

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has strict rules for new residents when it comes to registering your out-of-state vehicle within your new state. Make sure you're aware of all the rules and processes to avoid receiving a fine and possibly other penalties.

Register Your Vehicle in California

If you've recently moved to California, you must register your vehicle(s) within 20 days of establishing residency. For detailed information, please refer to our Car Registration in California page.

Registering Special Vehicles

If you own a special type of vehicle, such as an off-road vehicle, recreational vehicle (RV), moped, or other type, the process varies a little. Find out how to have it registered by visiting our Special Vehicles in California page.

CA Car Insurance

In order to register your car in California, you must hold valid car insurance. The amount you pay for your auto insurance policy can vary greatly based on the state's required amounts and other additional protection you may wish to obtain. To ensure that you get the best value for your personal needs, please refer to our page on California car insurance.

Vehicle Inspections

Unless your vehicle is model year 1975 or older, a smog/emissions inspection is required before the Department of Motor Vehicles will let you register it in California. For more details about this process, please refer to our page on California smog checks and vehicle inspections.

Driver's License and ID Cards in CA

While you can drive in California with an out-of-state driver's license if you're just visiting, once you establish residency in the state, you'll need to apply for a California driver's license.

Adult Driver's License

New California residents must obtain a California driver's license within 10 days of moving to the state. If you're 18 years old or older, be sure to visit our Applying for a New License (Driver's 18+) in California page for a detailed explanation of the process.

Teen Driver's License

The California DMV uses a graduated driver's license process in California, which requires you to first obtain a provisional driver's license if you're younger than 18 years old. The requirements to obtain a provisional permit or driver's license in California may be different than those in your previous state.

For more information, please refer to our Apply for a New License (Teen Drivers) page.

Getting a California ID Card

If you don't drive but need to obtain an identification card, visit our Identification Cards in California page to view the application process.

Voter Registration in California

Registering to vote in California is a simple process. You'll find everything you need to know on our Voter Registration in California page.

Military Members Stationed in CA

If you're a member of the United States military, first we'd like to say thank you for your service. The next thing we'd like to do is introduce you to our California Drivers in the Military page.

It gives you information about using your out-of-state driver's license while you're in California, and whether or not you can drive your out-of-state vehicle.

CA DMV Office Finder and Additional Resources

DMV offices are abundant in California. If you're unsure where your closest branch is, you can find it by using our DMV Office Finder.

You may also find some of the CA DMV's other resources helpful:

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