Applying for a New License (Teen Drivers) in California
CA REAL ID License Update
The California DMV has begun issuing federally-compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses in addition to standard non-compliant driver’s licenses. The REAL ID allows you to use your license for domestic travel and entry into federal and military buildings after October 1, 2020. You can choose to receive either a REAL ID or a standard driver's license—details are outlined below.
Getting Your New Driver's License in CA
For teens, getting a driver's license is an exciting experience. Just think about it! No more trying to catch a ride to the mall or waiting around for your parents to pick you up after practice. Once you have your California driver's license in hand, those days will be long gone.
Although the process of getting your license might seem complicated, we've made it much easier to understand by explaining the process in a simple, easy to follow manner.
California residents who cannot provide proof of legal presence in the U.S. are able to get a CA driver's license under the AB-60 law. California began implementing the law in early 2015. There are special regulations and required documents for an AB-60 license.
- Junior permit: 14 years old IF you can prove eligible hardship.
- Provisional permit:
- 15 1/2 years old WITH completion of driver's education.
- 17 1/2 years old WITHOUT completion of driver's education.
- Provisional license: 16 years old WITH completion of driver's education.
- Full driver's license: 18 years old and older.
Step 1: Driver's Ed
Driver's Ed is required for all California teens between 15 1/2 years old and 17 1/2 years old. You'll need to first complete a course before applying for your learner's permit.
Your driver education course should:
- Consist of at least 25 hours of instruction.
- Be taught at either your high school or by a state-licensed driver's education school.
If you have reached 17 1/2 years old, you may apply for your permit without having first taken a driver's education course, but it is strongly recommended that you go through a Driver's Ed program to fully prepare yourself for the road.
For more information about California's driver's education requirements, please visit our Driver's Ed page.
Take Your Pick—Online or Classroom Driver's Ed
California allows you to take a Driver's Ed course in a traditional classroom setting, or you can complete it online. The advantages of taking it online have increased dramatically in recent years. The important thing is that you get to choose!
Step 2: CA Provisional Permit
The first milestone on your path to your driver's license is obtaining a provisional permit.
The process differs slightly depending on:
- Your age*—If you're between 15 1/2 years old and 17 1/2 years old, make sure you've FIRST completed a Driver's Ed course. Without driver education, you'll need to wait until you're 17 1/2 years old to get your permit.
- Your application type—California offers both a federally-compliant REAL ID permit/driver's license and a non-compliant permit/license. The required documents differ slightly based on whether you want a REAL ID or non-compliant license.
After you've polished your skills with a practice test, it's time to head to the DMV for your vision exam and written knowledge test.
Ace Your Exam on the First Try!
Don't leave your permit test to chance—take our free permit practice test with questions directly from the CA driver handbook. It's the fastest, easiest way to set yourself up for success!
Here's what you need to bring:
- A completed Driver License and Identification Card Application with your parent/guardian's signature.
- You can complete and submit the online application ahead of time, or complete it in person at your DMV office. The online application has a place for your parents to electronically sign.
- Proof of your:
- Social security number (SSN).
- You can provide your SSN at the DMV, where they'll verify it electronically.
- CA residency.
- A certificate of completion for your CA driver's education course.
- Not required for applicants at least 17 1/2 years old.
- Payment for the $36 fee.
Your written exam will be made up of 46 questions about California traffic laws, road signs, and rules of safe driving taken from the CA DMV Handbook. A passing score is at least 37 correct answers; you'll have 3 chances to pass. If you fail, the DMV requires you to wait 7 days before testing again.
Your initial $36 fee covers a total of 3 exams in a period of 12 months and pays for both your learner's permit and provisional license. However, if all requirements are not met within the 12 month period, the application is considered void and all steps must be repeated.
Next up: practicing your driving skills behind the wheel!
*NOTE: Some drivers who are at least 14 years old MAY apply for a junior permit if a family, work, or health hardship can be proven. See "Other California Driver's Licenses" below for details.
Step 3: Behind-the-Wheel Practice
Once you have your provisional permit, it's time to get busy and get practicing. How much practice, you ask? Good question.
With your California learner's permit in hand, you must:
- Log 50 hours of practice driving with a licensed driver over 25 years old.
- 10 hours of the 50 hours must be at night.
- Complete an additional 6 hours of driver training with a professional instructor.
Once you are behind the wheel, don't forget to keep all your attention on the road. Distracted driving is the cause of many serious injuries and even deaths on a daily basis. Learn more about the dangers of driving distracted by visiting the Distracted Driving section of our website.
Step 4: CA Provisional License
After you have held your learner's permit for a minimum of 6 months (and you are at least 16 years old), and you have completed your 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, you may take your road exam and apply for your intermediate driver's license, called a provisional license.
New to California?
If you've already taken a Driver's Ed course in another state, you cannot use an out-of-state learner's permit for your proof of course completion. Instead, the California DMV will accept one of the following:
- A completed "Secondary Schools Other Than California Schools" form (DL 33) completed by your out-of-state secondary school. You can request this form by calling (800) 777-0133 or pick one up at your nearest DMV office.
- A letter printed on school stationery and signed by a school official from your out-of-state secondary school stating that you completed a course equivalent to California's as described in Section 10020 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations.
Other California Driver's Licenses
Apart from your standard driver's license, there are a couple other permits and licenses you can obtain as a California teen. These include:
- Motorcycle learner's permits.
- Junior permits.
Each permit type is outlined below.