Moving to California: Transferring Your Driver's License

Do I need a CA driving license if I am already licensed in another state?

Yes. You will need to transfer your out-of-state or out-of-country driving license to California. This applies to new California residents but not people who are considered to be ‘visiting’ the state on a temporary basis. If you have moved from another country, you will need to take the vision, general knowledge and behind-the-wheel tests to obtain a CA driver’s license. New residents from other states must take the general knowledge test but are not usually required to take the behind-the-wheel test (this is necessary in some cases, depending on the status of your existing license and your state of origin).

Will I need to take a DMV written test to obtain a CA driver’s license?

Yes. All new residents must pass the DMV general knowledge exam to obtain a California license. This applies even if you hold a full license in another state, as there are likely to be differences in California rules of the road as compared to your state of origin.

Do I need to pass a vision test to transfer my out-of-state license to California?

Yes. New California residents must pass a vision test to acquire a CA driving license.

Do I need to take a driving skills test if I am already licensed in another state?

No. In most cases, new residents are not required to take the driving skills portion of the DMV assessments if they hold a full license in another state.

What if I move to California from another country?

If you move to California from another country, you will need to pass a vision test, DMV written test and driving skills test to obtain a CA driver’s license.

How do I transfer my out-of-state license to California?

You must visit a DMV office to fill out a Driver License or ID Card Application form (DL 44). At the DMV office you will need to complete the following steps:

  • Hand in your out-of-state driving license
  • Give a thumb print and have your picture taken
  • Provide the necessary identity and residency documentation
  • Pass a vision test
  • Pass the CA DMV written test
  • Pay your $38 fee

You will also need to schedule and pass the driving skills test, if you are moving to California from outside the United States.

What documentation must I bring to the DMV when transferring my license?

The following documentation is required to obtain a CA driver’s license:

  • Your social security card
  • Documents which evidence your residency in California (mortgage bills, utility mail or bank statements)
  • Proof of identity such as a birth certificate or passport

Do I need to make an appointment to transfer my out-of-state license?

Yes. You will need to make an appointment to acquire a California driver’s license, by calling the DMV on 1-800-777-0133.

How much does it cost to transfer my license to California?

It costs $38 to obtain a CA driver’s license.

What if I move to California and have a minor’s driving license from another state?

New California residents who hold an out-of-state license and are between 16 and 18 years old will be issued a minor’s driving license (also known as a provisional license). You will need to provide proof that you have successfully completed a driver’s education course which meets the CA driver’s ed criteria. Minor’s driving licenses come with the following restrictions:

  • You must not drive between 11pm and 5am
  • You must not carry passengers under 20 years of age, unless accompanied by a licensed adult over 25 years old

These restrictions will be lifted automatically once you turn 18.

Can I transfer an out-of-state learner’s permit to California?

Yes. Learner drivers who are over 15 ½ years old can transfer their out-of-state learner’s permit to California, providing they meet the state criteria. For learner’s between 15 ½ and 17 ½ years old, this will mean:

  • Completing CA DMV-approved driver’s education
  • Passing the vision test
  • Passing the California DMV written test

Driver’s education is not necessary for new residents over 17 ½ years old.

When am I considered a California resident?

You are considered a California resident and will need a valid CA driver’s license if any of the following apply:

  • You officially reside in the state for six months or more within a 12-month period
  • You are registered to vote in California
  • You are employed in California
  • You run a California-based business
  • You pay tuition fees to a California-based school or college
  • You own or rent property in California
  • You have dependants who attend school in California

Keep in mind that a slightly different set of rules apply to military personnel.

How soon after moving to California must I apply for a license?

You must obtain a CA driver’s license within 10 days of becoming a resident of the state.

How soon after moving to California must I register my vehicle?

You must register your vehicle with the CA DMV within 20 days of becoming a resident of the state.

Do I need a CA driver’s license to drive in California if I am just visiting?

If you are over 18 years old and are just visiting, you may drive in California under a valid out-of-state license. Visitors to the state who are 16 or 17 years old can only drive under an out-of-state drivers license for 10 days, unless they obtain a Nonresident Minor’s Certificate from the CA DMV.