How to Get California Learner's Permit & Driver License

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It's incredibly exciting to get your California learner's permit and first-time driver's license. But it can be pretty overwhelming too. I Drive Safely is here to demystify the process and give you all the information you need to get where you're going. Here's an easy how-to guide detailing every step of the process - from signing up for Driver's Ed to getting behind the wheel as a licensed driver.

Steps to Getting Your Drivers Permit

Step 1-

Take Our Driver’s Ed Course

You are required to pass a driver’s education course before you can earn your learner’s permit in California. Minimum age: 15 ½ years old.

  • Pass the course. (Which you'll do. We guarantee it.)
  • Once you pass the course, we'll send you your Certificate of Completion (Form OL 237).
  • Be sure to bring your Certificate of Completion form with you when you go to the DMV. This proves you’ve passed the course and allows you to take your Driver’s Permit Test.
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Step 2-

Know Your Behind-the-Wheel Training Options

If you’re between 15 ½ and 17 ½, you need to complete a driver’s training program at some point on the path to get your license. And, when you go to the DMV to take your permit test, be sure to provide proof that you:

  • Have a driver training Certificate of Completion, or
  • Have a Certificate of Enrollment in a Drivers Training program
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Step 3-

Get Your Permit at the DMV

Be sure you have all your forms in order before you head to the DMV to take your driver’s permit test. (See FORMS YOU’LL NEED)

  • Take the DMV Form DL 44, our Certificate of Completion (Form OL 237), and proof that you have completed Drivers Training or are enrolled in a Drivers Training program to the DMV.
  • Pass a written traffic law and sign test.
    There are 46 questions on the test. A passing score is at least 38 correct answers. You have 3 chances to pass the driver’s permit test. If you fail, you must wait 7 days before taking it again. Bummer!
  • Pass a vision exam
  • Pay the fee! This fee entitles you to 3 exams of any type within the 12-month period and pays for both the instruction permit and the driver’s license. If all requirements are not met within the 12-month period, the application becomes void and all steps must be completed again.
  • Get your picture taken
  • Give a fingerprint
  • You’ll also need to bring:
    Your original or certified copy of your birth certificate, OR an acceptable document showing date of birth/legal presence. Some examples of these documents include the following:
    U.S. birth certificate
    Proof of Indian Blood Degree
    U.S. passport
    Official U.S. Armed Forces Identification Card
    Naturalization certificate
    Permanent Resident Card
    Passport from another country or Mexican Border Crossing Card (with a valid I-94 form)
    Proof of U.S. citizenship
    Documentation stating your full name. Documents that verify this are:
    Adoption documents that contain your full legal name after adoption
    Name change documents that show your full legal name prior to and after the name change
    Marriage certificate
    A registration/declaration document or certificate that verifies a domestic partnership
    Certificate of dissolution of marriage or other document that proves this, which states your legal name after court action was taken
    Your Social Security Number (which will be verified with the Social Security Administration, so no shenanigans).

As soon as you pass your written test, you will be issued a driver’s permit.

*Note: If you are over 17 ½ but under 18 years old, you can get your permit without providing driver education and driver training certificates however, you will not be able to take the driving test until you turn 18.

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Step 4-

Pass a Behind-the-Wheel Training Course

  • Complete at least 6 hours of professional driver training
  • Legally, you must complete this course before moving on and practicing with your parent or legal guardian
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Step 5-

Practice! Practice! Practice!

  • You're done with the Professional Driving Instructor –now comes the hard part: driving 50 HOURS with your parents! (Word to the wise - stay calm, smile a lot, and try not to get too frustrated - even though every bone in your body will be aching to yell! But remember - this is no picnic for your parents, either.)
  • 10 of these hours must be done at night.
  • The 50 hours cannot be done in less than 6 months. (In other words, once you pass our Driver’s Ed online course and the Behind-the-Wheel training, you have to wait 6 months to apply for your new driver’s license.)
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Step 6-

Apply for your first-time Driver's License

(You must be at least 16 years old to apply for your first-time driver’s license and you have to have had your permit for 6 months.)

  • Things you'll need to take with you to the DMV:
    Proof of completing Driver’s Ed and Behind-the-Wheel training
    A signed permit by either your parent, guardian, or instructor
    A valid vehicle registration
    Proof of insurance
    An acceptable birth date/legal presence document
    Provide proof of your true full name
    Provide your Social Security Number

Oh, and ALWAYS make an appointment at the DMV. Otherwise, you might be 17 by the time you get to the head of the line.

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About CA's Graduated Driver Licensing Process

(All new drivers under 18 years of age fall under California's graduated driver licensing program.)

  • Getting Your Provisional License: After you get your driver’s permit and have had it for 6 months, you can apply for your Provisional (Driver’s) License. To obtain a provisional first-time driver license, you must be at least 16 years old, but less than 18, and have your learner’s permit.
  • Once You Have Your Provisional License: You must follow the rules listed below. Any violation and you could forfeit your new driver’s license.
    For the first year (or until you turn 18), unless a licensed driver age 25 or older is present, you can't have any passengers under 20 years old in the car. Exceptions can be made for family needs.
    For the first year (or until you turn 18), you cannot drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a licensed driver 25 or older. There are exceptions to the rule. If you have a statement from the appropriate school official, employer, doctor or parent/guardian stating why you should be allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., you may be allowed to drive
    Any violation can result in either court-ordered community service or a fine. Tickets will be issued ONLY if an officer stops you for another violation.
    And REMEMBER to always maintain a clean driving record. One citation or at-fault crash will result in a DMV warning. Two or more violations will result a restricted or suspended license.
  • When you reach 18 years of age and if you have no outstanding DMV or court-ordered restrictions, suspensions, or probation, then you can get your full license.
  • And best of all, you don't have to go back to the DMV to get your full license. The DMV will automatically upgrade you!
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