table of contents | next
Fees mentioned in this handbook are subject to legislative change.
When using this handbook, please remember that it is only a summary of the laws and regulations. DMV, law enforcement, and courts follow the full and exact language of the law contained in the California Vehicle Code. If there is a conflict, this handbook cannot be relied upon as law. You may buy a copy of the Vehicle Code at any DMV office or view it online.
The California driver license (DL) and identification (ID) card - their reliability, integrity, confidentiality, etc., - is of prime concern to all levels of government, and the private sector as well.
It becomes critical that these documents be completely authenticated and accurate in order to positively and uniquely identify each individual. The California Legislature has declared the driver license and ID card as the primary identification documents in this state. California state law requires that all applicants for an original California DL/ID card submit proof of legal presence in the United States (U.S.) as authorized under federal law. Your true full name, as shown on your legal presence document, will appear on your DL/ID card.
Therefore, when applying for an original DL/ID card, you must present an acceptable birth date/legal presence document and/or true full name document and provide your social security number. If the name on your out-of-state DL/ID card is different from the name on your birth date/legal presence document, you must also bring in an acceptable true full name document. (See page 15)
Your thumb print* will be taken. Your picture will also be taken. For any other DL/ID card transaction, you are required to present acceptable photo identification to safeguard the accuracy and integrity of the Department's documents.
An acceptable birth date/legal presence or true full name document is one produced by an issuing authority such as a county or state. This document is a certified copy of the original (the original is always retained by the issuing authority) and will contain an impressed seal or an original stamped impression. The certified copy will be returned to you. If you make a copy of the certified copy, DMV will not accept it for birth date/legal presence or true full name verification.
These are some of the acceptable birth date/legal presence documents:
U.S. Birth Certificate
U.S. Certificate or Report of Birth Abroad
Proof of Indian Blood Degree
U.S. Armed Forces ID Cards
Certificate of Naturalization
Certificate of Citizenship
Resident Alien Card
Mexican Border Crossing Card with a valid I-94
Your social security number will be verified with the Social Security Administration.
THE CALIFORNIA DRIVER LICENSE
A driver license shows that you have been given permission by the State of California to drive on public roadways. You may apply for a license at most offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
You will receive a license after you have paid the fee, correctly answered questions about the law and safety rules, shown that your physical and mental condition is satisfactory, demonstrated your ability to drive safely, and have no outstanding actions on your driver record. If you have a medical condition or a disability, DMV may require you to take a driving test and/or present a statement from your physician regarding your condition.
WHO MUST HAVE A LICENSE
If you are a California resident and drive a motor vehicle on a public highway or in a parking facility open to the public, you must have a California driver license.
Residents who may not need a California driver license are:
1. Members of the Armed Forces or civilian employees of the United States Government who only drive vehicles owned or controlled by the United States, on federal government business.
2. Persons who drive farming vehicles which are not normally used on public highways.
3. Persons who drive legally registered off-highway vehicles or snowmobiles, while going straight across a highway (other than a freeway).
California Service Persons Away From Home
If you are out of state on active military service in the United States Armed Forces, your California driver license will continue to be valid beyond its normal expiration date. Your license is valid for the full time you are absent from the state and if honorably discharged outside of California, for 30 days from your discharge date. Carry both your driver license and discharge papers during those 30 days.
You may ask the DMV for a card (DL 236) which extends your license. Your license is not valid if it has been suspended, canceled, or revoked.
Military dependents do not qualify for an extension.
Nonresident Military Person Stationed Here
If you are 18 years of age or older, see the rules for "California Residents" and "Visitors to California." Licensees eligible for military extensions should carry documentation from their home state to verify their status to local law enforcement.
When you make your home here or take a job, you must get a California driver license within 10 days.
Evidence of residency is established by any of the following: voting in California elections; paying resident tuition at a public institution of higher education; filing for a home owner's property tax exemption; obtaining a license; or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.
Visitors To California
If you are a visitor in California over 18 years old and have a valid driver license from your home state or country (where you live permanently), you may drive in this state without getting a California driver license as long as your home state license remains valid.
Visitors Who Are Minors
If you are a visitor in California, between 16 and 18 years old, you may drive here with your home state license or instruction permit for only 10 days after you arrive in California. After the 10 days you must have either a Nonresident Minor's Certificate or a California license. You may not work for pay, until you are 18 and have a California license.
A Nonresident Minor's Certificate lets you drive in California with a valid home state license. The certificate is issued by DMV to a minor who has given proof of financial responsibility in case of an accident. Proof is usually a motor vehicle accident insurance certificate from an insurance company.
*Throughout this handbook, the term "thumb print" will be used to mean a thumb print or finger print, if you have no thumbs.
table of contents | next