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Apply for a California Drivers License

California Drivers License Application

Applying for a California drivers license may be an overwhelming experience, especially if you have never been licensed before and simply don't know where to start. The first thing anyone who chooses to apply for a California driver license should do is to obtain a drivers license handbook. The book has a detailed description of the application procedure and it will also allow you to learn the state driving regulations, something that will come in handy when the time comes to take your California permit test. If you are under 18 years of age at the time of the application, you will also need to meet all California graduated license requirements before you can be issued with an unrestricted California driving license.

California Drivers License - Under 18 Years of Age

If you are under 18 years of age and you want to obtain a driver's license in California, the licensing procedure that you have to follow will be somewhat different from that followed by older driver license applicants. These additional requirements are part of the California graduated drivers license program, a set of laws that were designed to keep teenage drivers safe during their first years of driving.

The first step of the application process is completion of a California drivers education course. Drivers ed classes can be completed online, through your high school or through one of the commercial driving schools. Most of the driving schools will allows you to start a drivers ed course if you are at least 15 years of age. The course must be approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles in order for your certificate to be accepted.

If you completed the course and are at least 16 years of age, it's time for you to apply for a California learners permit. The application procedure is pretty straight-forward - you show up at any DMV office during their business hours with your parents, fill in an application for a drivers license form (DL 44), present the required documents, pay the application fee, take a vision exam and a California permit test. If you pass the tests, you are issued with a California drivers permit.

Now, although you have a learners permit in your hands, it is not valid until you start your behind the wheel lessons with a professional driving instructor. The DMV requires you to complete at least six hours of driving lessons with a pro before you can apply for a driver license. So the first thing you should do when you get a permit is to schedule driving lessons at a local driving school.

After you took your first driving lessons and your drivers permit has been signed by an instructor, you can start practicing driving under supervision of any licensed driver. You cannot drive alone and there are other California permit restrictions that you must observe for at least six months, which is a minimum permit holding period. During this period, you must complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving with your parents, in addition to six hours of driving with a professional driving instructor.

Once all of the above requirements are met, you are good to schedule a California driving test with the DMV. Passing the test will yield you your California drivers license, however it is still marked as a provisional license and you will need to observe all California driver's license restrictions until you reach the age of 18.

California Drivers License - 18 Years of Age and Older

Applying for a California driver's license when you are at least 18 years of age is much less stressful than doing so when you are younger. You can start by visiting a local California DMV office, submitting an application for a drivers license and taking a vision exam and a learners permit test. If you pass the tests, you are issued with a California learners permit that allows you to start practicing driving while being supervised by another driver with a valid California driver license, at least 18 years of age.

Although you are not required to take a drivers education course before applying for a California driver's license, you are strongly advised to do so. Drivers ed classes can teach you a lot of useful defensive driving techniques and can also make you eligible for a car insurance discount in the future.

Once you have gained enough driving experience, schedule a drivers test with the DMV. When you pass the driving test, you are issued with a full unrestricted California drivers license.

Tests Required

During the application process, you will be required to take a number of test and exams to prove that you are fit to drive on California roads. You will be required to take a permit test to prove that you know the state driving rules, a vision exam that shows that you meet a minimum vision requirements for driving and a driving test that gives you a chance to display your driving skills.

California Permit Test

A learners permit test covers the state driving rules, road signs and safe driving practices. The test contains 46 multiple choice questions and you need to answer at least 39 of them correctly. All permit test questions are based on the information contained in the official California drivers license handbook, so you should make good use of this free study guide. In addition to reading the book, you may also try taking permit practice tests for California. You can find practice permit tests online or order some printed tests from a driving school.

California Vision Exam

Before you can apply for a California driver's license, you are required to pass a vision test. You must be able to pass a vision test, with or without corrective lenses, with visual acuity better than 20/200 in at least one eye without the use of a bioptic telescopic lens or similar bioptic device to meet the minimum vision acuity standard. You are allowed to use a bioptic lens for the behind-the-wheel road test. A bioptic lens restriction and daytime driving only restriction will be added to your driver record.

California Driving Test

Taking a California driving test is the final step of the application process. Please note that if you currently hold a valid drivers license issued by another state, you will most likely not have to take a drivers test when applying for a California drivers license. If you are applying for a first drivers license, a drivers license test is a must.

You must schedule a driving test well in advance, as testing is conducted on the appointment-only basis. You will have to provide your own vehicle for the test, the vehicle must be properly registered, insured and be in good mechanical condition. If the vehicle does not meet these requirements, your test will have to be rescheduled.

If you do not pass the California driving test the first time you take it, you will need to reschedule for another date. You will also have to pay an additional retesting fee.

Documents Required

When you are applying for a California drivers license, you will be required to present the following documents:

  • proof of birth date
  • proof of legal presence
  • proof of California residency
  • Social Security Number

If you are under 18 years of age, you will also have to present a certificate of completion for drivers education before you take a DMV permit test.