Everything You Need To Know About California Temporary Driver’S Licenses

For California residents who need to legally drive right away, a temporary driver’s license provides a valid ID until your permanent license arrives. Understanding the requirements, limitations, and costs of a California temporary license ensures you follow proper procedures. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover eligibility, application steps, use rules, and more key details about obtaining a temporary driver’s license in California. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary: You can get a paper temporary license at the CA DMV after passing all required tests, which is valid for 60 days until your plastic card arrives.

Whether you’re a new or renewing driver, this guide provides everything you need to know to get a temporary driver’s license in California.

Eligibility Requirements for a Temporary CA License

Must be a first-time applicant or renewing a license

In order to apply for a temporary driver’s license in California, individuals must either be first-time applicants or renewing their current license. This means that if you have previously held a California driver’s license, you will not be eligible for a temporary license and will need to apply for a regular driver’s license instead.

It is important to note that temporary licenses are intended for specific circumstances, such as those who have recently moved to California or individuals whose licenses have been suspended.

Cannot have an expired license for more than 1 year

One of the eligibility requirements for obtaining a temporary driver’s license in California is that your previous license cannot have been expired for more than 1 year. This means that if your license has been expired for more than 1 year, you will need to go through the regular license renewal process rather than applying for a temporary license.

It is crucial to keep track of your license’s expiration date to ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements for a temporary license.

Must complete all application steps and pass tests

In order to obtain a temporary driver’s license in California, applicants must complete all necessary application steps and pass the required tests. This includes submitting the appropriate documentation, such as proof of identity and residency, completing the application form, and paying the necessary fees.

Additionally, applicants will need to pass both a written test and a driving test to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. It is important to thoroughly prepare for these tests in order to increase your chances of successfully obtaining a temporary driver’s license.

For more information on the eligibility requirements for a temporary driver’s license in California, you can visit the California DMV website. The website provides detailed information on the application process, required documents, and testing procedures.

Applying for a California Temporary License

Make written and drive test appointments at CA DMV

When applying for a California Temporary Driver’s License, the first step is to make appointments for both the written and drive tests at your local California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.

It is important to schedule these appointments in advance to ensure availability and minimize waiting time. The DMV website, www.dmv.ca.gov, provides online appointment services for your convenience.

Submit completed driver’s license application

Before heading to the DMV office, make sure to complete the driver’s license application form. This form can typically be downloaded from the DMV website or obtained in person from the DMV office. Fill out the application accurately and legibly, as any errors or omissions may delay the processing of your temporary license.

Provide proof of identity and residency

When applying for a temporary license in California, you will need to provide proof of your identity and residency. Acceptable documents may include your passport, birth certificate, social security card, and utility bills or rental agreements that demonstrate your California address.

Be sure to bring original documents or certified copies, as photocopies will not be accepted.

Pass vision, written, and drive tests

As part of the application process, you will need to pass a vision test to ensure that your eyesight meets the required standards for driving. Additionally, you will need to pass a written test that assesses your knowledge of California driving laws and safety regulations.

Finally, you will need to pass a driving test to demonstrate your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. It is important to prepare for these tests by studying the California Driver Handbook and practicing your driving skills.

Once you have successfully completed all the necessary steps, you will be issued a California Temporary Driver’s License. This temporary license allows you to legally drive while you wait for your permanent license to be processed and mailed to you.

Remember to always carry your temporary license with you when operating a motor vehicle and adhere to all traffic laws and regulations.

Taking Your Tests at the DMV

Pass vision screening or provide medical form

Before taking any tests at the DMV, you will first need to pass a vision screening. This is to ensure that you have adequate vision to operate a vehicle safely on the road. If you require vision correction, be sure to wear your glasses or contact lenses during the screening.

If you have a medical condition that may affect your vision, you may need to provide a medical form from your doctor.

Take 36+ question written knowledge test

The next step in obtaining a temporary driver’s license in California is to take a written knowledge test. This test consists of 36 or more multiple-choice questions that assess your understanding of California’s traffic laws, road signs, and safe driving practices.

It is important to study the California Driver Handbook thoroughly to prepare for this test. It covers a wide range of topics, including right-of-way rules, speed limits, and DUI laws.

Score at least 83% to pass written test

In order to pass the written knowledge test, you must score at least 83%. This means that you need to answer correctly on at least 30 out of the 36 questions. It is important to take your time, read each question carefully, and choose the best answer.

If you fail the test, you will be able to retake it, but you may have to wait a certain period of time before you can try again.

Pass behind-the-wheel driving test

Once you have successfully passed the written knowledge test, the next step is to take a behind-the-wheel driving test. During this test, you will be assessed on your ability to safely operate a vehicle, follow traffic laws, and perform various maneuvers such as parallel parking and lane changes.

It is important to practice your driving skills beforehand and be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of driving rules and procedures.

For more information on the temporary driver’s license application process and testing requirements, you can visit the California DMV website.

Getting Your Temporary License

Upon passing tests, get paper temporary license

Once you have successfully passed the required tests for your California driver’s license, you will be issued a paper temporary license. This temporary license serves as proof that you have passed the tests and are eligible to drive legally.

It is important to note that the temporary license is only valid for a limited period of time.

Valid for 60 days until permanent card is mailed

The paper temporary license is valid for a period of 60 days from the date of issuance. During this time, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will process your application and mail your permanent driver’s license card to the address provided.

It is crucial to ensure that the DMV has your correct mailing address to avoid any delays in receiving your permanent card.

Carry printed paper license as legal ID to drive

While waiting for your permanent driver’s license card to arrive, it is essential to carry the printed paper temporary license with you whenever you are driving. The temporary license serves as a legal form of identification and proof that you are authorized to operate a motor vehicle.

It is important to note that driving without a valid license or failing to present your temporary license when requested by law enforcement can result in penalties and fines.

Check status online and report errors immediately

During the waiting period for your permanent driver’s license, it is recommended to regularly check the status of your application online. The DMV provides an online portal where you can track the progress of your application and ensure that there are no delays or errors in the process.

If you notice any discrepancies or errors in your application or the status of your license, it is crucial to report them to the DMV immediately to rectify the situation.

Limitations and Rules for Temporary Licenses

Can only drive alone, not with passengers

One of the main limitations of a temporary driver’s license in California is that the holder can only drive alone. This means they cannot have any passengers in the vehicle while operating it. This restriction is put in place to ensure the safety of new drivers and minimize distractions on the road.

It allows them to focus solely on their driving skills, gaining confidence and experience before they are allowed to drive with passengers.

No driving outside California state lines

Another important rule for temporary license holders in California is that they are not permitted to drive outside of the state. This restriction is in place to ensure that new drivers become familiar with the local traffic laws, road conditions, and driving culture before venturing into unfamiliar territories.

It also helps prevent potential complications in case of accidents or legal issues that may arise in other states.

Subject to night driving and phone restrictions for <18 yr olds

For drivers under the age of 18 who have a temporary license in California, there are additional limitations. They are subject to night driving restrictions, meaning they are not allowed to drive between certain hours, typically late at night or early in the morning.

This is aimed at reducing the risk of accidents during times when visibility is reduced and fatigue is more likely to occur.

Additionally, drivers under 18 with a temporary license are also subject to phone restrictions. They are not allowed to use any electronic devices while driving, including cell phones, unless it is an emergency.

This rule is in place to prevent distractions and promote safe driving habits among young drivers.

Cannot renew or replace a temporary paper license

It is important to note that a temporary driver’s license in California, often issued as a paper document, cannot be renewed or replaced. Temporary licenses are valid for a set period, typically 60 days, and cannot be extended.

If a temporary license is lost, stolen, or damaged, the holder will need to apply for a new regular driver’s license and go through the necessary application process again.

Transitioning to Your Permanent Driver’s License

Obtaining a temporary driver’s license in California is often the first step towards getting your permanent license. Once you have completed the necessary requirements and passed the driving tests, you will be issued a temporary paper license.

However, it is important to understand the process of transitioning from your temporary license to your permanent one.

Plastic card arrives within 60 days by mail

After receiving your temporary paper license, you can expect your permanent driver’s license to arrive in the mail within 60 days. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will send you a plastic card as your official identification.

It is crucial to ensure that the DMV has your correct mailing address to avoid any delays in receiving your permanent license.

During this waiting period, it is recommended to carry both your temporary paper license and any other acceptable forms of identification, such as a passport or a state-issued ID card, to avoid any potential issues while driving or verifying your identity.

Activate and sign permanent license upon arrival

Once you receive your permanent driver’s license, you must activate it by signing the back of the card. Your signature confirms that the license is valid and belongs to you. It is essential to sign the license immediately upon receiving it to avoid any complications or questions about its authenticity.

Remember, your permanent driver’s license serves as a crucial form of identification, not just for driving purposes. It may be required for various situations, such as opening a bank account, traveling, or verifying your age. Therefore, it is vital to keep it safe and readily available when needed.

Destroy or shred old temporary paper license

Once your permanent driver’s license has arrived and is activated, it is important to securely dispose of your old temporary paper license. This can be done by shredding it or destroying it in a way that ensures the information cannot be retrieved.

By doing so, you prevent any misuse of your personal information and reduce the risk of identity theft.

Report lost or stolen permanent license right away

If, unfortunately, your permanent driver’s license gets lost or stolen, it is crucial to report it to the California DMV immediately. You can do this by visiting their website or contacting their helpline.

Reporting the loss or theft will help protect your identity and prevent any fraudulent activities that may occur using your license.

Remember to keep a record of your license number and any other relevant information in a safe place, separate from your physical license. This will assist you in reporting the loss or theft more efficiently and accurately.

Transitioning from your temporary driver’s license to your permanent one is an exciting milestone in your journey as a licensed driver. By following the necessary steps and being vigilant about protecting your license, you can ensure a smooth transition and enjoy the benefits of having your official identification within reach.


Acquiring a temporary paper driver’s license allows you to legally drive in California while waiting for your permanent card. Make sure you meet eligibility criteria, pass required tests, and follow temporary license restrictions. Within 60 days, you will receive your plastic driver’s license by mail to replace the temporary document. Understanding the ins and outs of temporary licenses ensures a smooth transition to permanent driving credentials.

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