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Instruction Permit Requirements in California

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What the Provisional Instruction Permit Means

California drivers under 18 must obtain a provisional instruction permit before they can qualify for a provisional driver’s license. As long as the applicant are under 18, the permit and driver’s license are called provisional since they have restrictions that adults (18 and over) do not have.

To Obtain a California Instruction Permit

To obtain a provisional instruction permit new drivers must:

  • Be at least 15 1/2 years of age.
  • Fill out the DMV application form (DL 44).
  • Get parents’ or guardians’ signatures on the application form if they are under 18 years.
  • Present acceptable documents establishing identity, residency (if applicable), and birth date.
  • Provide proof of full name and social security number.
  • Pay the required application fee.
  • Pass an eye exam.
  • Have their picture taken.
  • Give a thumb print.
  • Pass a written DMV knowledge test.

If you are 17 1/2 years of age or younger, you must also show proof that you:

  • Completed driver education (Certificate of Completion of Driver Education) OR
  • Are enrolled and participating in an approved integrated driver education/driver training program (Certificate of Enrollment in an Integrated [Classroom] Driver Education and Driver Training Program).

An out-of-state driving instructional permit is not acceptable proof of driver education and driver training.

If you are older than 17 1/2 years, the driver education course is not mandatory.

As long as you are a minor, you must hold your permit for at least six months before DMV may issue a provisional driver license. This means that you must be at least 16 years before you can get the provisional license.

  • Hold your permit for a minimum of 6 months before you apply for a provisional driver’s license.
  • California Instruction Permit Rules

    With a California provisional instruction permit, you must

    • Obey the traffic laws.
    • Drive without a collision.
    • Drive with your parent, guardian, spouse, or an adult 25 years of age or older, who has a valid California driver license.
    • Hold your permit for six months before you can take your driving test to get your driver license, which means you must be at least 16 years of age.
    • NOT use cell phones (even if hands-free) or other mobile electronic devices while driving.
    • Make sure that all passengers use permanently installed seat belts.



    You Cannot Drive Alone

    Note that it is illegal for permit holder to drive alone at any time. A parent, guardian, spouse or adult 25 years of age or older, who has a valid California driver license, must sit in the front seat at all times in order to take control of the vehicle, if necessary.

    Unlike some other states, there is no curfew restrictions for California permit holders and no restrictions in number of passengers.

    Such restrictions are, however, in place when you get your provisional license. There is a night-time curfew and a passenger restriction for the first 12 months or until you turn 18.

    California Graduated Driver’s License Law

    Learn more about California graduated driver’s license system here: What is California Graduated Driver’s License?


    Yes, in California you must complete a classroom course if you are 15 ½ – 17 ½ years old.

    You may also show proof that you are participating in an approved integrated driver education/driver training (DE/DT) program.

    If you are over 17 ½ but under 18 years, a course is not mandatory, but you cannot take the driving test until you are 18 years.

    If you are over 18 years old, you do not need to take the driver education course or training but must get an instruction permit before DMV issues an unrestricted license.

    Yes, you must take the written knowledge test at a DMV location.

    You cannot take the knowledge test online from your home.

    If you fail the written knowledge test in California, you must wait 7 days before you can take the test again.

    You have 3 chances to pass the test. Should you fail all 3 times, you must start over by filling out a new application and paying the appropriate fees.

    Yes, unlike many other states, there is no curfew restrictions for California permit holders and no restrictions in number of passengers.

    Please note that a parent, guardian, spouse or adult 25 years of age or older, who has a valid California Driver License, must always be with you when you drive.

    Unlike many other states, there is no restrictions in number of passengers for California permit holders.

    A parent, guardian, spouse or adult 25 years of age or older, who has a valid California DL, must always be with you when you drive.


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    9 Comments

    1. I am 18 and I want to get my drivers license do I have to get my instruction permit first? If so how long do I have to wait until I can have a California drivers license?

      • Yes, unless you have been licensed before, DMV always issues a permit before you can get a California driver’s license. Regardless of age.

        If you are 18 years or older, you don’t have to pass the driver education course and there is no waiting time. When you have the permit you can schedule the behind-the-wheel test as soon as you feel that you are ready.

        A permit is issued so you can practice driving with a supervising driver. The permit doesn’t allow you to drive alone – not even to take the test.

    2. I am moving from NY to CA in October. I have a learner’s permit from NY and I am 25 years old. Will I be able to transfer my permit to CA? Can I drive with my NY permit while I am there? For the first month or two I won’t have a permanent address, so I am also unsure on how to apply for a CA license or permit without it.

      • Since you are 25 years old, you may drive with your permit if it is valid and as long as you aren’t considered a resident.

        If you are employed in CA, registered at a university, paying utilities or a phone etc. you probably have a temporary CA address. That may be enough to prove residency. In other words, 2 documents with a temporary address may be enough to get you a DL. But a temporary address comes with the hassle of changing address on your DL when you move to a more permanent address.

        http://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/file/residency-documents-list-pdf

    3. I am 18 and recently obtained my permit. Do I need to take driving courses to be able to get my drivers license?

    4. Jennifer Sanchez Mendoza July 13, 2020 at 4:06 pm

      I’m getting my instructional permit this month so I will be getting my provisional license in January. I’d be 17 and 5 months and I was wondering if that would be an issue considering that when you’re 17 1/2 you can’t take the test until you turn 18.

    5. I was wondering if I can get a instruction permit if I don’t have a social security number. I’m 15 and a half and have completed drivers education and am in the USA because my dad has an E2 visa and I am ineligible for a social security number, Can I povide other documents instead of a social security number?

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