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Instruction Permit Requirements in California

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What is a Provisional Instruction Permit?

All California drivers under 18 must obtain a provisional instruction permit before they can qualify for a provisional driver’s license.

If the applicant is under 18 years, the permit and driver’s license are called provisional since they have restrictions that licenses for adults (18 and over) don’t have.

An instruction permit is necessary before you can start practicing driving skills together with a supervising driver. You must always carry the permit with you when driving.

How to Obtain a California Instruction Permit

To obtain a provisional instruction permit a new driver 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 old 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).

California DMV does not accept an out-of-state instruction permit as acceptable proof of driver education and driver training. If your driver education or driving training courses were taken in another state, you should get a DL33 form completed by the out-of-state school.

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

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

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 always sit in the front seat 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 while you hold an instruction permit.

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.

Restrictions on the California Provisional Driver License

During the first 12 months with a provisional license, a minor cannot:

  • Drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Drive with passengers under 20 years unless accompanied by a licensed parent or guardian, California driver 25 years old or older, or a certified driving instructor.
  • Use a cellphone or other wireless electronic communication device while driving.

Exceptions to night curfew and passenger restrictions exist when reasonable transportation is not available, and it is necessary for you to drive. You must carry a signed note explaining why you must drive and when the necessity will end.

The law allows exceptions for medical necessity (carry a note signed by your physician), school or school-authorized activities (note signed by your school principal, dean, or designee), employment necessity (note signed by your employer), or immediate need of family member (note signed by your parent or guardian). Exceptions are also allowed for an emancipated minor.

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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Check the rules again!

#1. To obtain a instruction permit you must be:

#2. Who can be the supervising driver when you hold an instruction permit?

A driver with an instruction permit must accompanied by a California licensed driver 25 years of age or older whose driving privilege is not on probation.

The age requirement of this paragraph does not apply if the licensed driver is the parent, spouse, or guardian of the permit holder or is a licensed or certified driving instructor.

#3. Can you use a cell phone while driving if you hold a permit?

It is against the law for a minor to use a cell phone or electronic wireless communications device while driving. You may, however, use a cell phone to contact law enforcement, a health care provider, the fire department, or another emergency entity in an emergency situation when driving.

#4. A driver edution is mandatory, unless you are:

If you are at least 17½ years old, you may obtain a permit without completing driver education or driver training. However, you cannot get a driver license before you are 18 years old.

#5. To get a provisional driver license you must be:

You must be at least 16 years old.

#6. To get a provisional driver license you must have held your instruction permit for at least:

You must have had a California instruction permit or an instruction permit from another state for at least 6 months.

#7. When you get a provisional license you cannot drive between

There is a night-time curfew and a passenger restriction for the first 12 months or until you turn 18. The night-time curfew means you cannot drive you cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

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  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.

  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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