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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 (and under 18).
  • Fill out the DMV application form (DL 44).
  • Get parents’ or guardians’ signatures on the application form.
  • Present acceptable documents establishing your identity, residency (if applicable), and birthdate.
  • Provide your full name and social security number.
  • Pay the required application fee.
  • Pass an eye exam.
  • Have your picture taken.
  • Give a thumb print.
  • Pass a written DMV test (You must correctly answer at least 38 questions out of 46)
  • Hold your permit for a minimum of 6 months before you apply for a provisional driver’s license.

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.

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.

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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5 Comments

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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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