How to transfer driver's license to California?

New residents of California have just 10 days to transfer an out-of-state driver’s license to California. And while that’s not a lot of time (especially when you’re busy moving, unpacking, and starting school or work), the process is fairly quick and easy.

You can transfer a driver’s license to California in five simple steps.

Step 1: Confirm Your Resident Status

You’re generally considered to be a California resident if you will be living in California for at least six months of the year. But you are also considered to be a California resident if:

  • You’re a registered voter in California

  • You’re employed in California (or your business is located here)

  • You pay resident tuition at a college or university

  • You have dependents who go to elementary, middle, or high school in California

  • You’re a California homeowner with a property tax exemption

  • You rent a property in California

If any of these apply to you, you’re eligible to transfer your driver’s license to California.

Step 2: Complete a California Driver’s License Application

You can complete the application for a California driver’s license online. You’ll just need to create a new account so the DMV portal can save your information as you work on your application. But don’t worry, this takes only a minute. And the online application wizard will prompt you to create your account (or login to an existing account) when you need to. 

Step 3: Prepare Your Additional Paperwork

To transfer a driver’s license to California, you’ll need to have a few documents in order:

  • Proof of identity. There’s a whole list of acceptable proof of identity documents that the DMV will accept. For most drivers, it will be a valid passport or birth certificate. Make sure to have the original document ready. Copies aren’t accepted.

  • Proof of residency. You’ll need to provide proof that you live in California. This requires a document with your full name and your home address. There are lots of acceptable documents. The most common are rental agreements, mortgage bills, and utility bills. Copies and website print-outs are acceptable for proof of residency.

Step 4: Study for the Knowledge Test

Before you can transfer a driver’s license to California, you’ll need to pass a written knowledge test at the DMV. Even though you know how to drive, most drivers don’t remember textbook details like how much distance to leave when stopping at a railway crossing. So you will want to give yourself a few days to study. 

You may even want to take an online California driving course. Not only will this prepare you to pass your knowledge test, but it could also save you money on your car insurance!  

Step 5: Visit a California DMV

To complete the process of transferring your driver’s license to California, you’ll need to visit a local DMV branch. Appointments aren’t mandatory, but they are highly recommended. And because the process takes a little time, make sure you arrive at least an hour before closing time. Knowledge tests won’t be offered within half an hour of the scheduled closing time.

At this visit, you will:

  • Provide your paperwork (your proof of identity and proof of residency)

  • Provide your Social Security number

  • Pay the non-refundable application fee ($38 as of February 2021)

  • Get a thumbprint scan

  • Pass a vision exam

  • Get your photo taken

  • Pass the knowledge test

At the end of the visit, you will get your temporary California driver’s license. Your official California driver’s license will be mailed to you within a few weeks.  

Welcome to California!

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