California Learner’s Permit

Written By | Doreen Almirol | 20+ years CA DMV Licensed Driving Instructor


Obtaining a learner’s permit is a significant milestone for individuals eager to start their journey towards becoming a licensed driver in California. The process may seem daunting at first, but with the right information and preparation, it can be a smooth and straightforward experience. In this article, we will walk you through the steps and requirements to get your learner’s permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

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1 | Meet Eligibility Requirements

Before you begin the application process, it’s essential to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria set by the California DMV. To apply for a learner’s permit, you must:

  • Be at least 15 and a half years old.
  • TEENS: under 17 and a half years old, are required to complete a state-approved driver’s education course. This course covers essential traffic laws, safe driving practices, and prepares you for the written exam.  We proudly offer our DMV-approved driver’s education course online for your convenience.

2 | Required Documents

Before visiting the DMV, you will need to gather and provide documentation to prove your California residency and legal presence in the United States. Typically, you will need:

  • Proof of identity and legal presence
  • Proof of California residency
  • Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • TEENS: under 17 and a half years old, are required to submit a Certificate of Completion for Drivers Education.

3 | Complete the Application

You must also fill out the Application for Driver License or Identification Card (Form DL 44). You can conveniently access this form online through the California DMV website.

After completing the form, you must print a hard copy and submit it in person at the DMV. Alternatively, you can obtain a paper copy of the application directly from the DMV office.

4 | Visit the DMV

Once you have completed the driver’s education course (if applicable), gathered all required documents, and completed an application, visit your local DMV office.  TEENS must be accompanied by a parent.

Schedule an appointment online to save time and avoid long wait times.

5 | Provide Thumbprint and Photo

At the DMV office, they capture your thumbprint and take a photo for your learner’s permit. This is a standard security measure.

6 | Pass the Vision Exam

A basic vision test is a part of the application process. Make sure to bring any necessary corrective lenses if you wear them.

7 | Take the Knowledge Test

Prepare for the written exam by reviewing the California Driver Handbook. The exam covers traffic laws, road signs, and safe driving practices. You must answer at least 38 out of 46 questions correctly to pass.

8 | Pay the Fee

There is a fee associated with obtaining a learner’s permit. Check the current fee schedule on the DMV website for a Class C Driver’s License, and be prepared to pay by cash, check, money order, or debit/credit card.

9 | Receive Your Learner's Permit

Once you have successfully completed all the requirements, you will be issued a learner’s permit. This permit allows you to practice while accompanied by and driving under the supervision of a licensed adult who is 18 years old or older.

TEENS: under 18 years old are issued a Provisional Learner’s Permit. This permit allows you to practice while accompanied by and driving under the supervision of a licensed adult who is 25 years old or older.

A Provisional Learner’s Permit is not valid until AFTER a teen student driver begins their first driving lesson from a DMV-Licensed Driving School, such as Express Driving School.  Additionally, teen under 18 years old are required to complete 6 hours of behind the wheel training before being eligible to take the drive test.


10 | Make it a DRIVER LICENSE!

Finally, after acquiring the necessary driving knowledge and practical skills, the final step is to successfully pass the DMV drive test, to complete the licensing process, and receive your driver license.

Getting a learner’s permit is an exciting step towards gaining the freedom and responsibility that comes with driving. By following these steps and being well-prepared, you can navigate the process smoothly and set yourself on the path to becoming a licensed driver in California. Remember to always drive responsibly and prioritize safety on the road.