Transfer driver's license to California

How to Transfer Your Out-of-State Driver’s License to California: A Complete Guide

by Zutobi · Updated Jan 02, 2023

If you’re a new resident of California, getting a new driver’s license is likely at the top of your to-do list.

It is relatively straightforward to transfer your driver’s license to California, but it requires a few steps. In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know so you get a hassle-free experience.

When Are You Considered to Be a New Resident?

You are considered a resident of California if you have been present in the state for six months or longer within a 12-month period and are not visiting on a temporary basis.

You are also considered a resident if you:

  • Are gainfully employed in California
  • Pay resident tuition at a public institution of higher education
  • Are a homeowner benefitting from property tax exemptions
  • Rent property in California
  • Are registered to vote in California
  • Own a business in California

How to Transfer Your Out-of-State Driver’s License to California

Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions detailing what you’ll need to do to complete a California driver’s license transfer.

1 – Schedule a DMV Appointment

You will need to schedule an appointment with the DMV to complete your driver’s license transfer to California. DMV locations are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. Make sure to head there at the right time to avoid spending the entire day there!

Note: Don’t wait! New residents are expected to transfer their license 10 days after moving to the state.

2 – Fill out New Driver License or Identification Card Application Form (DL 44)

Prior to arriving at the DMV, you will want to complete this application form. While these documents are made available at the DMV, filling out the form ahead of time will help save time for everyone involved.

3 – Surrender Your Out-of-State License

Your out-of-state driver’s license will no longer be valid after applying for a new California driver’s license, and you will need to surrender it at the same time.

4 – Provide Thumbprint and Have Picture Taken

At the DMV, your service provider will ask you to provide prints of both thumbs. You will also be instructed to take an updated picture for your identification card.

5 – Submit Necessary Documents

As with most visits to the DMV, you will be required to provide documentation. To complete your license transfer application, bring the following:

  • Proof of Identification
  • Proof of Social Security
  • Proof of California residence
  • Proof of citizenship or US legal presence
  • Proof of birthdate

6 – Pass Vision Exam

The vision exam is assessed to ensure drivers can see important road signs and other marks while on the road. You will be asked to wear corrective lenses or contacts if you are prescribed. The CA DMV’s vision standards are 20/40 in both eyes, or 20/40 in one eye and at least 20/70 in the other.

7 – Pass Knowledge Exam

The written knowledge exam is 46 questions and covers core driving concepts, as well as traffic laws and road signs within the state of California. You will be expected to answer 38 correctly, or pass with a score of about 82%. You have a total of three chances to pass within a 12-month period.

Coming from another state or country, understanding all of California’s driving laws can seem like an insurmountable task. Don’t worry, Zutobi is here to help! To date, we’ve assisted over 250,000 students in achieving amazing scores on their written exam. Our meticulously designed, gamified learning modules allow you to study at your own pace while having a bit of fun in the process. Try studying with Zutobi and experience the difference!

8 – Pass the Road Exam

The road exam is used to test new drivers on their ability to perform common driving maneuvers safely. You’ll be tested on your ability to perform actions such as parallel parking, stopping, reversing, and more.

9 – Pay Application Fee

You will be charged $33 for application processing. This payment can be made via cash, check, or credit/debit card.

After completing these requirements, you will be issued a temporary paper license from the DMV. This credential will be valid for 90 days. Your new California license will be mailed to you within this period.

What If You’re Under 18?

If you are under 18 with an out-of-state license, you will need to complete a process similar to the one above when transferring. However, you will be required to first hold an out-of-state minors’ driver’s license until you turn 18. You are eligible to apply for your driver’s license at 16.

To obtain an out-of-state minors’ drivers’ license in California, you will be asked to complete a Driver License & ID Card Application form and surrender your driver’s license from your previous state. A parent or legal guardian is required to accompany you to the DMV and sign off on necessary documents.

From there, you’ll be asked to complete a knowledge test to determine your understanding of California traffic laws and road signs. While you may be required to pass a behind the wheel driving test, this exam is often waived for out of state applicants. The DMV has the right to test you regardless, so it is best to be prepared when you arrive at the office. Proof of driver education and driver training in your previous home state may also be required.

Driving Restrictions

It is important to note that out-of-state minor applicants in California are subject to all provisional restrictions for the first year they hold their out-of-state minors driver’s license, OR until they turn 18. These include restrictions such as prohibiting the transporting of passengers under 20 years old (unless accompanied by a driver 25 years or older) and forbidding driving between the hours of 11pm and 5am.

That’s it!

With all the stresses of moving to a new state, transferring your driver’s license to California may seem like a daunting task – but it doesn’t have to be! In this article, we’ve provided you with everything you need to know. Be sure to reference this guide early and often as you’re settling into your new home!

Take our full course with tests and theory

550+ exam-like questions

All you need to ace your test

Perfect for first-timers, renewals and senior citizens

Ace your DMV test, guaranteed