How do I get a California driver's license?

If you have a Canadian driver's licence, you will need to exchange it for a Californian version. Before you exchange your license, you will need a Social Security Number (SSN). If you have a car and are driving, you technically need to have a California license within 10 days of arriving, but there is no way to apply for a license without a SSN, which will put you over the 10 day limit (be careful when driving past the limit!)

The California exchange procedure:

  • Book an appointment with the DMV for a license exchange.
  • Arrive at the DMV with your SSN, identification, and old license. After some paperwork, you will take the written exam.
  • Assuming you pass, you will be given a temporary license. Unfortunately, you now have to do a road test, but Californian road tests are easy! Call the DMV to schedule.
  • Do your road test. Wait for your new licence in the mail!

You need to provide a car for the road test. If you don't own a car, try to borrow a friend's (ensure that they have appropriate insurance coverage). The alternatives are to contact a driving school and request a review/car (could be expensive) or rent a car. Some rental car agencies do not allow cars to be used for training purposes and a DMV road test is considered training ... as such, the DMV wants a letter stating that it is all right for the applicant to use a rental car for the test.

Last Updated 9/18/2009 by ssoneff