A driver’s license is crucial, as it identifies you as a licensed driver. Driving is a privilege in California. The DMV issues you with a license as proof that you have met all the requirements and have the privilege to operate a vehicle on public roads. The license specifies the kind of vehicle you can operate. If you live in a different state or country, you can use an out-of-state driver’s license in California. But the period within which you can do that depends on whether you are in California to live or are just visiting.

It helps to understand the laws regarding out-of-state driver’s licenses and what is expected of you. That way, you will drive freely without violating the law. A skilled attorney can help you understand your situation and options and navigate the legal system freely if you want to change or keep the out-of-state driver’s license. At Koenig Law Office, we can also fight alongside you if you face criminal charges for illegally using a license from another state in Bakersfield.

Driving With an Out-Of-State Driver’s License

If you are a driver’s license holder, you are expected to worry about being able to drive in another state while visiting or relocating. The truth is that every state has laws regarding the use of out-of-state driver’s licenses. It helps to take time to understand California laws so you can drive freely without worrying or violating the rules in place.

In California, an out-of-state driver’s license is a valid document in another state. The law considers your driver’s license valid if it allows you in your state to drive the vehicle you will drive in California. The document must also be up-to-date. If caught using a driver’s license from another state to drive a car not covered under your license, you could face charges for driving without a valid license. It is a severe offense that could result in time in jail and a hefty court fine.

A person from another state can legally operate a vehicle in California if they have a valid driver’s license from a different state. However, this provision is subject to specific age restrictions. You must also meet the following criteria:

  • You must hold a valid and current driver’s license from your state of residence.
  • The permit must be useful for the vehicle you are driving, whether a motorcycle, car, or truck.

Regarding age restrictions, drivers aged 18 or older from another state do not face time restrictions when operating a vehicle in California. They can continue operating in the state as long as they are not residents and their license remains valid in their state of residence.

However, younger drivers from other states, aged 16 or 17, can only drive freely for ten days after entering California. This restriction does not apply under the following circumstances:

  • The juvenile has a legal driver’s license from their state of residence.
  • They have in their immediate possession a non-resident minor certificate from the California DMV. The certification allows the juvenile to drive using their home state license.
  • Together with the certificate, they must have filed evidence to demonstrate financial responsibility with the DMV. It demonstrates the minor’s financial ability to compensate those injured or property damaged in an accident involving the minor, regardless of fault.

What To Do If You Relocate to California

If you relocate to California and wish to start driving, you must apply for a driving permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles. You must do so within ten days of changing your residency status or immediately if you need a license as part of your job. For example, if you move to California as an Uber or Lyft driver or a delivery person, you must apply for a driver’s license before you start working. Note that driving yourself to and from work is considered driving for employment. Thus, you need a permit before you start working.

If you fail to seek a license within the ten days provided under the law but continue to use your out-of-state permit or drive without a license, you can face charges under VC 12500 for operating a vehicle without a license. The offense is punishable by jail time and a hefty court fine.

The DMV will require you to demonstrate that you are a California resident to obtain a license. The proof you need within a short period is that you intend to stay in California. But in essence, you are considered a California resident if the following are true:

  • You are registered to vote.
  • You pay resident tuition.
  • You have filed for homeowner’s tax exemption.
  • You enjoy other benefits or privileges that the state does not extend to non-residents.

Transferring Your License to California

If you are moving to California to stay, you only have ten days to transfer the permit to California. You can drive with an out-of-state license within those days but face criminal charges if you continue operating after ten days. While that period seems short, considering you will be busy relocating, unpacking, looking around, or starting your work or school, the DMV has made the process seamless. Here are the easy steps you must take to complete the process:

Confirming Resident Status

The process starts by ensuring that you are a California resident. It is the only way the DMV will agree to transfer the out-of-state permit to California. Typically, the law considers you a resident if you have lived in California for six months or more. But you could also consider yourself a resident if the following are true:

  • You have registered to vote in California.
  • You have a job or business here.
  • You are paying resident tuition in a university or college.
  • Your dependents school in California, whether at the elementary, middle school, or high school level.
  • You own a home and have applied for property tax exemption.
  • You are a landlord in California.

You are eligible for a license transfer to California if you satisfy one or more of these requirements. The DMV will accept and work on your application.

Complete an Application

Once you have confirmed your license transfer eligibility, you can complete your application and file it with the DMV. You can obtain the application form from the DMV offices or fill out an online application form. You are advised to create an online account with the department on the DMV portal for online applications. The system will automatically save your data as you complete your application.

The application form is straightforward and will only take you a few minutes. Once you finish the application form, submit it and wait for communication from the DMV.

Surrender the Out-of-State Driver’s License

Once you apply for a license transfer, you can no longer use the out-of-state permit in California. If you do, you could face criminal charges for driving without a valid license. In that case, you must surrender your previous license and wait to drive until you receive a driving permit from the California DMV. Remember that the transfer process is quick and seamless. Thus, you should start driving again in no time.

Prepare Additional Documents

The application form alone is not enough to process the transfer of your driving permit to California. The DMV will require additional information to verify the information you provided in the application form and other purposes. Here are other documents you need to prepare after submitting your application:

  1. Proof of Your Identity

The DMV has a long list of documents they accept as proof of ID, including a birth certificate, current or expired U.S. passport, military ID card, U.S. citizen ID card, or certificate of naturalization. In your case, a birth certificate or valid passport is sufficient. Ensure that the documents in your possession are original and not copies.

  1. Proof of Residency

The DMV will also require you to prove your residency when requesting a license transfer. You must verify that you now live in California and no longer need your driver’s license from a different state. You must provide documents with your name and home address. Again, the DMV has many documents they accept, including mortgage bills, rental agreements, and utility bills. You do not need the original document since website printouts and copies are good.

The Knowledge Test

The DMV will test your knowledge before transferring your permit to California. Thus, you must start studying for the test after submitting your application. The knowledge test is usually a written one you complete at a DMV office. The test is designed for all drivers, regardless of how long you have been driving in your previous state of residence. Through these tests, the DMV checks how much of the textbook details you can remember about driving. For example, how far should you drive from the vehicle in front?

Since some of these details are easily forgotten, you need to allow yourself some time to study before taking the knowledge test. Fortunately, you can take an online driving course to refresh your skills and ensure you are well-prepared. Remember that passing this test can save you some money on auto insurance.

Visit a DMV Office

When ready to complete the transfer process, you must visit a local DMV office. Though these are not mandatory appointments, they are recommended. Besides, the process will take a little of your time. However, arriving an hour or so before the office closes for the day is advisable to allow yourself enough time to go through all the processes involved. Then, you will not need to make a second visit. Also, the DMV does not issue knowledge tests a few minutes before their scheduled closing time.

In addition to taking the knowledge test, you will do the following during this visit:

  • Present the required paperwork, including your proof of residency and identity.
  • Provide your SSN (it is a requirement for all driver’s license applications).
  • Pay an application fee (it is usually nonrefundable).
  • Have your thumbprint scanned.
  • Take and pass a vision test.
  • Have your picture taken.
  • Take and pass a driving knowledge test.

The vision test is also essential for the DMV to ascertain that you are qualified to drive on public roads. The tests ensure motorists can see critical road signage and other road marks. The DMV officer will ask you to wear your corrective lenses/contacts if you need them for proper eyesight. Passing this test is vital for the transfer process and could help you enjoy better rates with auto insurance.

The knowledge test comprises 46 questions covering core craving concepts, road signs, and traffic laws within California. You are expected to score at least 82% to pass the test. If not, you will have two more opportunities to pass it within 12 months.

If you are a new driver, you could also be required to take a road exam for the DMV to ensure you possess the right driving skills. The test measures your ability to operate a vehicle safely. The officer will test your proficiency in performing crucial actions like reversing, parallel parking, and driving.

If all goes well, the DMV will issue you a temporary license before they process your driver’s license at the end of this visit. You should receive an official permit by mail in a few weeks.

If you have relocated for work, you can use the temporary license for work until you receive an official driver’s license.

License Transfer for Underage Drivers

You can drive at the age of 16 in California. But you do not receive your full driver’s license until you reach 17. Once you complete your driver’s education course, you are given a learner’s permit to use until you are 17. If you are moving to California from another state and do not have a driver’s license from the previous state, you can apply for a minor’s license at 16 or older.

But if you are an underage driver from another state and have come to California to stay, you could be eligible for a license transfer if you meet the DMV requirements. The transfer process is similar to that of an adult driver, except you must continue using your underage driver’s license from the previous state until you become an adult.

You must complete the license and ID card application form to apply for a driver’s license as a minor. You will also be required to surrender your license from the previous state. When you physically present yourself at the DMV office, you must be in the company of your guardian or parent. They will help you sign the required documents.

If the application is complete, you will take a knowledge test to establish your familiarity with road signs and traffic laws. Even though this requirement is unavailable for applicants from other states, the DMV would require you to take a driving exam. Remember that the department reserves the right to administer any test they deem necessary. Thus, you should be well-prepared for all possible tests.

Lastly, you must prove your driving education and the training you received from your previous state of residence.

Driving Restrictions Will Apply

Underage drivers are subject to strict restrictions that will apply to you once you move to California. The limitation will apply in the first twelve months you use your license from another state or at least until you become an adult. Some of these restrictions include:

  • You must not transport passengers under the age of 20 unless you are in the company of a driver aged 25 or older.
  • You must not be out driving between 11 pm and 5 am.

A violation of these restrictions will result in DMV sanctions that could include a suspension of your driver’s license temporarily or permanently.

Laws Applying to Drivers from another Country

If you relocate to California from another country, the driver’s license laws that apply to your situation could differ from those of drivers who migrate from other states in the United States.

First, the DMV must be sure that your driver’s license is valid in your country for the type of vehicle you intend to drive in California.

You must first prove your residency to apply for a driver’s license in California. You must also pass the vision test, DMV written knowledge test, and driving skills test to obtain a California driver’s license. You cannot use another country’s driver’s license in California for more than ten days unless you visit.

Find a Competent DUI Attorney Near Me

Are you relocating to Bakersfield and would like to drive freely as you did in your previous residence?

If you relocate from another country or state, you will have ten days to transfer the out-of-state license to California. Then you will not be in trouble with the law. However, the legal process can be complex, especially if you are unfamiliar with California DMV regulations. That is why we recommend our attorneys at Koenig Law Office for assistance and support. We have all the information you need to make a valid decision regarding your out-of-state driver’s license. We will also assist with the application process to minimize delays and ensure you have the proper documents as you settle here. Call us at 661-793-7222, and let us start the process.