What is the difference between a driver’s license and a permit in California?

In California, a driver with a driver’s permit cannot drive without a licensed driver in the car at any time. An unrestricted driver’s license allows a driver to drive alone and at any time of day.

In California, the type of driver’s license received depends on the age of the driver. Driver’s under the age of 18 must receive a minor’s permit and then receive a provisional license. Minor driver’s with a provisional license have specific restrictions unique to the state of California. Specifically, driver’s with a provisional driver’s license may not drive within the hours of 11pm and 5am and they may not drive any passengers under the age of 20 unless accompanied by a licensed adult over the age of 25.

Minor’s Driving Permit

The following are the requirements to receive a minor’s driving permit:

  • Be at least 151/2 years of age, but under 18 years of age.
  • Complete the Driver License or Identification Card Application (DL 44) form.
  • Have your parent(s) or guardian(s) sign the DL 44 form.
  • Pass a traffic laws and road signs test. If you fail the test, you must wait one week before retaking the test.
  • If you are 151/2–171/2 years of age, you will need to provide proof that you:
    • Completed driver education (Certificate of Completion of Driver Education) OR
    • Are enrolled and participating in an approved integrated driver education/driver training program (Certificate of Enrollment in an Integrated [Classroom] Driver Education and Driver Training Program). For more information, refer to the Provisional Licensing (FFDL 19) Fast Fact brochure atwww.dmv.ca.gov.

Minor’s Provisional Driving License

The following are the requirements to receive a minor’s provisional driving license:

  • Be at least 16 years old.
  • Prove that you have finished both driver education and driver training.
  • Have had a California instruction permit or an instruction permit from another state for at least six months.
  • Provide parent(s) or guardian(s) signature(s) on your instruction permit stating that you have completed 50 hours of supervised driving practice (10 hours must be night driving) as outlined in the California Parent-Teen Training Guide (DL 603). Visit the Teen website at www.dmv.ca.gov/teenweb/ or call 1-800-777-0133 to request this booklet.
  • Pass the behind-the-wheel driving test. You have three chances to pass the driving test while your permit is valid. If you fail the behind-thewheel driving test, you must pay a retest fee for a second or subsequent test and wait two weeks before you are retested.

Once you have your provisional driver license, you may drive alone, as long as you do not have any collisions or traffic violations.

When you become 18 years old, the “provisional” part of your driver license ends. You may keep your provisional photo license or pay a fee for a duplicate driver license without the word “provisional.”

It is important to note that a driver under the age of 18 with a provisional license cannot drive between the hours of 11pm and 5am. In addition, during the first 12 months after being licensed, a driver cannot transport passengers under 20 years of age, unless accompanied by a licensed parent or guardian, a licensed driver 25 years of age or older, or a licensed or certified driving instructor.

Adult Permit

If you are at least 18 years old, you may receive an Adult Permit. The Adult Permit is designed to allow new drivers to gain additional experience driving before applying for a driver’s license. When driving with an adult permit, you must have a licensed driver sitting with you at all times when you are driving.

Adult Driver’s License

If you are at least 18 years old, you must do the following to receive your driver’s license:

If you have never been licensed, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Comply with the requirements for a driving permit and when you are ready, you must schedule your behind-the-wheel driving test.
  • Make an appointment to take the behind-the-wheel driving test. When you report for the driving test, bring your instruction permit with you.
  • Pass the behind-the-wheel driving test. If you fail the test, you must pay a retest fee for a second or subsequent test and schedule a behind-the-wheel driving test for another day.

If you have an out-of-state or out-of-country driver license, you must:

  • Complete all the steps required for a driving permit.
  • Bring your valid out-of-state driver license to the DMV. Your out-of-state driver license will be invalidated and returned to you unless you are applying for a commercial driver license.

Driving skills test are normally waived for holders of out-of-state or U.S. territory driver licenses. However, the department has the right to require a behind-the-wheel driving test for any applicant. Driving skills (behind-the-wheel) tests are always required for applicants with an out—of-country U.S. license.

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