Can I drive in California with an out-of-state driver’s license?

Posted by Neil Shouse | May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

Subject to certain age restrictions, someone from out of state can legally drive in California as long as:

  • The driver has a current, valid license from the state in which he/she resides, and
  • The license is valid for the type of vehicle the person is driving in California (car, truck, motorcycle, etc.).

Age restrictions on out-of-state licenses

Drivers age 18 and over have no time restriction for using an out-of-state license in California. They may continue to drive as long as:

  • They are not California residents, and
  • Their license remains valid in their state of residence.

An out-of-state driver who is 16 or 17 may drive for a maximum of ten (10) days immediately following his/her entry into California.

But the time limit does not apply if:

  1. The minor holds a valid driver's license issued by his/her state of residence,
  2. The minor has in his/her immediate possession a nonresident minor's certificate issued by the California DMV, and
  3. In connection with such certificate, the minor has filed proof of financial responsibility.

What happens if a driver moves to California?

Someone who moves to California and wishes to drive must apply for a license from the California DMV:

  • Within 10 days of becoming a California resident, or
  • Immediately, if driving is part of their employment (for instance working as a delivery person or a Lyft or Uber driver).

Driving to and from a place of employment does not count as driving as part of employment.

If a person who moves to the state and fails to apply for a California license within 10 days, but continues to drive, he or she can be charged with "driving without a license" per Vehicle Code 12500 VC

For purposes of obtaining a license to drive, a person may be considered a resident if he or she moves to California with the intention of staying.

But a person is definitively considered a resident of California if he or she:

  • Registers to vote,
  • Pays resident tuition,
  • Files for a homeowner's property tax exemption, or
  • Obtains any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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