Getting your driver’s license in California is a straightforward but often lengthy process. If you’re patient then the process is always well worth it.
How long does it take for your driver’s license to come in the mail in California?
Once you have successfully applied for a driver’s license in California, you will receive your driver’s license in 3-4 weeks.
Average waiting time for license delivery by mail by state;
|Average waiting time (in weeks)
Assuming you have successfully applied for a driver’s license you will generally be expected to wait 15 business days to have your license arrive in the mail, although natural delays can have you wait up to 20 business days.
You are advised to be patient while waiting for your driver’s license and you will be issued a temporary state license while you wait. Temporary California driver’s licenses are valid for up to 90 days to allow you to drive while you’re still waiting for your ID to come in.
However, some people have reported waiting as long as 2 months for their driver’s license to come in through the mail. This has been an especially more common occurrence due to backlog from COVID-19 regulations and restrictions, although this situation is relieving itself.
It’s very possible to wait far beyond the generally expected timeframe to receive your license, especially if you applied during a long backlog. Hence why temporary licenses are valid for up to 90 days, to account for such situations.
However, don’t despair because other people have reported being able to get their license in as little as 1-2 weeks. You would have to be very lucky to get your license that quickly in the mail but it does happen, and you’ll definitely be grateful for it.
How To Get Driver’s License In California?
In order to get your driver’s license in California, you will need to Visit your nearby DMV office, complete a form DL44 (driver license or identification card application), show proof of your identity, pay the $33 fee for driver’s license, pass the written permit test, pass the behind-the-wheel test and just like that you’ll be set up to wait to receive your driver’s license in the mail.
The process for getting your license in California is an often dreaded prospect because of the multiple lengthy stages required to be able to get on the road legally.
Your process will start with going to your local DMV and applying for a proof of identity and residence form with attached identity validations such as marriage certificates, a US passport, or similar.
After your ID has been confirmed you will need to have your photo and fingerprints taken, then pass an eye exam at a fee of $33.
You will then take a permit test and after that has been passed you’ll be required to start taking road tests. It should be noted that you should pre-book all of your stages of the license process as coming to the DMV without an appointment can result in waiting up to 8 hours in line for assistance.
Similarly, ensure you study hard for your written test and practice consistently for your road test as the wait times for these if you fail can be up to weeks. If you’re not careful, you may end up waiting months just to get your license.
However, operating at peak efficiency and with a nice bout of luck, you can have your license in your hands within a matter of weeks. Do also note you must be at least 18 years old to apply for a driver’s license in California; however, you may apply for a provisional driver’s license from the age of 16.
Why does it take so long for my driver license to come?
The process of actually manufacturing a driver’s license and validating identity credentials is a very lengthy process and the complications of the process are compounded by the thousands of people that apply for a license daily.
In 2011, California issued a new driver’s license design that was made to be far more difficult to duplicate than ever before. The new design included enhanced security features and methods to check the validity of these measures that would make finding effective duplicates both too difficult and expensive for motorists to bother considering.
The new security measures included the cardholder’s signature and birth date being raised, so they could be felt by an inspector. Hidden images would be revealed only by an ultraviolet light being shunned directly on the car, and a perforated outline of the California brown bear traditionally featured on California driver’s licenses would only be visible when a standard flashlight was pressed against the back of the card.
These security measures went a long way to ensure that fake drivers licenses were cut down dramatically but unfortunately, they had a significant impact on innocent drivers.
Due to the myriad of new features on driver’s licenses, the process of actually manufacturing them was significantly lengthened to ensure these difficult to replicate features were done effectively.
DMV Director George Valverde said that the sole vendor responsible for making California driver’s license, L-1 Identity Solutions, had a series of complications in trying to manufacture the licenses accurately, especially en masse and these complications have dramatically increased the amount of time needed to manufacture cards.
“L-1 has struggled with color accuracy, the raised lettering and the positioning of images of California icons, including El Capitan in Yosemite and the Golden Gate Bridge. L-1 was the only bidder on the five-year, $63-million job,” Valverde stated to the public.
It was stated that when production first began, 80% of licenses had defects that forced them to be discarded. However, since then production issues have been ironed out. This was until the COVID-19 pandemic brought about new production issues.
This is compounded with the strict security that the license development process has to have 24/7, with a limited trusted and trained staff that have access to the development process.
The limited staff further exaggerate the length that one needs to wait for their license to be delivered to them.
If you find yourself waiting for a considerable amount of time, just remember that your license is a complicated feat of secure engineering and design.
Driver’s license hasn’t come in mail – why?
There’s a possibility that any number of complications could delay your driver’s license arrival from errors in your details, being lost in transit, manufacturing faults, backlog, etc.
The state of California is tasked with the responsibility of issuing 8 million driver’s licenses every year, that’s roughly 30,000 licenses issued every single day. This is a tremendous undertaking for a single agency, being the DMV, to handle effectively and in a timely manner.
In order to effectively handle this backlog, there’s often a long waiting period for motorists. Within this waiting period, any number of issues can arise that would delay the arrival of your license to your mailbox.
If you provided the wrong mailing details to the DMV there’s a possibility that your license could have arrived but to the wrong address. There’s a possibility your license could get lost in transit while it’s moving around with thousands of other licenses. As previously mentioned, the card manufacturer could have experienced a production challenge that delayed the creation of a batch that your license was in.
Most commonly of all, however, it simply backlogs. Dealing with issuing 30,000 cards per day isn’t an easy process and often people come into the DMV in large groups to make applications all at once.
With a big enough backlog, you could easily find yourself waiting for much longer than the average waiting period.
In which case, don’t panic, simply call the DMV or the shipping company and figure out where your card is.
What to do if your driver’s license doesn’t come in the mail?
If your driver’s license hasn’t come in your mail in 60 days, call the DMV on 1-800-777-0133 to inquire about the status of your package.
If you haven’t received your license within 60 days, it’s likely you may be a victim of any one of the logistics issues previously mentioned. However, you don’t need to worry, simply call the DVM and they will check where your card is and what could possibly have caused the delay.
This process happens within 15 minutes including the holding time, but generally, you will be assisted and have a good idea of where your card is. You will likely not need to go to a DMV to sort out whatever the issue is.
Generally, you can just assume backlog is the reason for the delay.
Can I check the status of my driver’s license? How?
You may check the status of your driver’s license in one of three ways; going to the DMV office, checking on the DMV website, or sending an INF 1125 form to the DMV.
In the event you need to check if your license is suspended, which would bar you from renewing, replacing, or even using your license you may check the status of your license either in person, on the DMV website, or by sending a physical letter. You will be charged a fee ranging from $2-$5 for using either of these services.
According to the DMV, there are 2 reasons for wanting to find out if your license is suspended:
- You were arrested or ticketed and are concerned about your right to drive, or
- You have completed a license suspension and want to make sure your right to drive has been reinstated.
The DVM further adds that driving on a suspended license is a crime and can carry up to 6 months in jail, and/or $1,000 in fines. It is thus important to check the status of your new license before trying to wait for it to arrive.
Can I track my drivers license in the mail?
Yes, you can track where your driver’s license is by simply calling the DMV number, 1-800-777-0133.
When you call the DVM you will speak to a representative that will guide you along where your card is and what the estimated waiting period will be for you to receive your card in the mail.