For-Hire Vessel Operator's Licensing Program

Who must have a For-Hire Vessel Operator's License?
The law applies only to operators of powered vessels carrying four or more passengers for money or other consideration on California waters not under Federal jurisdiction. Water-skiers being towed are considered passengers.

What are the requirements to obtain a For-Hire Vessel Operator's License?
The applicant must:

  • Be at least eighteen (18) years old.
  • Have one year of experience operating the type of boat on the type of water for which the license is requested. In certain cases, other experience or training may be substituted.
  • Be in good physical condition.
  • Have adequate knowledge and skills necessary for safe operation of a passenger vessel. Written and practical (on-the water) examinations are given.

Note: If you have a valid Coast Guard Motorboat Operator's License, you may be issued a State license without further examination, including a waiver of the Medical Report. It will be necessary for the Coast Guard license or a copy to be reviewed by the Division before a State license can be issued.

How do I apply for a For-Hire Vessel Operator's License?
Submit your application to the Division of Boating and Waterways. The application forms and study materials will be sent to you free upon request, or they can be downloaded here..

You may mail your completed application to:

Division of Boating and Waterways
One Capitol Mall, Suite 410
Sacramento, CA 95814

Where do I take the written exam for a For-Hire Vessel Operator's License?
The written examination is usually administered on the same day as the practical examination. When your license application is processed, you will be called and a mutually agreeable date and location will be selected per your needs and our availability.

When and how do I renew my For-Hire Vessel Operator's License?
The license is effective for five years. To renew, you must submit an application, certification of your experience for the last five years, and a current medical examination report. You will not be required, usually, to re-take the written or practical examination for purposes of a renewal only. Forms needed to renew a license are available through DBW's website.

How do I appeal the denial of a permit, license, or application?

Contact the Acting Deputy Director of the Division at:

E-mail: Jared Zucker, Administrative Liaison to the Acting Deputy Director
Call: (888) 326-2822
Write: Colonel Christopher C. Conlin, USMC (Ret), Acting Deputy Director
One Capitol Mall, Suite 410
Sacramento, CA 95814