CSLB Application Fees 2023: A Comprehensive Guide

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in California manages the licensing of contractors within the state. A critical aspect of this process involves understanding the various fees associated with obtaining and maintaining a contractor’s license.

In 2023, the CSLB has a specific fee structure that applicants and current licensees must be aware of. This guide aims to provide detailed insight into these fees, so contractors can be effective as they plan their future contracting endeavors.

Understanding CSLB Application Fees

What Is The CSLB?

The CSLB is a governmental organization responsible for the licensing and regulation of California’s construction industry by establishing and enforcing the rules around legal construction work.

The CSLB’s main priority is physical and financial safety for the end customer. They accomplish this via their licensing powers, which ensure that only construction contractors who have been verified and licensed by the state of California are allowed to work on construction jobs.

While the CSLB doesn’t technically enforce the rules it lays out – that’s for SWIFT, local authorities, and ultimately, the legal system to handle – it handles every other aspect of contractor laws in California, from setting the legal requirements to becoming a contractor to enshrining the financial and legal penalties for people who run afoul of the law.

Types of CSLB Fees

If you’re applying to become a contractor for the first time in California, buckle up – because the CSLB charges tons of fees. Some would say too many fees (not us, but somebody!).

The CSLB charges fees for everything – applications, renewals, name changes, exams, everything. If there’s any effort at all required by the CSLB, they will charge for it.

All that to say – when you’re applying for a contractor license, or renewing it, or doing anything, expect to spend a good wedge on just fees alone. In the next section, we’ll cover all of those fees in total.

CSLB License Application Fees

Initial Application Fee

  • Fee: $450
  • Description: This fee is for processing a new license application for one singular classification, whether by examination or waiver.
  • Does not include renewals, which have a separate renewal fee. You aren’t charged twice for these. You are only charged an initial application fee for a new application.

Additional Classification Fee

  • Fee: $230 (for existing license); $150 (for new applications)
  • Description: This is the fee for adding an additional classification to an existing license or during the initial application.
  • For example, if you’re a Class B General Contractor holder but want to do your own HVAC work, you’d have to pay this fee to apply for a C-20 license.

CSLB Examination Fees

In order to get your CSLB license, you must pass the CSLB examination. This exam is notoriously difficult for even the most seasoned construction workers, with two separate sections – the Law and Business exam and the Trade exam, which cover general business and law knowledge and trade-specific expertise, respectively.

Luckily, there are no additional fees for the exam – the cost of taking the CSLB exam is included in your application fee.

However, if you fail the exam and have to retake it, there is a $100 fee attached for any examination work.

CSLB Initial Licensing Fees

Initial licensing fees are only applied to new licenses and are only paid once by an individual or corporation for the specific classification they are applying for.

These fees vary and are based on the business structure of the applicant. See our article on Contractor Business Structures for more information.

Licensing Fee for Sole Ownership

  • Fee: $200
  • Description: This is the licensing fee paid by contractor businesses with a sole proprietorship ownership structure upon passing the examination.
  • This fee is paid upon completion of the examination and is one of the last fees you need to pay to get your license.

Licensing Fee for Non-Sole Owners

  • Fee: $350
  • Description: Like the sole ownership fee, this fee is paid upon completion of your examination.
  • This fee is paid upon completion of the examination and is one of the last fees you need to pay to get your license.

CSLB License Renewal Fees

Renewal fees, as the name implies, are the fees required to renew a license. All CSLB licenses must be renewed yearly, so these fees go for both expired licenses and valid licenses – it all depends on the status of your license.

Active License Renewal Fee

  • Fee: $450 for sole owners, $700 for non-sole owners (C-10 contractors will be charged an additional $20)
  • Description: For active license renewals, the fee varies slightly for different types of ownership. It’s $700 for corporations and partnerships, and $450 for sole proprietorships.

Inactive License Renewal Fee

  • Fee: $300 for sole owners, $500 for non-sole owners
  • Description: This fee is lower than active license renewals as it seeks to encourage lapsed license holders to become licensed again. Like the active license renewal fee, this fee is more expensive for partnerships and corporations.

Other Fees

Now that the main application and renewal fees are out of the way, it’s time to go further into the various piecemeal fees.

Home Improvement Salesperson Registration

  • Fee: $200 for application, $200 for timely renewal, and $300 for delinquent renewal
  • Description: This unique fee is applicable only to Home Improvement Salespeople (HIS). This is the only contractor’s license that doesn’t allow the owner to perform any real construction work. This license only allows you to sell services performed by others.

Background Check, Live Scan, and Fingerprinting Fees

  • Dept. of Justice Processing Fee: $32
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation Processing Fee: $17
  • Live Scan Rolling Fees: Varies, but roughly $40
  • Description: All applicants must go through a State and Federal background check. Involved in this process are fees charged by the DOJ and FBI. The Live Scan fee varies based on the location of the applicant, but it’s usually around $40. Check the Live Scan website for more details.

Delinquency Fee

  • Fee: $675 for sole owners, $1,050 for non-sole owners (C-10 contractors will be charged an additional $20)
  • Description: These exorbitant – in our opinion, excessive – fees are charged on renewals that are submitted after the license in question has expired. It’s basically a penalty for not renewing on time.
  • It’s important to note that these fees are not charged on top of the renewal fee for the license, but rather replace them, so you don’t pay this in addition to the renewal fee.

Miscellaneous Fees

These are miscellaneous fees that may or may not apply to your situation and needs.

  • Duplicate/Replacement Pocket/Wall Certificates: $25
  • Business Name Change: $100
  • Certified License History: $67 per name researched
  • General Status Letter: $8
  • Bond Status Letter: $8
  • Copies of Public Documents: $0.10 per page
  • Certified Copies of Public Documents: $2 plus $0.10 per page

Payment Methods and Processing

  • Accepted Payment Methods
  • CSLB accepts checks, money orders, and credit cards. Detailed payment methods can be found on the CSLB website.

Processing Time

  • Processing times vary, especially during times of high volume. We always recommend submitting applications and renewals well in advance of deadlines to avoid any issues.

So… How Much Does It Cost To Get Your CSLB Contractor License?

So, how much can I expect to pay to get my CSLB contractor’s license?

The answer is – it varies. It all depends on what kind of license you need, the status of your license, whether it’s your first license or you’re renewing it, whether your license is expired, and so on.

There’s so many variables to getting your license, and every situation is different. However, here is the general total of the basic fees anyone needs to get their contractor license in California.

Total Estimated Cost of Fees for a New CSLB License

For a Sole Owner:

Application Fee: $450
Initial License Fee: $200
Fingerprinting (DOJ and FBI): $80

Total Fees For Sole Proprietors: $740

For a Corporation or Partnership (or any business structure that involves more than one person):

Application Fee: $450
Initial License Fee: $350
Fingerprinting (DOJ and FBI): $80 (excluding rolling fees)

Total Fees For Corporations Or Partnerships: $900


The most important skill for a California construction contractor is planning. You need to plan your life in advance – doing your apprenticeship work, gaining work experience in your trade, getting your license and ultimately building a successful business all require and understanding of your situation and the career you want.

Don’t overlook fees when planning your future as a CSLB-licensed contractor. These small amounts can really add up quickly – and if you don’t effectively plan not only the cost of these fees but the times that you pay them, you can end up spending far more money than you initially planned.

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About CSLS

Contractors State License Service (CSLS) is the largest school in California devoted to the Construction professional. For over 23 years, CSLS has helped its students pass the exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California, licensing more students than any other school. From our main offices in Southern California, CSLS operates over 25 locations with full-service support and classrooms. We have grown to this extent by providing quality, professional services. In comparison, this provides 7 times the number of convenient locations than the second largest contractor school. Contractors State License Services is one of the only contractor schools in the state that is run by educators, not lawyers or people mostly interested in the bonding and insurance business. Contractors State License Services formerly operated under the oversight of the State of California's Bureau for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education. As of January 1 2010, the new Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) came into existence replacing the BPPVE. CSLS now operates under the provisions of the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (CPPEA), Article 4 Section 94874(f). Our Mission is simple; We can help you pass your California Contractors License Exam. Celebrating our 25th year, CSLS has helped over 120,000 students pass the California contractor licensing exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California. Additionally, we offer complete home study and online contractor’s license programs to help you pass your California contractors license exam. CSLS offers licensing classes for all types of contractor licenses, including General Engineering Contractor, General Building Contractor, Specialty Contractor, Insulation and Acoustical Contractor, Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor, Cabinet, Millwork and Finish Carpentry Contractor, Concrete Contractor, Drywall Contractor, Electrical Contractor, Elevator Contractor, Landscaping Contractor, Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor, and many others. For a complete list of contractor licenses, visit www.MakeMeAContractor.com and tuned for more informative posts.