how to get your California contractor license and document your experience even if you were paid under the table

Proving Your California Contractor License Experience!

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Becoming a licensed contractor in California can be extremely lucrative depending on your trade specialty.

However, unlike other states, California has a somewhat strict licensing process. In addition to passing a two-part examination, applicants must also prove they have at least 4 years of journeyman-level experience in a construction-related trade. 

One of the most common questions we get is “How do I prove my experience, I was always paid under the table, never reported taxes, was never an official employee, etc.”

In this post, we will take a look at the many alternatives available to you when proving your experience for a California contractor license!

Basic California Contractor License Requirements

make sure that you understand all of the options you have in terms of proving your trade experience when filling out your CSLB application in California

To receive an exam date with the Contractor State License Board, you must meet the following basic requirements:

  • 18 Years of Age
  • Valid Drivers License OR USA Issued Identification
  • Social Security OR ITIN #
  • Cannot Currently Be On Probation or Parole

You must also have:

  • 4 Years Journey Level Experience
  • Signature From A Qualifying Individual
  • A Way To Prove Experience If The State Boards Asks

What Does the CSLB Consider Acceptable Supporting Experience Documentation?

The CSLB offers applicants a variety of ways to prove their 4 years of journeyman level experience including:

Tax Documentation and Pay Stubs

when applying for your california contractor license, the cslb also allows you to use tax documents and check stubs as a way to prove your experience
  • Copies of your state or federal income tax forms showing income from construction. These can include: W2's, 1099, or Schedule C for self employment
  • End-of-year paycheck stubs showing gross earnings and hourly/salary rates 
  • You can get your wage transcripts at anytime from the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 829-1040

Employer Contact Information

  • To verify employment period and scope of work performed
  • Copies of applicant’s state or federal income tax forms showing income from trade duties performed 
  • End-of-year paycheck stubs showing gross earnings and hourly/salary rates

Duty Statements

  • If employer had a specific duty statement outlining scope of work performed
  • Must be signed by your employer including contact information

Out-of-State Proof of Employer’s Licensure

  • Proof of employer’s out-of-state license status, classification, and personnel of record

Notarized Certification of Work Experience

  • Notarized Certification of Work Experience written in or translated into English and notarized in the country of origin

Copies of Permits/Inspections

  • You may use copies of city/county building permits regardless of whether they were pulled by applicant or homeowner 
  • Permit applications, permits, and final inspection reports
  • Must be accompanied by statement detailing the work the you performed 
  • If you plan on using homeowner permits, make sure to for homeowner include your contract or invoice with a detailed scope of work you performed

For General Building Contractor License Applicants
The California contractor license application allows you to prove your experience in many different ways, this is especially important for General B license applicants with the CSLB
  • General Building permits, reflect the square footage of the project and support work in structural framing/rough carpentry  
  • Each job must include at least two (2) unrelated trades, other than framing/rough carpentry
  • You can also include of permits for plumbing, electrical, roofing, etc. for specific classifications if you choose

Contracts, Itemized Work Orders, or Invoices

  • Copies of complete and signed contracts 
  • Contracts must have been entered into by both parties and signed, including your clients contact information, description of work performed, and project start and end dates
  • You must also include a statement indicating a reasonable estimate of the time it took to complete the project

Cancelled Checks

  • You will need to include copies of both sides of canceled checks from jobs performed
  • Make sure to include a letter or Certification of Work Experience from person who paid the check describing what kind of work you did

Copies of Deeds and Proofs of Sales

  • This applies to work done on applicant’s own property
  • You will also include a statement detailing work done on the properties and dates of projects

Material Receipts

  • These can be used to support other documentation (including permits, contracts, invoices, canceled checks, etc.)
  • Must include certifications of work experience from individuals for whom you performed the work and applied the materials

Construction Education, Degrees, or Apprenticeships

The CSLB allows california contractor license applicants to use their experience from a college degree, apprenticeship or certification toward their contractor license

The CSLB allows certain applicants with college degrees, completed apprenticeships, or certifications to apply for licensing using their education credits toward experience. 

This may include:


  • Sealed official transcripts for evaluation of college degrees/units in related construction trade
  • Transcripts for degree earned outside of the United States must be translated into English and evaluated by an accredited evaluation service that does business within the United States
  • Maximum of three (3) years of experience credit granted

Construction Related Apprenticeships

  • Proof of formal apprenticeships in related construction trade 
  • Including those administered by unions and vocational or accredited schools
  • Maximum of three (3) years of experience credit granted

Union Journeyman Book or Letter

  • Must include copies of hour printouts maintained by unions 
  • Must match the experience claimed on your certification of Work Experience, and/or journey-level status

Military Training

  • Copy of applicant’s DD214 or military discharge papers if applicant’s military training is related to the classification for which he/she is applying
  • Military service during a national emergency extends 10-year period in which experience is calculated 

Learn more about the CSLB benefits available to military veterans

Electrician Certification

  • You will need to include the Department of Industrial Relations Division of Apprenticeship Standards’ Certified Electrician card 
  • To support applicant’s claimed C-10 journey-level status

Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) Certification: 

Work Experience and Division of Occupational Safety and Health(DOSH) Registration:

  • Specific C-22 experience, exam waiver, and DOSH Registration requirements are contained in California Code of Regulations section
  • Required to support applicant’s claimed C-22 journey-level experience, as documented on a Certification of Work Experience

Applying for your California Contractor License

While the application process to the CSLB can seem daunting, many contractors get licensed each year in California with no problems. 

Remember the CSLB wants you to obtain your license and work safely in the state, they are on your side.

For more information about choosing a contractor license classification and the examination check out this complete guide

Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions!