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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

What Are The Licensing Requirements For A Locksmith In California?

by Ralph July 14, 2015

The laws surrounding becoming a locksmith differ depending on where your business is located, just as laws relating to lock picking vary. And the location that you are working in might have a different definition of what a locksmith is. In California, a locksmith is a person who “installs, repairs, opens or modifies locks, or that originates keys for locks” for monetary compensation. If you are simply duplicating existing keys, you do not need a locksmith license.

Although there are many acceptable ways to improve your locksmith skills and go about your security education, there is only one path to getting the proper locksmith license in California. This is not all the information that you need in order to start your own locksmith business in California, but it will put you on the right track whether you are new to the profession or looking to make the next move into opening your own locksmith shop.

Disqualifying Factors For Becoming A Locksmith In California


  • You must be 18 years of age or older.
  • You cannot have been convicted of any prior felony.
  • You can re-submit your application one year after the date you received your denial.

Before you begin looking into becoming a licensed locksmith in California, it is important to know what will immediately result in your application being rejected. There are general requirements that you must meet in order to have your locksmith application considered.

For example, if you are younger than eighteen years old, you cannot become a locksmith regardless of your qualifications, processing payments, or litigious attention to detail during the licensing process. Other than age, you cannot have been previously convicted of any felonies. Even felony convictions received outside of the state will prevent you from becoming a locksmith in California.

If you are under the legal age of adulthood or have been convicted of past crimes, do not bother submitting your application. These should be two factors that you are well aware of, and without being eighteen years old and having a clean criminal record, there is no reason to continue reading as you are disqualified from receiving a California Locksmith License.

In the eventuality that you are denied your locksmith license in California, you can always re-apply. There may have been an issue with your submission for some reason or another. You must wait one year after the day of your previous denial, but you can submit your paperwork again for reconsideration.

The Basic Steps To Become A Locksmith In California


  • Provide 2 forms of legal identification.
  • Provide 2 passport quality photographs.
  • Submit Live Scan to the DOJ and FBI.
  • Submit your license application.
  • Possibly seek a California contractor license.

In order to navigate through the process of becoming a locksmith in California, you need to be able to prove that you are who you say you are, and that requires a state-issued ID, driver’s license, passport, etc. You will also need up to date photographs of yourself to include in your locksmith license application. As you will see in the application document, the picture must have been taken no more than a year previous to the time of submission.

Submitting your Live Scan is relatively straightforward, and you can find everything you need on the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) of State of California’s website. Go to the Live Scan page, and follow the relevant instructions. The most important thing is to select the locksmith license form. There is only one form, which applies to those seeking a license as a locksmith company (LCO) and individuals looking to become locksmith employees (LOC).

The BSIS provides you with a ten-page document filled with all of the forms and information you will need to navigate through this process. This article is great supplemental reading, but the information that should be followed to the letter will be in those pages. However, that packet is not everything you need, because it does not include the Live Scan application (described above).

Additional steps will be required if you would like to be able to take on work that will bring in an excess of $500 per work site. My guess would be that making less than $500 per job would not be a limitation you would want to put on yourself, but it will require further licensing as a California contractor. You can learn more about that process on the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) website.

Becoming A Locksmith Company Vs. Becoming A Locksmith In California


  • A locksmith company is referred to as an LCO.
  • A locksmith employee has a designation of LOC.
  • It costs more money to become licensed as an LCO.

While filling out the documents, you can potentially ignore the information pertaining to LCO concerns. If you are just looking to become the employee of a locksmith company, there are fewer steps involved in this process. For those seeking a locksmith company license, you need to be aware of your business information, including specifying the person who will run the daily operations of the business.

You will also have to submit your fictitious business name, which you may have to do as a part of this process, or a process you have handled prior to receiving your license. You can also begin working when you receive a temporary registration. This temporary registration will last for a period of 120 days, and can only be attained when you have not been convicted of a felony and have answered “No” to all the questions on your application.

A locksmith company needs to keep their business information up to date. You will only have a period of 30 days to inform the BSIS of the change. This submission process requires the inclusion of your name (as it appears on you licensing information), your date of birth, Social Security number, your current license number, the previous address for your business, and the new address.

There are also more charges that come when registering as an LCO vs a LOC. We will break these down further in the next section dealing with how much money does it cost to become a locksmith in California, but it breaks down to a difference of $55.

The Cost To Become A Locksmith In California


  • $30 application fee for LCO.
  • $45 license fee for LCO.
  • $20 registration fee LOC.
  • $32 DOJ fingerprint processing fee.
  • $17 FBI fingerprint processing fee.
  • Your local area may require further permits with additional costs.
  • A locksmith license only lasts for a period of two years.
  • Locksmith companies will also have to consider the general costs of starting a business.

It is not significantly cost prohibitive to become a licensed locksmith in California, though the costs may seem daunting to someone who is just starting off in the profession. It will be cheaper to become licensed as a locksmith employee (LOC), than a locksmith company (LCO), so that is the ideal license for beginners to seek.

Filing the paperwork necessary will end up costing approximately the same between a LOC and LCO, with a difference of $55. This is because the application fee and license fee for an LCO accumulate to a cost of $75, as opposed to the $20 registration fee for a LOC. Both of these licenses have the same cost in terms of the DOJ and FBI fingerprint processing, which is a combined total of $49.

If you are only attempting to become a locksmith employee, your total cost to become a licensed locksmith in California is at least $69. And if you would like to become a licensed locksmith company, it is going to cost at least $124. However, the cost to process your application and license can increase to $500 ($250 for each), if you submit your documents after July 1st of the year you are seeking a license for. These costs will recur every 2 years because licenses are only valid for that timeframe.

There are, of course, many costs associated with opening a locksmith business, which becomes more obvious when looking at a basic introduction to locksmithing. Those additional costs include purchasing materials, educational investment, insurance, bonding, etc. These costs are not standardized and are not required investments in order to receive a locksmith license in California.

Final Thoughts

If you have any questions about becoming a locksmith in California, feel free to leave the comments section below. Alternatively, you can do additional reading the California State Business and Professions Codes that pertain directly to locksmiths.

You should also look for any specific information about the city you are going to be servicing as a locksmith, as local laws may require additional filing and steps. No one is interested in hiring a security professional who doesn’t follow the laws of the land, so protect yourself and your business by becoming a licensed locksmith in California.

Category: Automotive, Commercial, Residential

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