According to the dictionary, licence/license refers to an official document which proves you are permitted to do something. What, then, is the word for the permission itself? I'm from Korea, and in Korean the document and the permission are two different things; that is, the formal permission by the authorities is called 면허, and the document is called 면허증.
License is not only the document, it is also the permission. From the free dictionary:
license: formal permission from a governmental or other constituted authority to do something, as to carry on some business or profession.
It is from the Latin: freedom, licent-, s. of licēns, present participle of licēre, to be allowed. About St. Francis
He was considered a madman for 3 years until the Pope gave him license to preach in 1208 A.D. From that date, he began attracting thousands of followers.
Replace license with permission or freedom and that is how the word license can be used.