Your international driving license can be used to drive in US. Many states including Massachusetts and Utah allow you to use your home country license for up-to 6 months.
The state law is different for each and you should first check your residence state’s DMV website before taking any decision. Driving without a license is a very serious offence and you may have to pay heavy fine if you are caught.
Indian driving license from your state in India can be used to drive car in US. Chinese, Mexican drivers license (Mexican OL) in English can be used to drive in US. Canadian tourists driving in to US for short term can also drive with their Canadian license.
Note that driving is allowed only for non-commercial vehicles with international license.
This article will discuss:
- Foreign Driving License Age
- How Long Can I drive with Foreign License?
- International License not in English
- Caught Driving with International License
- Driving History & Insurance
- Rental Car with International License
- How Many Times Can International License be Used?
- Do States Share Driving History Data?
- International License Scams
Foreign Driving License Age
The minimum driving age is 16 in USA. It does not matter if it is lower in your home country.
How Long Can I drive with Foreign License?
Driving from 1 month to 1 year is allowed in many US states like MA, TX and others.
This information is useful for F1 students and J visa holders. Some states like California and New York even allow age 18 and older to drive with a valid DL from their home state or country without getting their state license as long as their home state or country DL is valid.
Hover your mouse pointer on state to know its number of months allowed for driving with international license:
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|State||Drive with Foreign Driving License|
|Vermont (VT)||1 month|
|Florida (FL)||1 month|
|Georgia (GA)||1 month|
|Nebraska (NE)||1 month|
|Ohio (OH)||1 month|
|West Virginia (WV)||1 month|
|Delaware (DE)||2 month|
|Indiana (IN)||2 month|
|Maryland (MD)||2 month|
|Minnesota (MN)||2 month|
|Mississippi (MS)||2 month|
|Missouri (MO)||2 month|
|Montana (MT)||2 month|
|New Hampshire (NH)||2 month|
|New Jersey (NJ)||2 month|
|New Mexico (NM)||2 month|
|North Carolina (NC)||2 month|
|Oklahoma (OK)||2 month|
|Rhode Island (RI)||2 month|
|South Carolina (SC)||2 month|
|Wyoming (WY)||2 month|
|Alaska (AK)||3 month|
|Colorado (CO)||3 month|
|Illinois (IL)||3 month|
|Louisiana (LA)||3 month|
|Maine (ME)||3 month|
|North Dakota (ND)||3 month|
|South Dakota (SD)||3 month|
|Massachusetts (MA)||6 month|
|Utah (UT)||6 month|
|Tennessee (TN)||6 month|
|Virginia (VA)||6 month|
|Arkansas (AR)||6 month|
|Texas (TX)||12 month|
|Washington State (WA)||12 month|
|Pennsylvania (PA)||12 month|
|Connecticut (CT)||12 month|
|Hawaii (HI)||12 month|
|Idaho (ID)||12 month|
|Kansas (KS)||12 month|
|Kentucky (KY)||12 month|
|Wisconsin (WI)||12 month|
|California (CA)||License Validity|
|New York State (NY)||License Validity|
|Arizona (AZ)||License Validity|
|Oregon (OR)||License Validity|
|Alabama (AL)||License Validity|
|Iowa (IA)||License Validity|
|Michigan (MI)||License Validity|
|Nevada (NV)||License Validity|
Note that as soon as you become a resident of the state, you should get their state driving license. This requirement is common for all 50 US states.
I have kept the time to drive as 2 months for states that do not have any out of country license time defined explicitly with no reference link.
International License not in English
The foreign driving license should be in ENGLISH.
If your license is in your local language, then you should either get the international driving license in English or have the English translation.
The translation document should have your photograph too. A sample form for driving license in English translation has been given Massachusetts DMV.
Some states like Texas accept foreign licenses in Spanish but I still recommend getting English translation. You can contact your consulate or embassy to translate the information on the driver license prior to arriving in US.
Caught Driving with International License
If you are stopped by police and you are using your international driving license, then, there is no way of adding the ticket to your name by police officer. They will probably just let you go by issuing a warning if it is a regular offence of minor speeding.
You can be arrested and fined if you jumped the red signal or hit someone badly.
Driving History & Insurance
I strongly recommend to get a US driving license as soon as possible and preferably immediately after you land in America to start working on H1B or L work visa. Getting a US driving license helps you make your driving history which will help reduce your auto insurance premium.
You may not be eligible to apply for US driving license with B1/B2 temporary short term visit visa though.
Rental Car with International License
Rental car companies like Budget, Avis or Enterprise will easily rent you a car without a US driving license. I have myself rented the car just by showing the Indian driving license while visiting US on B1/B2 visa.
They only need to see that you do have the driving capability by looking at your license. There is no license scanning or any other thing done.
How Many Times Can International License be Used?
You are allowed to use your home country driving license in USA only once if you are staying in USA for long term. If you ever got a US driving license from any state, then you are expected to use it.
You should renew your US driving license on time and get new one if you move to a different state as per their rules.
You have New York’s driving license and it has now expired. You cannot use your valid Indian license to drive in New York or any other state now.
Even if you move to new state like MA, which allows you to drive up-to 6 months with Indian license, you need to get MA license now. If you are caught, you will face penalties since you held New York state’s license.
Do States Share Driving History Data?
Many states do not share their driving license history with other states automatically. As an example, Texas and Oklahoma do not have any contract to share their driving tickets and history data at this time.
This does not mean that they do not accept the driving history report that you can get from Texas and show it for Oklahoma.
International License Scams
There are many sites that sell documents as ‘International Driver Licenses’ and ‘International Driving Permits’ and claim to give you driving license. Stay away from them as they are not legal licenses and you are not allowed to use them.
The only two agencies designated by US to issue international driving permits (IDP) are
- American Automobile Association (AAA) International Driving License
- American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) IDP license.
Your IDP is a valid form of identification in 150 countries worldwide and contains your name, photo and driver information. The IDP is recommended if you are travelling to Europe, China or Indian from US.
You can get an international license from your own country before travelling to US. Check for the agency that issues IDP in your country of residence.