Determine Whether You Need an International Drivers Permit for the USA

Adult in chicken suit holding arrow sign and 'rent a car' sign on street in California.
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It's not only American drivers that need to consider International Drivers Permits (sometimes called International Driving Licenses.) These permits should also be considered for international travelers coming to the United States. Travelers coming from another country to the United States, whether visiting for business or personal use, are encouraged to learn whether they should get an International Drivers Permit or not.

Driving in the United States as a Foreigner

An International Drivers Permit needs to be used in conjunction with a valid license from the driver's home country. It provides a translation of the existing driver's license into different languages and provides some identifying information, such as a photo, address, birth date, and more. The United States does not issue IDPs to foreign travelers, so it is important to obtain one before arriving in the United States.

When Visitors From Outside the U.S. Need an International Drivers Permit

Foreigner visitors may need an IDP to drive in the United States. For example, in January 2013, Florida required foreigners to carry an International Driving Permit with their national driving license. Even in situations when it is not needed, it can certainly be helpful to have. This may include cases when it will simplify identification, such as when a traveler is pulled over by a law enforcement officer. The motor vehicle department of the country that is issued on the visitor's driver's license must issue the IDP.

The United States is not responsible for issuing them to foreign visitors.

Additionally, renting a car may require a license and an IDP, as it depends on each rental car company's policy. In preparation, it is recommended to ask about the policy and other details before traveling. 

Obtaining a U.S. Drivers License

Travelers staying for a longer time in the United States may wish to apply for a driver's license from the state they're residing in, however, travelers should note that it can take several weeks or months to complete the process. Residents must apply at their state's department of motor vehicles in order to review the requirements for obtaining a U.S. driver's license. These details vary by each state, as do the driving laws.

Travelers should make sure to check out each state's requirements for drivers licenses before applying. They will also want to verify residency requirements. A driver's license from one state allows travelers to drive in all other states.

Watch out for IDP Scams

Travelers interested in International Drivers Permits should be aware of potential scams and outlets selling them for inflated prices. For more information, travelers should review an overview of International Drivers Permits scams. This may include fake IDP's which can lead to legal problems and travel delays. There are also ads and storefronts that market documents that are not real, and thus worthless. Residents and visitors caught with fake IDPs are likely to face serious charges, especially if they have no proof of identity.

Those scammed must report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission immediately.