Driving in Arizona with a Foreign Drivers License

Car on the side of the road, Arizona

Dave Dean

A strong economy, moderate gasoline prices, more international air routes, and international marketing campaigns help lure visitors to Arizona. Visitors from countries like China are increasing. Many of these tourists will want to enjoy Arizona by driving from attraction to attraction or by taking a nostalgic road trip on Route 66. They may or may not need documentation beyond their own country's drivers license. This information will help international visitors decided whether or not they need an international driving permit.

Visitors to the United States from Other Countries

You may legally drive in Arizona as a visitor or tourist using a valid driver license from another country. An international driving permit is not required, but it is recommended because it can be printed in English and used in conjunction with the driver license from the other country. If it is not printed in English, you could run into difficulties in Arizona, so you should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) in English from your country before you leave. The International Driving Permit, (formerly the International Driver License) must be issued by a country other than the United States.

When Are You Not a Visitor or Tourist

If you are working in Arizona, attending school or have children attending school here, registered to vote in Arizona, operating a business in Arizona, or are otherwise defined by the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) as an Arizona resident, you are required to apply for an Arizona Driver License.

According to the Arizona MVD, Canada, Germany, South Korea, and Taiwan are the only countries that have reciprocity agreements with Arizona. First-time applicants with a valid driver license from Germany, South Korea or Taiwan are not required to take a written or road test. Canadian citizens are exempt from taking the road test but are still required to pass the written exam. 

Arizona offers a standard driver license and a Voluntary Travel ID. There are different identification requirements for each license. The Arizona Travel ID is the credential that complies with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. It is available as both a driver license and identification card. Effective October 1, 2020, only the Arizona Travel ID (driver license or ID card), a U.S. passport, and other federally approved identification will be accepted to pass through TSA airport security checkpoints for domestic travel. They are available now for applicants.

When You Drive in Arizona

If you drive in Arizona, the rules of the road may be different than where you are from, and may even be different than in other states of the U.S. You can review the Driver License Manual (English and Spanish), which is used to test Arizona drivers before they can get a driver license.

Keep in mind that if you are renting a car in Arizona, and not just borrowing a friend or relative's car while you are here, the rental companies may require an International Driving Permit, or have other requirements.

American Drivers Traveling Overseas

You should obtain an IDP before you leave on your trip. AAA can assist with that. There is a fee. If you will be receiving the IDP by mail instead of going to your local AAA office, make sure you leave plenty of time—at least six weeks—for them to process and mail the IDP to you.

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