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I'm currently in the United States for a short period and would like to know if my local driving license, which was issued in Sri Lanka, would be valid to drive a vehicle here in D.C., United States.

Do I need to convert my license to any other format (Like international driving license)?

  • 2
    What state will you be driving in? Each state has their own laws regarding foreign drivers. – Michael Aug 21 '17 at 20:18
  • District of Colombia (DC) – Mad Aug 21 '17 at 20:26
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    I can't find anything on the DC DMV site. Have you tried calling them? – Michael Aug 21 '17 at 20:34
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    As a driver licenced by Sri Lanka, you can only get an international driving permit in Sri Lanka. But since your license seems to be in English (if image searches are to be trusted), you should be fine without one. – phoog Aug 21 '17 at 20:46
  • @MichaelC. No, I didn't call them. – Mad Aug 21 '17 at 20:53
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+50

All states in the US have their own rules regarding foreign drivers. If you are a resident in any state then you need that state's driving licenses. The rules to determine if you are a resident can be obtained from the respective state's DMV. Since you are on a short visit, I will assume you do not fulfill the resident criteria.

Talking specifically about District of Columbia (DC), USA

Non-US citizens on visitor visas are not eligible to obtain driver licenses in the District of Columbia. source

If you are a visitor, you cannot apply for a DC drivers license. Period. However, in order to drive, you will need a valid driver's license issued by your home country and it should be in English. If it is not in English you can have it translated by your local embassy on an official embassy letterhead OR from a translation company.

If your valid, non-US driver license is not in English, you must attach an English translation from your embassy or from a translation company. The embassy translation must be on official embassy letterhead. The date of the translation must be on or after the actual date of the non-English language driver license. Translations from companies must be certified with a translation stamp, or notarized by preparing a notarized affidavit confirming the translation was prepared by a qualified translator and that it is both accurate and complete. source

Some states require an IDP (international driving permit) along with your valid license. However, the DC DMV does not mention any IDP requirements. If you will drive over into another state e.g. Virginia, Maryland etc (which are really close by) you should check their DMV information. But it never hurts to have an IDP as an extra precaution, after all, it's not your own country.

Foreign Nationals Driving in the United States

People who drive in the U.S. must have a valid driver's license. Some states require an International Driving Permit (IDP) from foreign nationals, in addition to a valid license from your own country. Contact the motor vehicle department of each state you will drive in for its requirements.

Short-Term Visitors If you intend on getting an IDP, you must do so in advance of your travel:

  • The United States does not issue IDPs to foreign visitors. To get an IDP, contact the motor vehicle department of the country that issued your driver's license.
  • If you want to rent a car, you may need both your license and an IDP. Find out the rental company's policies and other requirements in advance.

source

All of the links that I have quoted are official US government websites. A google search also leads to a website: www.washington.org; please note that this is a marketing organization for DC and not a US government website.

I would suggest contacting the DC DMV for any additional/official details:

Phone: (202) 737-4404

Email: dmv@dc.gov

Live Chat: https://dmv.dc.gov/page/dmv-live-chat

  • For completeness, even those states that require IDPs waive the requirement for certain countries (e.g. Canada). – Jim MacKenzie Aug 9 '18 at 13:08
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According to this guide, you will need to apply for an International Driver Permit before being able to drive in Washington, D.C. You can contact you local DMV for instructions on how to obtain an IDP.

  • The requirements vary by state. Your statement is very emphatic and makes it sound like you will always need an IDP. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Sep 19 '17 at 2:02
  • The guide I posted is pursuant to Washington, D.C. specifically, but the guide does say international drivers need an IDP full stop. I've updated my answer to make it more specific to Washington, D.C. Can you cite a situation where an international driver would not need an IDP? – coltergeist Sep 19 '17 at 2:43
  • California: "The State of California does not recognize an International Driving Permit (IDP) as a valid driver license. California does recognize a valid driver license that is issued by a foreign jurisdiction (country, state, territory) of which the license holder is a resident. The IDP is only a translation of information contained on a person's foreign driver license and is not required to operate a motor vehicle in California." – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Sep 19 '17 at 3:29
  • IDP is NOT a driver's license. It's merely a piece of paper that essentially provides a translation of your driver's license into English and/or other languages. It's NOT a legal document. And oh, your answer is irrelevant anyway as the question is about the state of Washington, NOT Washington, District of Columbia. Where btw we're driven numerous times with Dutch licenses, no IDP required. – jwenting Jul 17 '18 at 6:17
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    @jw OP clarified in comments that it's about DC. – Mark Mayo Aug 9 '18 at 4:54

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