I am originally a US citizen that has moved to Mexico and gotten my dual citizenship. Around two years ago I've gotten a DUI and got my license suspended, I've completed my DUI classes and passed my suspension time, I can get it back now but the thing is:

  • do I have to pay for a California license when I am only going to be in California visiting for less than 6 months? and

  • do I need an SR-22 when I am going to use my valid Mexican license in California?

    Yes I am going to have insurance that goes along with my Mexican license, yes I have my INE (Mexican voters ID / official ID), but at this time I cannot afford to reinstate my license and to pay for an SR-22, also insurance companies are trying to take advantage of my situation and they're trying to overcharge me and force me to put a down payment for six months (~$700), which is another reason why I do not want to get my California license. Is it legal, and is it a loophole? I've been looking for answers for my situation before I go and visit and I'm not trying to get into any legal trouble.

Please help, I cannot get around California without driving please let me know! So far I have been getting mixed answers.

  • Where was your driving privilege suspended, and what license did you hold at the time?
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 16:03
  • In the county of San Bernardino, and I had a regular California license with insurance (the basic liability-only package). I'm still paying off court fees but everything else else completed.
    – Carlos
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 18:22
  • 1
    Dual citizenship has nothing to do with it.
    – user207421
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 1:26

2 Answers 2


Yes, in general you can use your Mexican license as long as you do not become a resident of California:

If you are a visitor in California over 18 and have a valid driver license (DL) from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California DL as long as your home state DL remains valid.

If you become a California resident, you must get a California DL within ten (10) days. Residency is established by voting in a California election, paying resident tuition, filing for a homeowner's property tax exemption, or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.

However, if your license was suspended in California then you will need to have it reinstated, or, if you qualify, apply for termination of action as an out-of-state resident.

  • If i apply for termination of action, does this mean I cannot own any vehicles under my name in Claifornia? Or can I continue to register a new vehicles? Or does this make me apply as a California resident?
    – Carlos
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 18:15
  • 2
    @Carlos I'm afraid I don't know anything about registering a vehicle in California as a nonresident. It's surely possible. For example, a Mexican resident who spends two months a year in California and keeps a car there for use during those months would, I expect, have to register that car in California but would not need a CA driver's license. Your "visiting for less than six months" seems similar, but if you're buying a car just for those six months that's a little different, as is the fact that you are a former CA resident with your CA license having been suspended in CA.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 18:30
  • @Carlos & @ phoog - my experience (tried it only once, about 2 or 3 years ago. I could buy a car, but the DMV wouldn't let me register it in California as I was not a California resident. I had a CA postal address (a friend's address) but once they realised I wasn't resident they wanted proof of address (utility bill etc.). So I'm sure if I'd approached it differently I could have done it, but it wouldn't have been within their rules I think.
    – Midavalo
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 16:36
  • @Midavalo I suppose you had proof of address elsewhere. Did you try showing that? I know that it is generally possible to register a car in a state where you don't live if the car is going to be kept in that state. I would be surprised if California prohibits that.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 16:50
  • @phoog I told them I lived in Tijuana, they basically shut up shop on me there and then. If I hadn't said that the outcome may have been different, however CA does seem to have very strict residency rules for driver licenses and car registrations
    – Midavalo
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 17:20

You can not drive within the state that has suspended your privileges. It doens't matter what license you are trying to drive on. However, if you went to another state where you privilege to drive was never suspended than you can drive on your Mexican license. Some place that don’t have an updated DMV computer system may even give you a DL in there state. You can try small mountain villages in a different states. If you do it fast enough the paperwork to suspend your license won’t be on you magstrip yet. Bond out and waste no time going to another state to change your licenses. It would be easier to just move to another state and use your Mexican license. You can only use it for a number of days as a visitor before you are required by law to get a license in that state but if you're a traveler and you make trips out of state and back the clock restarts. Let’s say if you drive there for over 60 days you need to get a license there. Drive for 30 days and make a weekend trip to site see at a National park a few hours across state lines then turn around and come back. Once you're back, because you left, you're back at day one of the count down.

This is not legal advice.

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