This is (fortunately) a purely hypothetical question.

If I, as Citizen in the European Union, make a road trip in the USA, get in a police traffic control an only have my local IDs with me (not my international passport or the international drivers license), what consequences do I have to fear?

  • What do you mean by "local IDs"? Unlike many places, in the USA you're required to carry your driving license while actually driving. Dec 14, 2019 at 8:17
  • In this case I would have my German personal ID and my German driving licence with me, but not my international passport and international drivers licence (afaik the local drivers license is not valid in other countries outside the EU) Dec 14, 2019 at 8:21
  • 2
    You are aware that the internatinonal driving licence is actually not a licence in itself, but merely a translation of your existing licence? You're generally expected to present both of them to foreign police (at least, outside the EU). Dec 14, 2019 at 8:23
  • By ‘with me’ do you mean at that particular moment, or that you don’t possess an IDL and/or a valid passport?
    – Traveller
    Dec 14, 2019 at 8:24
  • In the US drivers licenses are considered a form of ID. Dec 14, 2019 at 8:25

2 Answers 2


During a police traffic control, as in all countries, you must have the documentation required by the local law.

In most cases this will be a valid driver's licence and papers for the car.

For a foreign lincense some countries (and some US States) require a IDP (international drivers permit/license).

Depending on the situation, a police officer could also demand documentation of citizenship and/or legal status through an National ID or passport.

In the US the last is less likely, unless you run into a control done by the United States Border Patrol, where - as a visitor - a passport may be required.

What may happen to you if you cannot supply the needed documentation will depend on the laws of the local authorities, which can differ greatly.

Assume: no joy will fall upon you.

  • 1
    Is there a legal requirement to carry a passport in the USA? In the UK, you don’t need to carry any ID at all.
    – user58558
    Dec 14, 2019 at 16:18
  • @greatone It varies by state whether you have to carry ID at all times. But in every state you have to carry your driver license while driving. It's a good idea to carry your passport near the border as there are occasionally random Border Patrol checks internally. Dec 14, 2019 at 16:22
  • 1
    To keep this in proportion, I've lived as an alien in the US within 100 miles of the Mexico border since 1975. I have had to show the Border Patrol documentation while driving in the area exactly once. Dec 14, 2019 at 17:04
  • 1
    @GerardAshton the permanent ones are all near Mexico. See for example cbp.gov/border-security/along-us-borders/border-patrol-sectors/….
    – phoog
    Dec 15, 2019 at 17:05
  • 1
    The checkpoints I know are not necessarily manned all the time, but they are fixed installations at locations that are difficult to bypass. Dec 15, 2019 at 17:12

In the US, police are state or local officials, not national officials (with rare exceptions, such as on military bases). Their main concern is enforcing state laws and local ordinances, not enforcing immigration rules. I don't think I've ever read the phrase "police traffic control" before. Police do occasionally set up checkpoints where they stop each car and speak briefly to the driver. During these stops their main concern is to see if the driver appears to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

If an officer requests a driver to show a driver license, in some states the officer will accept a foreign license by itself; in other states the officer may require it be presented together with an international driving permit.

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