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As far as I can tell the Geneva 1949 convention only defines the standards that translation must comply to. Therefore, by definition, there shouldn’t be an “official entity” in charge of making the translations. So a translation made by any translation agency should work. Am I right?

My problem is that in my country the only entity providing “international driver’s permits” (i.e. “translations”) is associated with the FIA and their “international permit” is only valid for 1 year so that they can get more money every year, but that forces me to return to my country every year just for that. They claim that only their translation is valid, but I suspect they just don’t want competition.

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    "As far as I can tell the Geneva 1949 convention only defines the standards that translation must comply to." What makes you think that? "forces me to return to my country every year just for that" Are you still an ordinary resident of your home country?
    – xngtng
    Feb 22 at 13:45
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    And even in countries covered by the conventions, the convention is not self-executing nor exhaustive and does not replace national rules which can be different.
    – xngtng
    Feb 22 at 13:47
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    The main purpose of the international driver’s permits is to 'translate' the drivers classes from the national norm to the international norm, thus the requirerment that it should be done by the “official entity”. The translation of non-latin text is secondary. Feb 22 at 14:14
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    Note that if you are resident in another country, you should convert your original driver’s license to a local one. IDPs are for people who travel and/or for a limited time after you switch residency, not for prolonged use in a new country. Note also that some countries do not even need an IDP as long as the original permit complies with the requirements of the relevant convention.
    – jcaron
    Feb 22 at 15:04
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    The authority issuing the permit does not issue them for one year "so they can get more money" but because the 1949 convention specifies that the permits should be valid for one year. See annex 10 of the convention.
    – phoog
    Feb 22 at 18:03

5 Answers 5

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No, it has to be issued by your country's government, or an organization they have authorized to issue them.

Article 24 of the 1949 Geneva Convention (emphasis mine):

The international driving permit shall, after the driver has given proof of his competence, be delivered by the competent authority of a Contracting State or subdivision thereof, or by a duly authorised Association, and sealed or stamped by such authority or Association.

The 1968 Vienna Convention, which supersedes the Geneva Convention in the 83 countries that signed it, has a similar provision in Article 41:

  1. Contracting Parties shall recognize: [...] (c) Any international permit conforming to the provisions of Annex 7 to this Convention; and as valid for driving in their territories a vehicle coming within the categories covered by the permit, provided that the permit is still valid and that it was issued by another Contracting Party or subdivision thereof or by an association duly empowered thereto by such other Contracting Party.

"Contracting Party" here means "one of the countries that signed the treaty"; specifically, the government of such a country.

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If you have a translation that doesn't conform to Annex 10 of the 1949 convention, then you do not have a 1949 convention IDP. Some countries (including France) will accept a translation that isn't an IDP under certain conditions, but if you're going to a country that requires a 1949 convention IDP then you'll need to get it from the organization you mention.

The one-year period of validity is specified in Annex 10; it is not an effort on the part of the organization to boost its revenue.

Whether you can use a translation other than a 1949 IDP depends on the country that issued your license and on the laws of the country where you intend to drive.

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  • "The one-year period of validity is specified in Annex 10; it is not an effort on the part of the organization to boost its revenue." Nah, just to make traveller's lives miserable hehe... I'll just have to skip renting a car while travelling :(
    – user126878
    Feb 22 at 19:31
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    I believe you're right, Annex 10, subsection 12, paragraph 14 specifically states, "in order to make @user126878's life more difficult, International Driving Permits are limited to one year of validity." They knew you were coming and they hate you. Or... It could be that in 1949, they didn't envision people traveling the world and renting cars for more than a year at a time since, you know, the world had just been at war for 7 years and that kind of thing just wasn't all that common.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 23 at 16:24
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get more money every year

A International Driving Permit (as outlined in Nate's answer) is almost always free to be issued (France, Germany...);

but that forces me to return to my country every year just for that.

If you're abroad in the same country for more than 6 months, you might be required to exchange your license for a local one, or pass the local license exams, and IDP might not be accepted for such a stay

Everything is down to local laws and regulations

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  • I'm just travelling around the world. And it makes no sense to cross the world for just a DP :( Unfortunately the "Automovil Club Chile" (the authorised entity) is ripping €100 for the IDP.
    – user126878
    Feb 22 at 19:28
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    Although I don't have data to disagree with this, I seriously doubt that IDP's are "almost always free". Whilst there may be a scattering of countries where this is true (eg, France) it's not in any other country that I've ever heard of (including your other example of Germany - in the fact the page you linked to states they are 15 euro)
    – Doc
    Feb 23 at 2:54
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Technically, what the 1949 or 1968 conventions say is that an IDP must be issued by a competent authority or authorised organisation. It does not say it has to be issued by the same country that issued your driving license. For example, the ANWB says they will issue an IDP based on a licence from another EU country, not only the Netherlands.

In practice, the EU is a bit of a special case and I would not expect most authorities to entertain a request based on licenses from the other end of the world. But you could always try with the local authority wherever you are at the moment. If they are OK with it, there is nothing illegal about it.

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their “international permit” is only valid for 1 year so they can get more money every year, but that forces me to return to my country every year just for that.

In some countries one can ask the IDP issuer to indicate the IDP validity start date to be sometime in the future. This way one can buy two IDPs, which together are valid for more than one year. E.g., in the United States, with the AAA, one can get an IDP up to six months before its validity start date, which means that if one purchase two IDPs at 20 USD each, one can stay abroad for 1.5 years. (which is still ridiculously expensive and short compared to France, which gives free 3-year IDPs. FYI: why didn't the United States sign the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic?)

One can also sometimes purchase the IDP when abroad e.g., still for the US with AAA, https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html#four (mirror).

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    The 3-year IDP are based on the 1968 convention, not the 1949 convention. In some places you can actually chose one or the other or even a 1926 convention IDP.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 22 at 22:38
  • @Relaxed Thanks, yes I wonder why the United States didn't sign the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. Thanks for the link, I was about to ask that! Feb 22 at 22:39
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    My feeling (no hard numbers to back it up) is that the US is generally less involved in technical treaties than European states, for different reasons.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 22 at 22:44
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    @Relaxed, Franck: I had assumed that the US hadn't signed (also Canada and Ireland) because it would have meant replacing all the road signs, but now I see that those are governed by a different convention. I suppose there must have been some change seen as undesirable, but I haven't identified any particularly substantial differences between the 1949 and 1968 conventions.
    – phoog
    Feb 24 at 7:23

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