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I just got a US driving license and I live in the US on a non-immigrant visa. I travel a lot to other countries, so I want to know about the applicability of my current license. The problem is that all the sources mention using a US license for US citizens.

Did anybody have a problem using an American license in a country that accepts it but who is not an American citizen/green card holder?

I'm interested in countries like Turkey, Moldova, Russia, Germany. But I will be glad to hear about any country outside of this list. Especially if you are a citizen of that particular countries but have exclusively a US license.

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    The problem is that all the sources mention using US license for US citizens which sources? In general, you're expected to hold the licence of the country you reside in, so it would be quite surprising to me if foreign residents of countries were excluded from driving abroad-this has not ever been my experience.
    – MJeffryes
    Dec 19, 2023 at 17:41
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    @shoover People tend to call a US license any license issued by the US, not necessarilly as a federal government, but as a country. I would be very surprised if abroad they are interested in your particular state. But somehow often Americans coming to Europe rarely say "I'm from the US" rather they say "I'm from Nebraska[enter your state here]"
    – Mihail
    Dec 19, 2023 at 20:02
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    @Mihail: That should be "US license for US RESIDENTS". not "citizens". I've done that for 10+ years without any problems
    – Hilmar
    Dec 19, 2023 at 22:38
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    But, @Mihail, there is a practical consequence to the fact that US licenses are issued by the states, which is that each state may or may not have concluded a reciprocity agreement with any given country. For example, if you move to France, you can get a French license without taking the test only if your US license was issued by Delaware, Maryland, Ohio. Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Florida, or Connecticut.
    – phoog
    Dec 19, 2023 at 23:18
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    Personal anecdote: I'm a non-US citizen green-card holder living in the US and have a US driving license. I've used this license both in the UK and in my home country (where my original license has long since expired). Car rental companies haven't been at all concerned that I have a US license and non-US passport. I do dread any interaction with traffic law enforcement in my home country though ... not because I'm doing anything wrong, but I think they'd get confused ...
    – brhans
    Dec 20, 2023 at 1:47

5 Answers 5

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It shouldn't be assumed there is a single answer to this question for all countries or even all countries that have a normal reciprocity agreement with the US state that issued your license. With that said, Germany seems to only require the license for temporary visitors and not citizenship in the country it's issued by -

  1. Using your foreign driving licence when staying in Germany temporarily

1.1 If you hold a valid

  • national driving licence or
  • an International Driving Permit in accordance with the International Convention relative to Motor Traffic of 24 April 1926, the Convention on Road Traffic of 8 November 1968 or the Convention on Road Traffic of 1949

you may drive or ride motor vehicles of the category that is indicated on your licence in the Federal Republic of Germany

Checking with a consulate is probably the easiest way to get a reliable answer though.

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  • Two small additions taken from the link: you need to be at least 18 and if you are/become a permanent resident in Germany your foreign license will only be valid for 6 months. Plan to spend some time and money (translations) on getting it converted! Dec 22, 2023 at 19:43
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As far as rental companies are concerned, a driving license stands on its own. You don't need to provide additional ID, prove citizenship etc.

You're typically required to obtain a local license if you become a resident in a country, but this is not a concern for tourists.

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    some places require an international driver's permit.
    – Max
    Dec 19, 2023 at 19:46
  • A US driver's license doesn't mention citizenship. I can't remember whether the Int'l does. But unless they actually compare it to your passport, it doesn't matter.
    – WGroleau
    Dec 19, 2023 at 20:44
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    @Max: I have NEVER encountered that requirement in 30+ countries. In fact I found my international license to be useless and not being accepted when I tried initially. What places are you thinking of ?
    – Hilmar
    Dec 19, 2023 at 22:40
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    In most cases, technically speaking, a foreign driver license is not valid in other countries unless accompanied by an IDP. (US licenses are valid in Canada and Mexico without an IDP.) Additionally, an IDP is never valid on its own; only the IDP in conjunction with a driver license is valid. There's a lot of variance as to whether or not rental agencies will actually require an IDP to rent a car, but that doesn't change the fact that it's technically required to legally drive, and sometimes in places where an IDP is not a legal requirement, a rental agency will require one anyway.
    – josh3736
    Dec 20, 2023 at 3:14
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    @josh3736 that’s not true, foreign drivers licenses are explicitly legal in many places without an IDP.
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 20, 2023 at 15:13
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I have a driving license as a US resident and I've used it without issues in Canada, Mexico and the EU. However when picking up a car from Avis in the Dominican Republic the guy behind the counter asked to see my proof of US residency, as I'm not a US citizen. Apparently this is the local policy for Avis in the DR, though its not mentioned on their website. I'm not sure what would've happened if I hadn't had proof of US residency on me.

So I'd say you should be fine renting a car anywhere. In developing countries like DR you might have to show proof of US residency as well.

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My cousin actually had a similar situation. He's got a US driver's license but isn't a US citizen. When he traveled to Germany and Turkey, he had no problems using his US license there. Same goes for Moldova and Russia. As long as you have a valid US license and you're just visiting those countries, you should be good to go. Just make sure you follow the local traffic laws.

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AAA (Automobile Club) offers international driver permits for $20. I just got one for a trip to Germany, even though I don't technically need it. I have a regular driving license in the USA and may not need the international permit, but was told it was worth having. You are mostly likely eligible for one (since your US driver's license is valid) and it will smooth things over should you be pulled over while driving. It has some writing in every language if they can't read (or don't feel like reading) your US driver's license in English. I felt like it was worth the $20 plus photos. I was even able to use my own leftover passport photos. My husband had his photo taken there. If you have AAA membership the photos are discounted.

Here is a link to AAA information about the international permit with a list of countries which recognize the IDP so you can decide if it's right for you to add this to your valid US license even if you don't technically need it. All of the countries you mentioned were listed. https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html

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    AFAIK the validity of the IDP is limited to the validity of the underlying DL. It's basically a translation of the DL. In fact, the page you linked contains this phrase "keeping in mind that an IDP is only a translation of the license, not a license to drive". Apr 5 at 22:57
  • His underlying DL is valid. Please note I said above, "Here is a link to AAA information...so you can decide if it's right for you." I also included snarky/ commentary about if "they don't feel like reading your US driver's license in English." I can see that happening driving around in rural areas. I gave a link to be helpful rather than just giving my opinion. Apr 6 at 2:31

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