Am I required by law to have my USA license on me if I drive in the USA, or can I also have my foreign license? If pulled over, must I tell the police that I have a valid USA license or can I just display my foreign license? Foreign licenses can't accumulate traffic points, that's why i want to show my foreign license. I am a US citizen, and I used to live in NY, and still have a NY state license, but I live most of the year out of the country, and visit the USA from time to time. So do I legally have to show my NY license or can I show my valid foreign license so i don't get points?

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    Are you trying to pull the "Oh gosh, I am a dumb tourist and I cannot cope with those strange mph instead of the kph?" card to get the sympathy bonus ? Mar 26, 2017 at 12:22
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    Suspect it may vary from state to state...
    – Mark Mayo
    Mar 26, 2017 at 12:26
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    Do you have both a foreign and your USA license, or is having the one a consequence of having the other? Are you allowed to drive in the USA with your foreign license only? What state are we talking about? Voting to close as unclear until specified.
    – mts
    Mar 26, 2017 at 12:49
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    @ThortsenS foreign licenses can't accumulate traffic points and are easy to restore if confiscated.
    – JonathanReez
    Mar 26, 2017 at 12:53
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    In case it gets answered, same question on quora (albeit for NY State, specifically): quora.com/unanswered/…
    – Mark Mayo
    Mar 26, 2017 at 12:59

1 Answer 1


In New York State, you can legally drive using your foreign drivers license and the state does not require that you carry an International Driving Permit. That you retain your NY license becomes coincidental, as you would no longer be considered a resident. That may become an issue when renewing, but that's off topic.

Should you be stopped, and present your foreign license, the police will run your name in their in-vehicle computer. The first search will be in the DMV database, which has information on where you 'live,' your driving record, and, in some states, your biometrics, including a photo. Other databases that may accessed during a traffic stop reveal any outstanding arrest warrants and criminal history, either in local police records or the Federal National Crime Information Center.

So the answer is, yes, you can show only your non-US driving license. Doing so might avoid repercussions on the sole occasion. However, a record will be created of the offense against the license you present. If the officer does not connect you to your DMV-issued license, you got lucky. If/when the connection to your State-issued license is made... well then, you know the rest.

  • Do you have any source for your description of the database searches?
    – phoog
    Mar 28, 2017 at 13:55
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    @phoog that the police access the state DMV or that they can look in other dbases? I added the links, had asked my precinct what it can access; I changed it to be conditional. It varies by location, but traffic stops can, and do, run checks.
    – Giorgio
    Mar 28, 2017 at 14:20
  • I know they can and do run checks, but you make specific assertions about what checks they will run, and the consequences of those checks, that appear to be speculative.
    – phoog
    Mar 28, 2017 at 14:26

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