I am a citizen of the United States but am a permanent resident of another nation (which has issued me a driving license). However, I have a valid driving license from a US State as well. I have unfortunately forgotten to bring that license with me on my trip to the States. Thus, if I do not enter the state that issued my license, is it legal for me to drive on my foreign license + IDP in the rest of the USA?

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    Rules vary from state to state regarding both driving with an foreign issued drivers license as well as being in possession of your state issued license. As such there is no single answer to your question.
    – user13044
    Jul 27, 2017 at 17:08
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    If you're a permanent resident of another country, it's not obvious that your US license is technically valid. US licenses require residency, and you may no longer meet the residency requirement of the state anyway.
    – Alan Munn
    Jul 27, 2017 at 17:17
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    @tom I'd be curious to see a source for that claim. All states require you to notify them of changes of address. Failing to do so can lead to suspension of your license. So how do you satisfy this requirement if you have moved permanently out of the state?
    – Alan Munn
    Jul 27, 2017 at 18:43
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    @AlanMunn - Permanent Residency is an Immigration Status, not a residence statement. You can have permanent resident status in a country and live there much of the year, while still maintaining a US residence / permanent address. The only time you are required to surrender your state license is if you apply for a license in another state as you can not hold two US licenses. You can hold both a foreign and US license. Source: personal experience
    – user13044
    Jul 27, 2017 at 18:55
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    @Tom That assumes you still have a valid US address. But if you don't?
    – Alan Munn
    Jul 27, 2017 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


I work at an employer that does motor licensing services in a Canadian province, so I have some experience in this direction.

Generally, with rare exceptions, US states and Canadian provinces do not permit multiple licensing. Licenses usually have to be surrendered to acquire a local license. Residency is generally required to qualify for licensing. Exceptions are most frequently provided for temporary absences, but usually have to be specifically arranged.

Having a foreign license and living in that foreign country, it is in fact your foreign license that is the valid license for driving in North America. It is likely not valid for you to drive in the US on your US license.

In the reverse situation, where you still have your old US license but forgot your foreign one, the safe thing here would be to check with the U.S. state that issued your driver's license and see if they consider it to still be valid (you will need to disclose the possession of a foreign driver's license to get the proper answer to this question). If that license is still valid and in force, even though you have a foreign license, then I see no problem.

Note too that when you renew a driver's license, there are usually questions about residency. For example, here in Saskatchewan, you will have to disclose where you are living when you renew, and this would normally prevent you from renewing unless your circumstances fit the exception criteria. Eligibility to renew is a good benchmark of eligibility to continue using an existing driver's license when you are no longer a resident.

Note that generally, proof of licensing is just about evidence. Your non-US license remains valid, even if you don't have it in your possession - you simply can't easily prove that you have it, and it is legally required that you have it in your possession in case law enforcement asks for it. But merely having one protects you from the effect of many laws requiring proper licensing.


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