What visitors and foreign nationals need to know about driving in the United States
- Check with the motor vehicle department of each state you plan to drive in to find out the requirements for international drivers. (Canadians are exempt.) In addition to a valid license from your country, some states ask for an International Driving Permit (IDP). You cannot obtain an IDP without a valid driver’s license and you must be at least 18 years old to get one.
- You must obtain the IDP before coming to the states – the U.S. does not issue them. You will need to obtain it in the country that issued your driver’s license.
- Beware of international driver’s license scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, fake IDPs are offered by individuals or companies through websites, spam email and on the street. You could wind up paying between $60 and $400 for a fake, then end up in legal trouble if pulled over in a foreign country. Snopes.com shows examples of some debunked emails offering IDPs, claiming that they “can never be suspended or revoked,” and can be used as photo I.D. “for nightclubs or hotel check-in.” Neither of these claims are true. If your driver’s license gets revoked, your IDP will not be valid, and it is only good for one year. An IDP will not be accepted as photo I.D. in the U.S.
- For car rentals, find out if you need your license and an IDP, and get information on other requirements you need to meet, such as age and possessing certain documents. Ask the rental company questions about total cost (including all fees), deposit requirements and refund procedures, insurance coverage, and whether the customer’s driving records will be checked at the counter upon arrival.
- Driving laws vary from state to state. Make sure you know the laws in the state(s) where you’ll be driving.
- Depending on when and where you’ll be visiting, you may encounter some severe weather. Be informed about and prepared for conditions such as winter snow and ice, spring floods, and severe thunderstorms, which could produce tornadoes. (The U.S. has more tornadoes than any other country in the world.) Don’t ignore warnings about severe weather. For example, many flood-related deaths are preventable, but accidents happen when drivers decide to go around barriers. According to the National Weather Service, it is never safe to drive into flood waters; one foot of rushing water can carry away a small car. To ensure safety in winter weather, don’t forget to stock your car with emergency gear ahead of time. For more safety tips, visit weather.gov.
If you are a resident who is not a U.S. citizen and would like to obtain a U.S. driver’s license, learn about the residency requirements in your state. Driver’s licenses can only be issued in the state where you live. After you earn your license, you are permitted to drive anywhere in the U.S.
If you need help or more information about making your short- or long-term stay in the U.S. possible, contact Berardi Immigration Law today.