International Driving Permit United States

What is an International Driving Permit or License?

What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driving License (IDL)?

An International Driving Permit is a legal document accepted by 141 countries worldwide that allows you to drive for one year in the listed country. An IDP is a small grey booklet with white pages marginally larger than a passport. It has translations of your original driving license in 10 languages, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish.

On the other hand, an International Driving License is not a legal document. While it is an unofficial translation document, it cannot replace an IDP.

How does an IDP work in the United States?

Certain states in the United States don’t see foreign driver’s licenses as valid. You can use your IDP as a document that authorizes your valid driver’s license. You may use your IDP as an identification document while you are traveling. If your driver’s license is in a foreign language, an IDP can be used as a translation in states that don’t require an IDP.

How do you apply for an IDP in the United States?

You can apply online through our website.

How long will it take to get an IDP in the United States?

A digital permit takes up to 2 hours to land in your inbox. However, we will process your application in 20 minutes if you choose an Express Order.

A printed International Driving Permit can be delivered to your doorstep in 2-30 days based on your selected delivery method.

United Nations Agreements on Road Traffic

International driving permits are issued through institutions authorized by the United Nations, which comply with UN road traffic conventions. There have been three international motor traffic conventions. 1926 in Paris, 1949 in Geneva, and 1968 in Vienna.

Benefits of Carrying an IDP in the US

Functionality as an ID

An IDP is a handy travel document that doubles as an identification document. Having an IDP is helpful if you want to keep your passport under lock and key due to security concerns. An IDP can be used instead of a national ID card, especially if your national ID is not in the language of the country you are visiting.

Quicker traffic authority stops.

Traffic police may have trouble deciphering driver information on your license during a traffic stop. Having an IDP ensures that policemen can quickly note down your details and send you on your way. This is especially useful during emergencies and motor accidents.

Car rental companies

Companies in foreign countries may be hesitant to hire out vehicles to foreigners without an international driving permit. As an IDP is a legal document recognized by the United Nations, most international and domestic car rental companies recognize it as a valid driving permit. It may also save valuable vacation time and unneeded delays when dealing with rental companies.

Requirements for Non-Citizens for driving in the United States

Short-term visitors vs. residents

You may use your IDP for up to a year before you need to renew it.

Residents must get a domestic license within 30 days of moving to a state. This law applies to residents who have moved to that state from another state or territory within the US.

When should I get the United States Driver’s License?

The United States was contracted to the Geneva Convention on Motor Traffic in 1949. You can use an IDP for a maximum of 12 months before being required to either renew your IDP or get a domestic US driving license.

How to get a United States driver’s license

The states and territories of the United States are authorized to issue driving licenses. All states and territories recognize any driving license issued by a state or territory. Diplomats and other VIPs of countries may be issued driving licenses by the US State Department. These licenses have the same validity as each state or territory.

You should apply to a state transportation department before your IDP or original license expires. Each state and territory has an online portal that will guide you to the required steps in that particular state or territory. The driving test consists of theoretical and practical parts with minimum scores that qualify you for a US driver’s license. The testing center will also check your vision before issuing a license. It will take around one month to get a US driver’s license.

Renewing Your IDP or Original Driver’s License While in the United States

Renewing your International Driver’s Permit

You can renew your IDP online through our website. 

Renewing your original driver’s license

As an IDP is not a stand-alone document for driving in any country, you must have a valid driving license to show if requested. If your driver’s license expires while you are abroad, you will be required to renew it to keep driving in that country. The procedure for renewing a driver’s license differs widely by country. License renewal may include a vision test that cannot be done online, meaning you must visit your country of origin to renew your license. Most governments provide an online license renewing service for expatriates.

Car Rental in the United States

Requirements for car rental

Generally, car rental companies require you to have a valid driver’s license from your country of origin. The license should be valid for the entire rental period. Suppose you are a foreign visitor that has a license from another country. In that case, a valid license from your country of residence should be presented.

You may also be asked to show your IDP. 

Car insurance in the United States

While some states like Virginia, New Hampshire, and Mississippi don’t require you to have car insurance while driving, it is compulsory in many states. Certain states require you to pay the state in case of an accident while not having insurance. Most states require that you have a minimum level of liability insurance to drive.

You will be able to get car insurance at a car rental place. You can also get insurance cover for a set amount for your stay in the United States. Many types of coverage are available by a wide variety of insurance providers. Insurance rates are fluid and liable to change at any time. You can pay for car insurance using various payment methods, including cash, credit card, and debit card. Some states like Maine require you to have car insurance before renting a car.

Driving and Safety in the United States

Where can you get a driving handbook?

Each state has something called a driver’s handbook. While there are some differences between the different versions, most rules stay the same. A driver’s handbook covers seat belts, traffic signs, parallel parking, sharing the road, the effects of drugs and alcohol while driving, right of way, tips for handling emergencies, and much more.

You can get a copy of the driver’s handbook for your state using its Department of Motor Vehicles website. You can download and print a version of the handbook. You can also pick up a copy of the guide at the state’s motor vehicle department branch near you.

Right of way on United States roads

In some states, pedestrians have the right of way no matter where they cross the road. All road users are expected to do their utmost to avoid a collision with any other road user, irrespective of their driving vehicle.

If you reach an intersection simultaneously as another in a cross-street, you should yield to them if they are on your right. If you arrive at the junction before the person on the right, you should go first. If you are entering a roundabout, you should yield to the person on your left that is already moving around the roundabout.

Speed limits on United States roads

Each state, territory, county, or municipality determines speed limits in the United States. This depends on whose jurisdiction the road falls on. Generally, the speed limit is 50 mph (80 km/h) to 75 mph (120 km/h) on rural roads. The speed limit on rural highways can range from 60 mph (96 km/h) to 85 mph (136 km/h). All roads have a speed limit. While most roads and highways have signs marking the speed limit, some may not.

General rules and laws related to driving in the US

  • Vehicles drive on the right side of the road
  • You can overtake vehicles on the left. You may overtake on the right if it is an expressway with multiple lanes.
  • Each occupant in a vehicle needs to wear a seat belt.
  • You can make right turns at stoplights after coming to a complete stop unless there is a sign saying otherwise.
  • You must use a hands-free system if you are on a mobile phone while driving.
  • You are required to use indicator lights when turning.
  • Some states do not allow the use of radar detection devices.
  • All vehicles need to give way to emergency vehicles while driving.
  • The driver must carry a valid driver’s license, IDP, and registration documents. Some states require you have your insurance documents. 

What to do if you are in a car accident

  • Assess whether anyone involved in the accident is hurt, and if they are, you may call 911 for medical assistance.
  • Ensure your hazard lights are switched on to warn other motorists that you have stopped your vehicle.
  • If your vehicle or your person is in a risky location, you should move yourself and your vehicle out of harm’s way. You may also do this if your vehicle is obstructing traffic.
  • Call 911 or the local police station (if you know the number) and report that there has been an accident and give its location.

Top 3 Destinations to Visit in the United States

Yellow Stone National Park

This park has beautiful multi-colored pools situated around its iconic hot springs. It also has expansive meadows and verdant forests for slow walks. Parts of the park are surrounded by volatile geysers spray streams. 3,000 square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers, and waterfalls are in view. You will also enjoy wildlife such as buffalo and elk, but look out for the rare grizzly bear! Be sure to visit the West Thumb Geyser Basin for its geysers and Lewis River Channel, and Dogshead Loop for its wildlife during your visit.

New York City

New York City (the Big Apple) has iconic landmarks and towering skyscrapers. Each neighborhood and borough of the city has its own culture and socio-economic makeup. The city is filled with indie boutiques, specialty bakeries, and cozy coffee shops. You can visit Fifth Avenue for a glimpse into the shopping life of the ultra-rich. If art interests you, you can catch a Broadway show or visit many theatres in the city. When visiting this incredibly vibrant city, you wouldn’t want to miss Times Square, the New York Stock Exchange, or the Statue of Liberty.

Washington DC

Washington DC is known as the political capital of the United States. It has transformed itself from a more stuffy political center to a faster-paced modern vacation destination over the past few decades. It is divided into four quarters; each community has a different culture and charisma. Washington DC has many museums and historic landmarks for the history buff. It also has many restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and clubs within the city, providing vibrant social and nightlife. The White House, the Washington Monument, the US Capitol, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History are must-sees when visiting this exciting city.


Should I have an IDP in the United States?

We highly recommend it. While some countries will accept your country’s driver’s license for some time, many will require you to have an IDP.

Is an international driver’s license legally valid in the US?

No. An international driver’s license is an unofficial translation of your driver’s license and is not a legal document.

I am an active member of the military, and my US license has or is due to expire. Can I apply for an IDP?

Other countries will not take a lapsed US license though some US states might. You need to renew your driver’s license before applying for an IDP, as an IDP is only a translation of your authorized driver’s license.

Which permit should I issue when traveling to South America?

An IDP is valid in all Latin American states except Brazil and Uruguay. You will need an Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) for these two states.

What number should I call if I’m in an accident in the US?

Whether it’s a motoring accident, medical emergency, or crime, you can call 911 on any cell phone or telephone booth to get roadside assistance.

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