If you have a foreign driver's license, read this.
Updated: May 25, 2022
Driving in the United States can be challenging. Certain states, like Massachusetts, have reputations for unique driving environments. The real challenges may start before you get behind the wheel, however: In the opinion of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the possession of an International Driving Permit or International Driver’s License does not automatically convey the legal right to drive in Massachusetts. There are a number of details, but three general rules must be observed. One, operators must be licensed in their own country; two, driver’s licenses are only recognized from specific countries; and three, drivers with foreign licenses have one year from their most recent legal entry to the U.S. to get their Massachusetts license.
The possession of an International Driving Permit or International Driver’s License does not automatically convey the legal right to drive in the U.S.
Here are some of the typical questions (and answers) relevant to foreign drivers and international college students:
What is an international Driving Permit (IDP)?
An International Driving Permit serves primarily as a translation of a person’s foreign driver’s license into ten (10) major languages recognized by the United Nations. The Permit itself is a small (4″ X 6″), gray covered, multi-page booklet with white pages, containing the driver’s first and last name, the date and place of birth and the person’s permanent address in the country of issuance. A Permit also contains a photograph of the driver and his/her signature. Other than the page containing the personal information and photograph, each page conveys the same information but in a separate language.
Who issues International Driving Permits?
Permits are only issued in the driver’s country of origin and only by a membership- type automobile association authorized to issue such Permits by an International Road Traffic Convention to which the United States is a party. A fee is charged for the issuance of the Permit. The cost is about $20. The American Automobile Association (AAA) issues International Driving Permits to licensed drivers from U.S. jurisdictions who intend on driving in other countries. An International Driving Permit is usually valid for a one (1) year period and is not valid in the country of issuance.
Does an International Driving Permit confer driving privileges in Massachusetts?
No. It does not confer any driving privileges. The Permit is not a substitute for the person’s valid driver license. A driver who is licensed in another country must carry his/her valid foreign driver license when driving in Massachusetts. The operator should also carry an INS document which shows the date that the operator last entered the U.S. The valid I-94 containing the date of admission to the U.S. should be sufficient.
Is a foreign licensed driver required to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) when driving in Massachusetts?
No. Although some countries require a foreign motorist to possess an IDP, the United States has not done so. It is suggested, however, that he/she carry an IDP if the foreign license is not printed in the English language.
Does Massachusetts honor valid foreign driver licenses from every country?
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