USA and Canada Holiday Hints
All US and Canadian driving licences include a photograph of the driver. People in the USA and Canada, including police officers, often express surprise when shown a driving licence from another country which does not include a photograph. However, with the increasing number of visitors, familiarity with foreign driving licences is becoming more common.
Any visitor to the USA and Canada from another country, or an immigrant who has very recently arrived and not yet obtained a US or Canadian driving licence, may encounter difficulties when using their driving licence from their own country as a means of identity if that licence does not include a photograph.
Therefore it is a wise precaution in these circumstances to carry your passport with you whenever driving and also whenever an ID may be requested. A passport is certain to universally regarded as an ideal form of ID and avoids any complications or delay.
If you are driving a rented car, also carry the rental agreement with you whenever you are using the car.
Visitors to the USA or Canada from Britain do not need an International Driving Permit despite claims from some UK motoring organisations trying to sell this. An International Driving Permit cannot be used instead of a normal driving licence.
Hundreds of [British] motorists have been told they cannot rent cars in Britain or abroad as their new credit card-style driving licences do not contain all the information the [car] rental firms require. The difficulty is that the licence comes in two parts, a plastic photocard and a piece of paper listing further details that are also essential but which many drivers fail to keep with them. The car rental industry body, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, is urging the DVLA [the British Driving Vehicle Licence Authority] to review its licence guidelines.If you have one of these new licences then obviously it would seem very wise to take both parts with you.
An international permit is required if your licence is not readable to Canadians (i.e. not in English or French). If your licence clearly states the class of your licence, birth date, expiry date and conditions of your licence, you may use it in Canada for up to six months. An international driving permit may be used for up to one year as long as you do not set up residency in Canada.For information regarding driving licence requirements for visitors to the USA or Canada from other countries, I can suggest the following possible sources of information:
Dave Krupka of Bolingbrook, Illinois kindly sent me this information:
Most states allow a grace period of between 30 to 90 days before new residents must obtain a driver's license. In Illinois, if you move here from another US state you have 30 days. Temporary residents? Hmmm. I, frankly, am not sure how long "temporary" is. To err on the side of caution, I would have your readers inquire with the motor vehicle authority in their perspective state to see how long they have.
When obtaining an Illinois license, most out-of-state residents need to take a sign test and a written test. It is probably the same for WAY out-of-state residents. I think the actual on-the-road test may be waived for some, but I can recall being in a Drivers Facility when a young man from Poland came in. He was required to take the road test, even though he had a Polish license. So I guess the answer to the question is yes, they will be taking the full test.
License plates (I had no idea you call them number plates over there in Britain!) vary from state to state. In some states, such as California, the plates are issued to the car. When the car changes hands the registration record is changed to reflect the new owner. The same plate stays on the car.
In Illinois the plates stay with the owner. If you sell a car, you remove the plates and the buyer must purchase and/or transfer his own registration. This does not mean that each owner has his own unique number on multiple vehicles. My family has three cars, all in my name. (My van, my wife's car and my daughter's car.) All three have different numbers.
The licence plate number on my wife's car has been mine for quite a while. When I changed cars, I transferred the registration to the new car. (I could have just bought new ones, but they have my initials.) When I bought my daughter a used car, the owner removed his plates and I purchased new.
So, if one of your countrymen from Britain comes over here and buys a car, he must also purchase registration, as all states require cars to be licensed. If he does so at a dealer, that car dealer should be able to do that paperwork for him. If he gets a car from a private party, he will need to take all the paperwork he has on the sale to the local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or whoever handles that for the state he's in.
Now, just to make it interesting.....
Most states (not all) issue "titles." The title is the official statement of who owns the car. In my state (Illinois), when you buy a car, you must obtain registration and also change the title on the car. (Sort of like a deed for real estate.)Charles Hamnett held a full UK driving licence but had to obtain a New Jersey licence when he moved there with his company. He send me this message:
Finally I did attain my New Jersey licence. All I had to do was take a thirty question multiple choice test and correctly answer twenty-four of the questions, plus an eye test. On completion I handed them my English licence, waited a few hours then collected my US licence and previous licence as well. In New York City I would have also had to of taken a road test as well.Micah Ayache of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma sent me these details of his experiences:
I have recently arrived from New Zealand and settled in Oklahoma. I entered the US on a K1 Fiancee's Visa, making me a temporary resident until I married. The time period given was 90 days, by which time I needed to be married to the person named on the visa or leave the country.
Oklahoma requires new residents to update their driver's licence within ten days. However, I couldn't obtain an Oklahoma driver's licence until I satisfied two forms of ID. Although I had every piece of ID asked for, it was all New Zealand issued (University transcripts, birth certificate, etc) and as everyone knows, nothing outside the USA exists.
For this reason no-one was able to tell me what to do if I only had a New Zealand driver's licence. A call to the Oklahoma Department Of Transportation advised that as long as I had a valid full New Zealand licence and a current visa, I was ok to drive in Oklahoma. I would recommend that if visitors do drive on an overseas licence, they ensure they carry their passport with their visa. Most police officers would be completely confused on being confronted by a licence that was non-US issued.
Dr Stuart Bisland, originally from Scotland and currently working in Toronto, sent me this information:
A full UK driving license is valid in Canada for sixty days, after which time you are required to complete a written test consisting of fifty questions. To pass, the candidate must get at least forty-seven questions correct. Upon successful completion of the test you attain a G1 license which is valid for up to five years and allows the holder to drive, but only when accompanied by a full driving license holder. Furthermore the G1 holder is required to complete a practical driving test for the G2 license within six months of obtaining the G1 licence, otherwise the written test will have to be repeated.
Driving - Regulations
External Links - US And Canadian Departments Of Motor Vehicles, Transport, Transportation, etc. - Drivers' Handbooks/Drivers' Manuals, Highway Condition Information, Driver And Vehicle Licence Requirements, etc.
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EMail me Please note that I am not in the car rental business or the travel trade and I cannot provide any more information on car rental other than that presented here. Nor can I process any requests for quotations or reservations for car rental - these should be directed to car rental companies or travel agents.
Most recently modified 20-Mar-03