Many tourists and other foreigners who are in the U.S. or plan to visit it soon want to rent a car. Their recurring question is whether they can use the license of their country to drive or not.

Tourists in the U.S. and the Driver’s License

In theory, tourists who are in the United States legally can rent cars and drive with their original license without problems. However, it is advisable to take the following precautions:

First, check the website of the Department of Motor Vehicles in each state, because the rules on this matter change from one state to another.

Second, study the driving laws of the state that you will visit, because they vary in many cases. In almost all states of the American Union, sending text messages or changing your Facebook status, etc. is prohibited. In some states, it is illegal to talk on the phone while driving.

Then, request the International Driving Permit. In this way, you will have the official document in ten different languages, including English.

Additionally, check that your license has not expired.

Remember to travel with both the regular and the international license.

Keep in mind that driving under the influence of alcohol is highly risky, and it is prohibited almost everywhere in the world. However, in the United States, it is absolutely punishable, even when you have drunk a small quantity.

In case you are fined, the best and right thing to do is to pay the fine on time.

Keep in mind that you cannot use the driver’s license from your home country when you are a legal permanent resident in the U.S.

Other Temporary Visas

Foreigners on temporary work, investment or exchange visas may apply for a permit to operate. Everyone should be aware of the rules of each state in regard to what documentation can or should be presented.


Foreigners whose application for asylum has been approved may obviously apply for a driving license. However, the case is different when the application is still in process, since the answer depends on the rules of each state.