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International driver’s licenses

Janelle Vreeland

What you need in order to drive abroad

If you’re planning to work or study abroad for an extended period of time, taking public transportation daily can be a hassle. Have you considered driving but shied away because you aren’t sure how to go about it? You may want to reconsider. Driving abroad may be simpler than you think.

Depending on your host country, you may be required to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), which verifies that you possess a valid driver’s license in your home country. An IDP is recognized in more than 175 countries, and many major car companies need one for international rentals. If you happen to be heading to Australia, the permits are issued by state and territory IDP authorities and must be carried with a valid Australian driver’s license. To obtain the documentation, contact the relevant IDP authority in your state.

In the U.S., you can apply for an IDP through a local AAA (American Automobile Association) or National Auto Club office before leaving for your host country. The U.S. Department of State recommends against obtaining one through any other outlet.

To start the application process, you can visit a local office and present an official U.S. license along with two passport-size photos. However, your license should be valid for at least six months, and you must be 18 years of age to do so. Additional documentation, such as a valid passport, an official non-immigrant visa and a valid work visa may also be required.

If you can not stop by an AAA or National Auto Club office, the application can be submitted via mail. Processing of the form may take up to a few weeks when mailed but can be processed within the same day if you make an office visit. The permit costs less than $20 and must be carried along with your valid U.S. driver’s license at all times. IDPs typically remain valid for one year or until your U.S. driver’s license expires.

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