Can I drive in California with a driver’s license from a foreign country?

Posted by Neil Shouse | May 29, 2018 | 0 Comments

People with a current valid driver's license from a foreign country can legally drive in California. They do not need to get a California driver's license or international driving permit (“IDP”) as long as:

  • They are at least 18 years of age,
  • The license was lawfully issued in the country where they reside, and
  • The license covers the type of vehicle they are driving in California (car, truck, motorcycle, etc.).

Note that some rental car agencies might require an IDP in addition to a foreign license.

An International Driving Permit may also be useful if your driver's license is not in English. An IDP translates your identification information into 10 languages.

You can obtain an IDP only in your country of residence.

What if my country doesn't issue driver's licenses?

A person who lives in a country that does not require driver's licenses may drive in California if:

  • The driver is at least 18 years old, and
  • The driver is operating a foreign vehicle he or she owns for a maximum of 30 days.

What if I am under 18?

Foreign drivers who are 16 or 17 may drive in California for a maximum of ten (10) days immediately following their entry into the state.

But they are not subject to the 10-day limitation if:

  • They have a valid, current driver's license issued by their country of residence, AND
  • They have obtained a nonresident minor's certificate from the California DMV and have filed proof of financial responsibility in connection therewith.

All these documents must be in the driver's immediate possession whenever they drive in California.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).


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