One of the most asked question I get to hear is, “Can I drive in USA with my Indian Driving License?”
Well, the answer is, “It depends on the state that you would drive in”. All most all states in US allow you to drive with your Indian License for a period of one year. After that, you need to get a US drivers license. However, if you become a resident of the state, then you need to get a US license within a months time.
One more thing that I get asked is about “International Drivers Permit”. Well, to be frank, its quite useless if your Indian Driving License is written in English. The permit basically tells that you have the license to drive back in India in English. So, its the License thats important and not the Permit. In fact, in some states, International Drivers Permit is not even recognized. So, don’t bother getting it. In any case, your Indian Driving License must be valid and active.
A very good way to confirm what the specific state laws are is to search the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) website for the state in question. This site has the links to DMV sites of various states. Or, you can search google for pharse like “Texas DMV” and see if you can get to the official site of DMV. Once you are on the site, you would normally find a “Drivers Handbook” (or equivalent), which has all the official rules and regulations for that specific state.
Even if you don’t plan to buy a car in the US, I would suggest getting a US drivers license for the reasons given below:
- Your Driving license works as your Identity card too in most of the US states. This helps because, you don’t need to carry your passport and other important documents around all the time. If you dont want to drive or dont know to drive, then most states issue a State ID card – so make sure you get it. Trust me, its very helpful!
- If you plan to drive in the US (say car rental etc), a valid US driving license helps. It will save you a lot of money on car insurance too.
- If you do buy a car, then almost all states in the US make it mandatory to have Auto/Car insurance. If you don’t have a valid US drivers license and drive on an Indian license, then your insurance premium will shoot up! (by at-least $400 to $500 or more for 6 months!)
In some states & cities (like in Texas) there is one thing that might force you to drive with an Indian Driving License… and that is the validity of your Work Permit (H1B or equivalent). In Texas, if your work permit expires within in the next six months, the DMV won’t allow you to apply for a US Driving License. So, keep this in mind, and apply six months before your Work Permit expires if possible! However, this is true for Texas (confirmed in Houston), but may not be true at other states.
Oh – Last but not the least, if you are driving in the USA, make sure that you have auto insurance. Its a must and will save you lot of money and headaches in case of any eventualities!
If you are already in the US, I request you to comment below on your states policy on Indian Driving License!