Driving in USA with Indian Driving License

October 24th, 2007 at 03:56pm

One of the most asked question I get to hear is, “Can I drive in USA with my Indian Driving License?

Driving in US with 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!

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77 Comments

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  1. 61

    Hey Arjun,
    Thanks for the blog. Will be traveling to Texas on B-1/B-2 Visa, so will comment on the status at present. The blog was of great help!
    Regards,
    Pra

    Comment by Prasad — October 14, 2010 #

  2. 62

    thanks for the info, going back to us now and i realize it sucks with out a car. thanks again!

    Comment by suneel — October 23, 2010 #

  3. 63

    Thanks for the brief info. but as per the http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/dl_info.htm#two500 website , it says, indian driving licence is valid till the expiry date, is it valid for Texas also ?

    Comment by Mohammad Rasool Javeed — December 22, 2010 #

  4. 64

    Hi Arjun,

    Very informative and detailed, thanks man.

    My Experience:
    I often visit US on B1 visa and so i have a bit of driving experience here. I drove in Georgia State (Atlanta) for a couple of months and also in the Bay Area on few weekends.

    Insurance: If you’re on a B1, if any of your friends in US holding a car and insurance, can add you into their plan (most of the insurance companies support it), then it saves a lot of money too.

    Thanks,
    Srikanth.

    Comment by Srikanth — February 10, 2011 #

  5. 65

    Here is what I found in the TX handbook (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us//DriverLicense/)

    4. A nonresident (at least 16 years of age) who has in his possession a valid driver license issued to him in his home state may operate a vehicle which is permitted to be operated with a Class C or Class M driver license in Texas.
    5. Nonresidents (at least 18 years of age) may drive any vehicle in Texas if they are legally licensed to drive such a vehicle in their home state or country, and their home state or country grants like recognition to citizens of Texas.

    Not sure, but looks like it means Indian DL should be okay.

    Comment by Kashyap Bhatt — May 12, 2011 #

  6. 66

    Hi
    I am on a J1 (intern) visa in Dallas for 6 months. I have the same issue as most here. I have an Indian License but not an international one. Can i drive here using that? Is it mentioned anywhere on the TX Dept. of Public Safety website?

    Comment by Meg — May 13, 2011 #

  7. 67

    That was very informative. Especially the International Drivers Permit. People always made a huge fuss about carrying one. Thank you for publishing this article.

    Comment by Gautam Kamat — May 24, 2011 #

  8. 68

    I’m in a bit of confusion about requirement of IDP to drive in New Hampshire. I will be moving to Hanover this week and would like to drive there. I will apply for a state driver’s license there but I’m sure if only the Indian license would suffice.

    Comment by Alisha — September 3, 2011 #

  9. 69

    Hi,

    I am plaining to go boston for 6 weeks having B1/B2.. and i have vallid indian driving license so please guide if i can use the same DL(Indian) in USA for couple of weeks.

    Regards
    Naveen Prakash

    Comment by naveen prakash — March 15, 2012 #

  10. 70

    this blog is reallly helpful, one question
    I am planning to get myfriends car from columbus Ohio to NJ. I have my indian license and IDP, just want to know what else i should carry before i drive down from OH to NJ.

    Comment by sai — April 4, 2012 #

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