7 FAM 1430


(CT:CON-980;   05-03-2023)
(Office of Origin:  CA/OCS)


(CT:CON-608;   11-05-2015)

a. U.S. consular officers interact with state, local, and foreign authorities, U.S. citizens/non-citizen nationals, and foreign nationals about driver’s licenses in a variety of contexts. 

b. Many inquiries focus on whether it is possible to drive a motor vehicle in one country if a driver has a license issued in another country.  Some inquiries pertain to International Driver’s Permits (IDPs) or licenses. 

c.  In recent years, several countries have asked posts if the United States will consider entering into bilateral agreements or arrangement on reciprocal recognition of driver’s licenses. 

d. This subchapter provides general guidance about these issues, but also discusses the issue of border security, now that driver’s licenses and identification are being given serious scrutiny in the United States. 

e. For guidance on identity and U.S. passports see 7 FAM 1320.


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a. Laws and Regulations:

(1)  U.S. law regarding the issuance of driver’s licenses is generally reserved to the individual U.S. states.  However, the REAL ID Act of 2005 (the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005, Public Law 109-13, 119 Statutes at Large 231, 302 (2005) (codified at 49 U.S.C. 30301 note)) set standards for issuance of state driver’s licenses, and personal identification cards, if they are to be accepted by federal agencies for official purposes.  In order to aid in the implementation of the statute, the Secretary of Homeland Security established regulations with the consultation and assistance of the Secretary of Transportation and the U.S. states.  Those regulations are codified at 6 CFR 37.  (The REAL ID Act repealed Section 7212 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-458).) 

(2)  A driver’s license means a motor vehicle operator’s license as defined in 49 U.S.C. 30301(5).  A Personal Identification Card, also issued by many states to non-drivers means an identification card as defined in 18 U.S.C. 1028(d)(3).

b. Treaties:

(1)  Multilateral:  The United States is a party to two multilateral treaties regarding roads and transport. 

(a)  Convention on the Regulation of Inter-American Automotive Traffic (1943); 61 Stat. 1129; TIAS 1567; 3 Bevans 865. Article VI of this Convention provides that “Every motor vehicle operator before admission to international traffic shall have such driving license as may be required by the laws of his State or such as may have been issued by any political subdivision thereof having legal authority to issue driving licenses.  In the event that no such driving license is required by his State or any political subdivision thereof, a special international driving license such as is specified in Article XIII shall be valid.”  Article XIII of this Convention provides that “a special international driving license may be required for each operator admitted to circulation in any individual State party to the Convention, if the State so elects. Such a special license shall be required for each operator who does not possess a domestic driving license as required in Article VI.”  (See 7 FAM 1436.)

(b)  Convention on Road Traffic (1949); 3 UST 3008; TIAS 2487; 125 UNTS 22.   This Convention provides for reciprocal recognition of driver's licenses issued in the other's territory.  Consistent with Article 24 of the Convention, the U.S. Department of State empowers certain organizations to issue International Driving Permits (IDPs) to those who hold valid U.S. driver’s licenses. The Department has designated the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance as the only authorized distributors of IDPs. (See 7 FAM 1436.)


The REAL ID Act, Public Law 109-13, 119 Stat. 231, 302 (2005) (codified at 49 U.S.C. 30301 note) and its implementing regulations (6 CFR Part 37) set standards regarding driver’s licenses that will be accepted as identification by federal agencies for official purposes.  This requires foreign nationals who wish to obtain a U.S. REAL ID-compliant state driver’s license to produce specified proof of identity and lawful presence in the United States.  The provisions of Public Law 109-13 and its implementing regulations do not contravene the provisions of the two multilateral treaties regarding roads and transport to which the United States is a party.  Any host country questions regarding this subject should be directed to L/CA which will coordinate with the Office of the Legal Adviser (L) and the Economic and Business Affairs bureau (EB) in formulating a response.

(2)  Bilateral:  There are no bilateral treaties between the United States and any country on reciprocal recognition of driver’s licenses, except bilateral agreements with Mexico and Canada that address recognition of commercial driver's licenses. 

(3)  The United States Is Not A Party To:

(a)  Hague Convention on the Law Applicable to Traffic Accidents, (1971);

(b)  U.N. Convention on Road Traffic, (1968); or

(c)  The Agreement on the Adoption of the Inter-American Manual on Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, (1979).

7 FAM 1433  Border Security, Drivers Licenses and Identification

(CT:CON-608;   11-05-2015)

a. The REAL ID Act of 2005, Public Law 109-13 set standards for issuance of state driver’s licenses, and personal identification cards, if they are to be accepted by federal agencies for official purposes. 

b. See the Department of Homeland Security, Secure Driver's License Page for current information about U.S. state and other U.S. jurisdiction implementation of the Real ID Act.

c.  See also the Department of Homeland Security Real ID Act Enforcement in Brief.

7 FAM 1434  Changes in State Laws - inquiries from foreign governments

(CT:CON-908;   04-26-2021)

a. Nearly all U.S. state laws about driver’s licenses have changed since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.  The document requirements to obtain a driver’s license in most states are complicated, combining aspects of proof of identity, proof of residence, and federal immigration law.  Information about initiatives in individual U.S. states is available at the National Conference of State Legislatures home page.  Another source of information about state level initiatives is the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).  M/OFM/DMV represents the U.S. Department of State on the AAMVA’s Foreign Reciprocity Working Group.

b. Several states issue Driving Privilege Cards. These cards do not fulfill the requirements of the Real ID Act of 2005 and thus are acceptable only as secondary evidence of identity, in accordance with 7 FAM 1325.

c.  U.S. embassies and consulates abroad and CA/OCS receive inquiries from foreign governments regarding changes in U.S. law and policy as it pertains to aliens in the United States.  Inquiries may be directed to L/CA.

7 FAM 1435  Reciprocal Arrangements With U.S. States

(CT:CON-608;   11-05-2015)

a. Bilateral Arrangements about Driver’s Licenses:  Foreign governments frequently raise this issue with posts and the Department.  In addition, posts inquire about the feasibility of the United States or individual U.S. states entering into arrangements with host countries regarding driver’s license reciprocity.  To the extent a binding agreement is considered, Posts cannot enter into negotiations on behalf of the United States with foreign governments regarding such agreements about driver’s licenses absent specific authorization (see 11 FAM 720, 11 FAM 730, 11 FAM 750).

b. Germany and Canada Example Arrangements:  The German Ministry of Transport, in conjunction with the German Länder, approved exemptions to the practical (road) and theoretical (written) tests for license holders from various U.S. states.  [Those U.S. states have approved similar exemptions for German license holders.]  See the U.S. Embassy in Germany’s Internet home page, “Living in Germany – American Driver’s License,” for information about this practice.  Some Canadian provinces have also approved exemptions for license holders from certain U.S. states and vice versa.

c.  U.S. Constitution Compact Clause:  The Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3) provides that "[n]o State shall, without the Consent of Congress . . .  enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power . . .” To avoid possible conflicts with the Compact Clause, the reciprocal recognition in the Germany and Canada cases was based on parallel unilateral non-binding policy declarations or determinations rather than written binding agreements.

7 FAM 1436  International Driving Permits

(CT:CON-608;   11-05-2015)

a. Although many countries do not recognize U.S. driver's licenses, more than 150 countries outside of the United States honor international driving permits (IDPs).  IDPs function as an official translation of a U.S. driver's license into 10 foreign languages.  These licenses are not valid in an individual’s country of residence.  IDPs are not intended to replace valid U.S. state licenses and should only be used as a supplement to a valid license.  Consistent with Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic (1949), the U.S. Department of State empowers certain organizations to issue IDPs to those who hold valid U.S. driver’s licenses.

b. Authorized by the U.S. Department of State to Issue IDPs:  The Department designated the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) as the only authorized distributors of IDPs.

c.  How to Apply for an International Driving Permit:  Before departing the United States, travelers can obtain an IDP at a local office of one of the two automobile associations authorized by the U.S. Department of State (EB/TRA/OTP): the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance through the National Automobile Club.  AAA’s application form also provides an address where applications can be sent from overseas.



Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - International Driver's Permit Scams


(CT:CON-608;   11-05-2015)

a. CA/OCS/ACS maintains a Road Safety feature on the Consular Affairs Internet home page.  All Country Specific Information include material about road safety.

b. L/T (Treaty Office) maintains information about the treaties and other international agreements to which the United States is a party regarding driver’s licenses, transportation, and road safety.

c.  EB/TRA (Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs' Transportation Affairs division) handles overseas land transport policy issues.

d. The Office of Diplomatic Motor Vehicles (M/OFM/DMV) is responsible for issuing Department of State Driver’s Licenses to members of foreign missions and their dependents assigned in the United States. 

(1)  M/OFM/DMV is a member of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators Subcommittee on Driver's Licenses and Foreign Reciprocity. 

(2)  Any questions regarding the Diplomatic Motor Vehicle Program should be directed to the Office of Foreign Missions by electronic mail at OFMDMVInfo@state.gov.

e. OES/IHA (Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Office of International Health Affairs) coordinates U.S. policy on international road safety.


(CT:CON-608;   11-05-2015)

U.S. Department of State materials about international and domestic drivers’ licenses and road safety include:

(1)  Bureau of Consular Affairs - Road Safety Overseas CA Internet Page;

(2)  Fraud Prevention Programs – Alerts (FPP Intranet Page).