How to Get International Driver’s License

July 21, 2020

by Rina Bernardo

Car on top of a hill

You’re all set for your dream vacation to Italy, your airline ticket has been purchased as well as your booking for the hotel. All you need to do is to find a car rental company that suits your needs since you prefer having your own vehicle instead of commuting. However, before you secure your rental car, make sure that you have a valid license to drive around in Italy. Your $20 can get you as far as having legal access to drive a vehicle in more than 170 countries with an international driver’s license. 


If you plan to drive a vehicle when you’re traveling abroad, securing a driver’s license ahead is a good idea to avoid last-minute problems. On another note, if you don’t plan on renting a car, having an IDP also gives you an additional measure of security should you encounter unexpected circumstances.


Read further to find out how to get your own AAA International License and where to get International Driver’s License so you can drive freely along the streets of Amalfi or across the rolling hills of Tuscany.


Car travelling across the road

Photo by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay


What is an International Driver’s License? 


An International Driver’s License is a passport-like pamphlet that allows one to legally drive in another country, as long as you have a license issued by your state. Popularly known as an International Driving Permit (IDP), this can also be considered as a valid form of identification in other countries as well as by major car rental companies. 


If you will be travelling to countries where English isn’t the first language, your driving permit translates your American-issued driver’s license into a different language. That way, it will be easier for you to drive through the streets of Portugal and enjoy your vacation.


Please take note that having an IDP doesn’t allow you to drive in every country, just in countries that recognize it. For example, in order to legally drive in China, you must secure a license to drive issued by China. Your IDP only allows you to drive legally in another country and doesn’t entitle you to any privilege, discount, or any additional benefit. Any organization or individual that offers an AAA International License with added inclusions is most likely running a scam.


International Drivers License and Car Rental


An International Driving Permit is usually a requirement for major car rental companies. There are some car rental companies with branches in different countries that will require an IDP before a traveller will be allowed to rent a car. Although not all countries require an International Driving Permit, most of the major car rental companies require that renters should have this document.


Sometimes, car rental companies work together with the AAA or AATA by offering discounts and perks. Companies like Hertz offer 20 USD off for AAA members renting a vehicle at certain conditions as long as they provide the coupon.


Where Can I Use my International Driving Permit?


According to the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA), you can use your international license to drive in more than 170 countries. However, additional terms and conditions may apply. In places like Barbados, Grenada, and St. Kitts & Nevis, your US Driver’s license and IDP must be presented to the local police. You will also need to pay a special registration fee upon arrival in these countries.


If you plan to drive in cities like Rio de Janeiro and countries such as Uruguay, and Trinidad & Tobago, you will need an Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) issued by the AAA. In the IDP Application Form, tick the box that says that you are applying for an Inter-American Driving Permit.


Please refer to the list provided by the AATA to check which countries and territories recognize an IDP. Additionally, your IDP Application Form also includes a list of the countries for easier access.


Man driving along the road

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pixabay


Where Can I Get an International Driver’s License?


There are only two locations in the US where one can get an International Driver’s Permit: The American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). The Federal Trade Commission discourages anyone from obtaining an International Driver’s License from another source as this is considered illegal.


Once you have completed your requirements, proceed to any of the AAA offices near you and submit them. Applying for an International Driver’s License can also be done by mail if you can’t personally go to an AAA office. Both the AAA and AATA don’t accept online applications because two original passport photos are required in the application. Only over-the-counter and applications sent via mail will be honored.


Requirements


In order to apply for an International Driver’s License, you need prepare the following items:


  1. Accomplished AAA International Driving Permit application form 
  2. Two passport-sized photos
  3. A valid US driver’s license
  4. Permit fee of 20 USD

Before going to the local AAA office, it is recommended to call the office to confirm that IDP issuing services are available. Some AAA offices may also be able to take passport photos of you for an additional fee, but it is highly recommended that you bring your own photos.


If you’re not sure where to get an International Driver’s License or if you can’t personally go to an AAA office, the requirements for mail application are as follows:


  1. Accomplished AAA International Driving Permit application form 
  2. Two passport-sized photos signed at the back
  3. A photocopy of both sides of your driver’s license
  4. Permit fee of 20 USD

To obtain your International Driving Permit from the AATA, application requirements are the following:


  1. Accomplished AATA International Driving Permit application form 
  2. Two passport-sized photos
  3. A photocopy of both sides of your valid US driver’s license
  4. Check or money order for the permit fee (20 USD)

If you are already overseas, you can still apply for an IDP, but this might take a longer time for processing and delivering unless the application is expedited with additional fees.


Woman driving during daytime

Photo by Kevin Laminto on Unsplash


Who Can Get an International Driver’s License?


International Driving Permits can be issued to anyone over 18 years old who has a valid state-issued driver’s license for six months or longer. If your driver’s license will expire during the six-month period, renew your license at your nearby DMV office. An IDP will not be issued if your license is revoked or suspended.


The United States does not issue IDPs for foreign visitors and they have to apply for an IDP at the department of the country that issued their driver’s license.


How Long Does It Take to Get an International Driving License?


If you are able to provide the supporting requirements needed, you may get your International Driver’s License on the same day. For those who applied for their license to drive in another country via mail, they might receive their permit after 10 to 15 business days. Expedited services are available, but for an additional fee and you may receive your permit within one or two days. You may select “Priority” or “Express/Courier” in the shipping and handling method on your application. Additionally, processing time does not take into account possible delays caused by incorrect or incomplete documents sent.


Please take note that to avoid delays or possible rejections in your application, make sure to send in a completely filled out application form with legible handwriting. In addition, supplementary requirements such as passport photos should be signed.


How Much is an International Driver’s License?


The AAA International License permit fee is 20 USD, plus shipping and handling from where you live. The payment for the IDP including shipping and handling fee (if applying by mail) must be included along with the completed application form and additional requirements. Insufficient payment along with incomplete or illegible applications may result in processing delays or rejection of application. Note that there may be sudden changes in the permit fee, shipping, or handling fee without prior notice. For a smoother processing of your IDP application by mail, it’s best to call your nearby AAA office to confirm the correct fees.


How Long Does the International Driver’s License Last?


According to the 1949 Geneva Convention, a legitimate International Driving Permit is valid for one year from date of issuance, with a grace period of six months. Please take note that IDPs are not renewable and they must be applied every year. Your IDP is also valid only when used in conjunction with a valid US driver’s license.


Tips in Getting and Using Your International Driving Permit


  1. To avoid delays in applying for your IDP, it’s recommended to visit a nearby AAA office in order to get your permit on the day.
  2. Print an extra copy of your International Driving Permit application form and provide extra copies of your passport photo just in case.
  3. If you’ll be applying for an International Driver’s License by mail, double-check the application form sent and make sure both copies of the passport photo are signed.
  4. Make sure to send in the correct fees, including the permit fee as well as shipping and handling fees.
  5. Make sure to bring your US-issued driver’s license when driving internationally. Your driver’s license is an accompanying proof of eligibility for your IDP and some countries don’t allow travelers without any government-issued driver’s licenses to drive abroad.
  6. Familiarize yourself with the driving laws of the country you will be visiting if ever you will be stopped by the local authorities. If you are driving in Australia, make sure to avoid roadkill. Also, check if they have additional requirements aside from your International Driving Permit that you need to be aware of.

Conclusion


Driving overseas is possible with your International Driver’s License (also known as International Driving Permit). As long as you provide the necessary documents, you may be able to obtain your IDP within the day. Most car rental companies also look for an IDP before allowing you to rent their cars. Although it isn’t a strict requirement when traveling overseas, an International Driver’s License is a handy thing to have with you in case of unexpected situations.