Obtaining A California International Driving Permit (IDP)


Getting an International Driving Permit is a relatively cheap and easy process if you have a US Drivers license. However, there are many fraudulent organizations offering bogus IDPs. It is important to go through the organizations approved by your state. In California, the go-to agencies are AAA and the National Automobile Club.

Obtaining a Permit

Getting an International Drivers Permit lets an American with a state-issued driver’s license abroad drive in any country that accepts IDP. Over 185 countries accept IDPs. In California , the process for obtaining one is relatively simple. All that is needed is a valid CA driver’s license, passport photos, and the required fee of $15. They can also take passport pictures for you for a small fee (an additional $15). AAA and theNational Automobile Club (NAC) are the organizations that the State Department has appointed specifically to handle IDP permits, though many third parties exist. In California, the more common channel is through AAA, though online applications are available through both companies. Other companies offering the IDP may or may not be valid, and will often charge more than the $15 dollar maximum for the State Department appointed companies (AAA and NAC). In some other jurisdictions outside of California, the AATA (American Automobile
Touring Alliance) may also issue IDPs.

Uses in Other Countries

Officials in foreign countries often cannot read a driver’s license issued in one of the States. Usually, they prefer an IDP, which translates your state-issued license into a number of languages that can be read in their various countries. If one were crossing a border or renting out a car in another country, an IDP would be accepted as proof of competency to drive. In order to avoid a hassle with foreign officials, it is recommended that all travellers wishing to drive abroad obtain one.While one could possibly be obtained outside the US, the validity of these may be in question, because they are not issued in the country of origin. Further, IDPs cease to be valid after one year and cannot be renewed outside the country of residence. An American who has settled abroad would have to obtain a local license at that point.

  1. Restrictions

While you do not have to be an American citizen to obtain an International Drivers Permit in the state of California, you do, however, have to have a US driver’s license, passport photos, and the required fee ($15). When filling out the AAA form to obtain your IDP, your information must be entered exactly as it appears on your driver’s license. AAA advises that you carry your US drivers license with the IDP permit at all times, as it is not valid without an accompanying ID. A list of countries accepting the IDP can be found here, as can be the proper form for all US citizens:

  1. Types of Driving Covered

The IDP covers a broad range of vehicles, including class A-E. This class includes motorcycles, cars, trucks, vans and buses, and various types of trailers and combinations of classes. However, one must obtain a US license to operate these vehicles if one wishes to obtain permission to operate one in another country using an IDP. One should also check weather or not such a county requires more extensive licensing to operate such a vehicle. However, there are 95 Countries that have signed a convention to uphold these guidelines concerning permissible vehicles.

  1. Potential Problems

The issue of fraud is a significant one, because there are a slew of companies offering IDPs online, many of which may prove to be fraudulent and not accepted by many countries. The key to their authenticity is the fact that they are accompanied by a valid US Drivers license. If other companies or third parties do not solicit this information or check that it is valid, they are issuing IDPs fraudulently. If they charge more for an IDP than the State Department’s sanctioned channels ($15), they may not necessarily be breaking the law, but you are getting ripped off if you get your IDP through them.

  1. Driving Abroad

The IDP does not require you to learn all the rules of every single country that accepts them. However, the State Department strongly advises anyone driving in another country to contact that country’s US consulate to obtain information of the laws of the road in that country. There may be significant differences between the rules of the road in the US. In England and Australia, for instance, cars drive on the left side of the road. On the Autobahn in Germany, there is not speed limit for much of the highway. Other issues include the metric unit of measurement (kilometers, meters, etc.) versus the English units of measurement (miles).

State Recognition

The State of California does not recognize the IDP or International License as a valid driver’s license. It requires any driver to obtain a license from the DMV for the State of California.

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