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I have held my P1 (Provisional) Licence here in South Australia for 8 months now. I would like to visit the States and get a full licence there (Overseas Driving Permit is not an option for me) and then come back to Australia to transfer my American Licence to get my Full Open licence here.

I do not plan to actually drive in the States, just hold a licence.

I heard this was possible from a friend who works in the Department of Motor vehicle service office, and wanted to confirm before I plan a holiday overseas.

Is the process difficult to transfer my licence?
Do I need to do testing?
What paperwork is required?
I do not care what state I have to go to, just whatever is easiest...

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    Sounds like you're trying to circumvent the law? – Jan Doggen Aug 10 '18 at 8:30
  • I just don't want to be on my Provisional licence for 3 years (2.5years to go) It has been done before as my friend issues licences here in Australia but he cant remember what countries can do straight transfers. – Zen Aug 13 '18 at 0:23
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In the US, licenses are issued by the individual states. Tourists can typically drive for a limited time using their non-US licenses. However, I'm a retired attorney and I've never heard of any state accepting a non-US license as a method to bypass any part of the state licensing procedure.

Each state's Department of Motor Vehicles maintain on-line web pages where you can research state requirements for licensure. I just checked California and Nevada, which behave in the manner I describe above — that is, no credit is given for non-US licenses.

IOW, having a non-US license is irrelevant, and an adult applicant for a US state drivers license must begin the state's application process from the beginning. (See 8-10-18 edit below about license reciprocity between France and the US states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.)

In the US, applicants must pass both theory testing and on-the-road driving testing, and must provide a licensed and insured vehicle in which to be tested. For those over 18, there is usually no minimum time period in a restricted license class, one may submit to testing right away. Remember too that states issue licenses to their residents, and you'd have to demonstrate that you are a resident.

All in all, then, your plan of using your current Australian limited license is not going to confer any advantage on you in applying for a US license.

If you did obtain a US license, I have no idea if holding a US license might allow you to directly obtain a Full Open license in Australia. That's a question for someone familiar with Australian law.

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Edited 8-10-18:

Thanks to @MJeffryes, who has commented below that France has reciprocal license-exchange agreements with the US states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Exchange is possible there bi-directionally upon proof of residence.

Edited 9-4-18:

This SE.StackExchange item says that the state of Pennsylvania has similar reciprocity.

I'm not aware of any other country/US state combinations that allow exchange.

  • IOW, having a non-US license is irrelevant, and an adult applicant for a US state drivers license must begin the state's application process from the beginning. This is absolutely not true. As you say, driver licensing is a matter for states. As such, some states have made reciprocal agreements with foreign governments to allow driving license exchange. For example, France has agreements with Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas (link in French). I don't know whether this applies to Australian licenses, but in principle, it could do. – MJeffryes Aug 10 '18 at 14:34
  • Thanks, @MJeffryes. I wasn't aware of those reciprocities. I have amended my answer to include them. – David Aug 10 '18 at 19:52

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