15

My driver's license expired last autumn (September 2013). I hadn't used the license/driven anywhere in several years at the time that it expired, but now I'm thinking of using it again for short trips/rentals.

I could wait until I'm back in the States again to renew, but I don't have plans to go back in the near future. I could also get a local driving license, but I'm currently living in Germany and colleagues have told me this is a rather expensive ordeal.

The license was issued in Pennsylvania, and the DMV website has this to say:

Expired License

Although you can't legally drive on an expired license, the state doesn't currently have any firm restrictions on how long you have to renew an expired license without facing additional consequences, so long as your license has not been suspended or revoked. But you may be issued a traffic ticket if you drive without a valid driver's license.

You should be able to renew your expired license by following the methods outlined below. If you need to check on your license status, you can always buy a copy of your driving record.

However all the 'normal' methods of renewing a license require you to be in the state as you are sent a camera card which needs to be taken to the DMV in person. Does any one have experience with this?

  • 1
    Wouldn't driving on an expired license be illegal in Germany? – Christian Apr 17 '14 at 15:04
  • 2
    thus the desire to renew it... – dax Apr 17 '14 at 19:37
  • purely FTR - a number of friends in this situation have found the ONLY realistic solution, is to get it done while in the US. this seems to be the case generally with all US states. hope this random opinion helps in some way! – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 19:10
  • 1
    @JoeBlow, dax: it is generally not legal, as a resident of Germany is not a resident of the state issuing the license. Most states if not all issue licenses only to their residents, though I do not know the rules for every state. You also have to consider whether claiming residency for the purpose of renewing your license might disqualify you from claiming the foreign earned income exclusion with the IRS. In addition, the issuing state might come after you for income tax and/or jury duty, which could cause problems as well. – phoog Jun 1 '15 at 16:24
  • 1
    You cannot drive legally in Germany with a foreign licence, once you have lived there for more than six months. Renewing your expired US-licence will not change that. – user9353 Apr 8 '16 at 19:25
13

According to PennDOT this cannot be done legally:

Act 152 of 2002 prohibits PennDOT from issuing or renewing driver license products for any person who is not a resident of the Commonwealth.

As you live abroad you are not a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

8

Not in Pennsylvania, but in NY I had the same issue. I simply renewed when I was in town visiting family. It's generally easier to just get a driver's license in the country you are in and drive with that when back in the states, foreign drivers' licenses are honored, and you can rent cars with them no problem.

  • will edit question with why i would rather not - but thanks for response! – dax Mar 13 '14 at 9:35
  • 2
    @GdD - It might be easier - but I'm not sure it's even legal. NY seems to have clear residency requirements you need to meet for a license ('As used in this section, the term "resident" shall mean domiciliary, that is, one who lives in this state with the intention of making it a fixed and permanent abode'). Obtaining a license when you aren't a resident could potentially cause problems. (dmv.ny.gov/driver-license/drive-new-york-state) – Rob P. Sep 1 '14 at 12:07
5

NY doesn't allow renewal online - you have to show up to get it. I think its easier to get a local license and (I could be wrong but I believe that) most countries will even issue you International License based on that local one.

In Thailand, I obtained a Thai driver's license just by showing my (unexpired) NY license. They honored car and motorcycle but gave me 2 separate licenses, one for each class. The charge was $7 and I was done in 1 hour. The first one they give you is good for a year and if you show up before it expires, they issue you the next one for 5 years. Same price.

  • 2
    I've spent some time in Thailand and I feel like the level of red tape in Germany is somewhat different :p I'll give it a try though – dax Mar 13 '14 at 10:19
  • @dax I am pretty sure Germany won't convert a US license. The training standards in Europe, particularly in Germany, are far higher than in the US. The European countries whose policies I am familiar with, namely France and the Netherlands, certainly won't do it. – phoog Jun 1 '15 at 16:20
  • I can't say for sure because I've not tried yet. But I've read first hand accounts on a german expat forum (toytown) of people trading their us licenses in directly even after living here for several years. I think it has less to do with training standards and more to do with state relationships - at least that's the way it was framed on toytown. – dax Jun 1 '15 at 19:37
0

According to what I understand, and, as someone above pointed out, if you are living abroad, then, technically, while you are still a US Citizen, you are no longer a resident of any state in the US. When abroad, no one has every asked me for any STATE Identification; they only care about the passport which is a national form of identification. Therefore it seems that there would be no reason to even have a drivers license from the US when you are living overseas as long as you have your valid passport, and whatever visas are deemed necessary.

As for driving when overseas, each country has their specific rules as to what form of licensing you need, and, you should be able to get some form of license where you are. You should also be able to get an International Drivers Permit for use in the US and other countries. Other than that (and, for the purpose of maintaining an address in the US for other reasons) there is no reason to hold a drivers license from any state in the US. As far as voting goes, I would check with the US Embassy in the country you are living in as there are special procedures for that, and these procedures are constantly changing (more than likely, if you are permanently living in a foreign country, you will only be worrying about the national elections.).

Keep in mind that the problem with the US is unique; we are basically 51 (52) separate countries under the same flag with 51 (52) completely different sets of rules. Every other country in the world has a national identification card, and a national drivers license, and they also keep vital records, such as birth, death, marriage, and divorce on a national level. The US is the only country where each separate state issues identification; drivers licenses; and even keep their own vital statistics records, in whatever format is customary for the individual state, and, some states even require you to pay a state income tax.

As an example how this can be somewhat of a problem, a number of countries even require foreigners to submit proof from their governments that they are eligible to enter into a marriage when getting married overseas. The US is the ONLY country unable to provide such a document since everything is handled on a state level. So, the embassies/consulates have to provide an Affidavit in Lieu of... document, that not every locality will accept.

The only foreseeable problem with having an expired drivers license from a specific state in the US is that, when/if you go back home, and attempt to renew the license, there might be late fees and reinstatement fees applied. But, as the US allows people to drive using an International Drivers Permit, there should be no problem unless you are planning on renewing the state document.

  • 3
    Welcome to the site. Nice answer, but some quibbles: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Mexico: all countries where licenses are issued by the state or province rather than a federal authority. I suspect that even more countries have separate vital records. Germany is one example, where you even have to apply to the state for your residence permit, though the rules are made at the federal level. In Switzerland, rules concerning citizenship are even made at the cantonal level. The US is not as unique as you think. – phoog May 23 '17 at 18:25
  • As for renewal of a license long after expiration, the states I'm familiar with just consider it a new application after some time. For example, in New York, if you apply more than one year after the expiration of your previous license, you have to pay the fees for a new application, pass the written test, take a learners permit, take at least the "5 hour class," and take a road test. There's no late fee or reinstatement fee. – phoog May 23 '17 at 18:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.