I am a US citizen living in Japan. I never had a driver's license in the US prior to coming to Japan, and I do not currently hold a license from any country (including Japan, US, and anywhere else). I am planning to remain a Japan resident, but would like to be able to drive in the US.

Japanese driver's licenses are very expensive to get, and would require me to get an international license every time I went to the US and wanted to drive. In contrast, US licenses are incredibly cheap and easy to get, and wouldn't have that restriction (I have no intention to drive in Japan).

When I looked through various states on DMV.org, the half-dozen states that I checked all require you to be a resident of the state to get a license. Is there any way to get a license valid in the US as a non-resident citizen?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – SztupY
    Apr 25, 2018 at 9:20

2 Answers 2


No. US states issue driver's licenses to residents of that state, and part of the application process is demonstrating you do live there. This is typically done both by your declaration under penalty of perjury that you live there, as well as by some external documentation, such as a utility bill in your name showing an in-state address

While it may be possible to borrow an address from a friend, and fake a utility bill or lease or some other document that'd get you past the DMV, you'd be violating the law in doing so.


I suggest checking the rules for the states you intend to visit. For example, the California DMV says:

The State of California does not recognize an International Driving Permit (IDP) as a valid driver license. California does recognize a valid driver license that is issued by a foreign jurisdiction (country, state, territory) of which the license holder is a resident.

The IDP is only a translation of information contained on a person's foreign driver license and is not required to operate a motor vehicle in California. Citations issued to a person in California who has an IDP, but does not have a California driver license will be placed on the Department of Motor Vehicle database.

For driving in California, if you are living in Japan, it looks as though you should just get a Japanese license.

  • While this is good info, it isn't related to the question. What I wanted to know is if it's possible to get a new license in the US as a non-resident if you are an unlicensed driver. Since it costs between $2k-3k to get a license in Japan, I wanted to know if I could pay the $100 or so it'd cost to get one in the US and then transfer that to Japan when I got back instead.
    – jmac
    Apr 19, 2016 at 16:23

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