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My daughter is living abroad in Austria, a US citizen who is working toward applying for residency and has married an Austria citizen. She went through the long process of acquiring a drivers license in Austria, but they kept her United States license saying they don't give them back. She still would need her US drivers license when she comes back to the US to drive legally here. She wants to keep it for Identification she needs for paperwork, etc when conferring with her US bank accounts, etc. Is this NORMAL? They've told her they cannot give it back to her. They don't give a reason for keeping it, it's her property.

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    There is already an excellent answer, I would add that this absolutely normal and happening everywhere.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 29 at 6:35
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    @sirtao - I guess the situation is similar in other countries: inside a national country, the driving license is a decent ID, but even within Schengen, AFAIK, the driving license is not valid to identify yourself in another country.
    – Martin Ba
    Commented May 29 at 13:16
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    A bit pedantic, but your daughter did not have a US driver's license. Nor do you. Nowhere on your driver's license does it say United States Driver's License. For example, mine says Virginia Driver's License.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented May 29 at 13:31
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    FWIW, Indiana took away my Finnish driver's license when I got one of theirs (as a grad student on F1-Visa). I did get it back, when I asked for it. Nicely :-) Commented May 29 at 16:57
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    "She still would need her US drivers license when she comes back to the US to drive legally here": no she does not. Austrian licenses are valid in the US. If she moves back to the US permanently, then yes she will need to obtain a license from her new state of residence just as she had to obtain an Austrian license in Austria when she moved there.
    – phoog
    Commented May 30 at 18:10

4 Answers 4

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She still would need her US drivers license when she comes back to the US to drive legally here.

No she would not. One does not need a US driver's license to drive legally in the US. Someone residing outside the US and visiting the US, like your daughter, should use a driver's license from the jurisdiction where she resides when driving in the US. Whether she is a US citizen or not is irrelevant. She is not supposed to keep using a driver's license of a state where she no longer resides.

She wants to keep it for Identification she needs for paperwork, etc when conferring with her US bank accounts, etc.

As someone who resides outside the US, she should use her passport as identification when visiting the US.

it's her property.

It's not her property. It's the property of the state that issued it. If she told the state that issued the driver's license, that she moved to another jurisdiction and they took her driver's license when she applied for a driver's license in that jurisdiction, the state that issued the driver's license would tell her that she shouldn't be using the state's driver's license anyway, since she moved away.

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    Correct, the US license is the property of the US state that issued it. But that also means it isn't the property of the Austrian government. Therefore, the legal right of the Austrian government to confiscate it is unclear. Commented May 29 at 9:59
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    @BrendanMcKay they didn't "confiscate" it, they exchanged it for an Austrian license :-)
    – jcaron
    Commented May 29 at 10:02
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    Yes, if it is anything like Germany (which I strongly suspect) they did not "confiscate" it, you had to hand it in when you got you local license, because the Austrian administration has an agreement with the US to send it back. It is US property, it will be returned to the US, it will not be held by Austria.
    – nvoigt
    Commented May 29 at 11:33
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    @SimonCrase All US States (territories and DC) and Canadian provinces (and territories) are members of AAMVA which operates under the one license at a time principle (Drivers License Compact). When one state issues a new license, other states are notified electronically to cancel theirs (S2S). When one gets pulled over, their license is checked electronically or via radio with dispatch (DLDV). Because a cancelled license would be detected, US States don't bother to recover old ones.
    – user71659
    Commented May 30 at 3:23
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    Even if she returned to the same US state the day after, she would have no problem getting that state to replace the license.
    – WGroleau
    Commented May 30 at 15:54
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Your daughter did not use her US drivers license to acquire an Austrian license, she converted her US license into an Austrian license. This means that she no longer holds a US license, and only holds the new Austrian license. This is explained on this English page from the Austrian authorities, and the legal basis for it is § 9.(2) of the Führerscheingesetz-Durchführungsverordnung which states:

Der umgeschriebene Führerschein ist von der Behörde einzubehalten und der Ausstellungsbehörde zu übermitteln. In besonders berücksichtigungswürdigen Fällen kann von der Übermittlung der Führerscheine abgesehen werden. Wird ein Führerschein nicht für alle darin eingetragenen Klassen umgeschrieben, so ist bei den umgeschriebenen Klassen der Vermerk „gilt nicht in Österreich“ anzubringen und der Führerschein dem Besitzer wieder auszuhändigen. Kann der Vermerk auf Grund der Beschaffenheit des Führerscheines nicht angebracht werden, so ist der Führerschein von der Behörde aufzubewahren und dem Besitzer bei einer etwaigen Wiederausreise oder Aufgabe des österreichischen Wohnsitzes (§ 5 Abs. 1 Z 1 FSG) diesem auf Antrag im Austausch gegen den österreichischen Führerschein wieder auszuhändigen.

which can be translated into English as:

The converted driving license must be retained by the authority and sent to the issuing authority. In particularly special cases, the driving license may not need to be sent. If a driving license is not converted for all classes entered in it, the note "not valid in Austria" must be added to the converted classes and the driving license must be returned to the owner. If the note cannot be added due to the nature of the driving license, the driving license must be kept by the authorities and returned to the owner upon request in exchange for the Austrian driving license if the owner leaves the country again or gives up his or her Austrian residence (Section 5 Paragraph 1 Item 1 FSG).

EU issued driving licenses are valid for driving in the US for up to a year, however because the license is in German, it's usually recommended to acquire an international driver's license when travelling. Should she ever choose to return to the US in future, then the process is unfortunately more involved since most US states don't allow conversion which means she would need to retake her test, however, she will still need to surrender her Austrian license.

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    In most US states now you CAN NOT "convert" from a foreign DL to a US state DL. It's incredibly inconvenient. Almost all states stopped doing that in the last, say, 10-20 years
    – Fattie
    Commented May 30 at 17:36
  • @Fattie Thanks, I have updated that section. Commented May 31 at 6:17
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This is completely commonplace.

In the USA state, just get a replacement. Pay $20 and get a new copy.

Anyone experienced in the situation just does this first, before going to the other country in question.

I don't know this for certain, but regarding the USA in particular it is pretty inconceivable a US state would "cancel" your DL, if, they got some weird communique from "Austria" asserting that the US state should "cancel" your DL.

I have done exactly what the OP explains a number of times, and I know any number of people who have done it. I have never, ever had the original-country license "cancelled".

(There may be a few nations with mutual-agreements for this bizarre process, but someone would have to find the list.)


There may be late-breaking news on this (astonishingly, Nebraska and Austria form joint DL surveillance task force ... more details at 9) but the above expresses the typical situation.

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I had same issue in Germany with Russian DL. My situation was even more complex. I am Russian citizen with permanent residence permit in Germany and working on L1A visa in USA. At some point I was travelling between three countries. Here is my practical experience: One HAS to obtain German license within 6 month otherwise it is criminal offense in Germany to drive with expired foreign license and you can get jail time. Do not even think to mess with it. As long as you are resident of Germany, DO NOT USE any license other than German one after 6 months. It is perfectly fine to temporary use your foreign license in other EU countries though. Germany and probably other EU countries are revoking your national license, because in the past people were abusing EU rules and after DUI for example were getting Polish or Bulgarian licenses. To me this is questionable too, that Germany is messing with documents issued by another country. I don't think they have legally right to do so (imagine Germany revoking your college degree), but I am no lawyer and who would spend time and money to argue? Sometimes you can have troubles for example to rent a car without at least 1 year of experience or your insurance will go through the roof. For that one can request to specify first issue date from your foreign DL. Also if you plan to travel to your home country with the car there is a possibility to give up your German license and get your national one back, but then you can have troubles if stopped on the way without German one... So just get duplicate in your home country , say that you have lost your, it is usually small fee. Smart would be to get one in advance and then give it to German gubmint when time will come if they badly need it. Just please DO NOT USE your foreign license IN the country of your residence! My wife did it and ended up with criminal record, 500EUR penalty, 400 on lawyer, and 10k on damages of two vehicles because insurance refused to pay... Russia also mandates to use national DL however violation is administrative offence not criminal. Still can get you troubles. I disagree with the answer that in US you don't need US license. Depend on the state you have some time to get the license of that state and have your address updated. And it is easy peasy process comparing to German driving test. You might be ok and will not be stopped by police in 10 years, but also you could get troubles if cop had a bad day. On top of that EU license class "B" is limited to 3500 kg vehicle + trailer while US license allows 26 000 lbs. That especially true if you posses CDL. I ended up having three DL issued by three different countries and was using them accordingly. Wow!

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  • A repeat offender (Wiederholungstäter) may face a imprisonment, but otherwise it is a fine. §21 Straßenverkehrsgesetz (StVG) Driving without a license: (1) Any person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with a fine Commented May 31 at 19:33
  • In the letter my wife got was indicated 500EUR fine OR 30 days of jail time.... I guess if she would be unable to pay. We did not check that. Anyway even without imprisonment you are getting yourself a whole lot of trouble. Commented Jun 1 at 0:51
  • The question is about Austria, not Germany.
    – Traveller
    Commented Jun 2 at 6:52
  • Given how close two EU countries are I believe same would be applied to Austria. In my reply I mentioned that while I don't believe its correct from legal stand point that one sovereign country revokes permits issued by another sovereign country I see this as a standard practice across the board. The reason is as I was told people were abusing EU laws and were using licenses from other countries when their national one was revoked due to DUI for example. Commented Jun 2 at 16:18

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