I have looked at the government websites (state.tx.us/DriverLicense/nonmilitaryrenewal.htm) and seen the requirements but as a US citizen who has passed their drivers test, why is there no standard US drivers license for those with no state affiliation? Or even better an expat US drivers license..any info anyone?

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    For what is it worth, I have heard of expats visiting the DMV while in Texas and renewing their license at that time. Did you ever hold a Texas DL? Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 7:02
  • 3
    AFAIK - (legally) you can't. You need to be a resident of a particular state to get a license in that state.
    – Rob P.
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 9:44
  • @DavidSegonds - Texas requires 'Individuals who do not currently live in Texas but their true, permanent home (domicile) is in Texas'. Unless your domicile is in Texas, you can't just stop in the DMV and obtain a license without misrepresenting your situation.
    – Rob P.
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 9:53
  • Welcome to expatriates.SE. You're getting into a subject of State vs. Federal rights, which isn't really a subject for this site.
    – Karlson
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 2:30
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    Possible duplicate of How to renew a US driver's license when living abroad
    – user9879
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 8:20

6 Answers 6


Driver licenses are to be used for driving a vehicle where you live. Therefore, there is no such thing as a US driver license that you can use in the country where you live.

Typically, you need to exchange whatever driver license you have for a local one and in some cases you may have to take the test again.

As indicated in the comments, unless you are domiciled in Texas, you cannot just stop at the DMV and obtain a license.

Once you obtain a license in the country you live in, you can generally use it to drive in the USA and exchange it for a USA driver license once you decide to return there.


I'm in the same boat mate. I'm a US citizen from Texas, but have been living in Japan for 12 years. My Texas driver's license is long expired and I cannot review it as I'm not a Texas resident. Basically it seems we need to get an international driver's license, not different than a foreign visitor.

Here is what Texas DMV told me by email last week:

You will need to present the following items:

  • Proof of identity Proof of social security
  • Proof of lawful status/U.S. Citizenship
  • Proof of Texas residency
  • Proof of completion of adult driver education (if applicable).

Additionally, you will need to provide the following information for the vehicle you use for the driving test:

  • Proof of current registration
  • Proof of current inspection
  • Proof of current liability insurance: it is not necessary for your name to be on the insurance policy, you just need to show proof that the vehicle itself is insured

Since I'm not a resident of Texas, or any other state, it's a deal breaker. So it seems we are no different than foreign visitors


Foreign Visitors Driving in the U.S.

Quick facts for foreign visitors about driving in the United States

  1. An international driver's license must be obtained from your home country. This permit only verifies that you hold a valid license in your home country. It is your foreign driver's license that allows you to drive in the United States. Contact the authorities in your home country to get an international driving permit, as the United States does NOT issue international driver's licenses to foreign visitors.

  2. If you obtain a valid international driver's license from your country of origin before you come to the U.S., you may rent a car and drive before you get your U.S. driver's license.

  3. A U.S. driver's license is not a federal document, but it's a permit issued by one of the 50 states' motor vehicle departments. If you're going to reside in the U.S., it may take several months to obtain a U.S. driver's license.

  4. Foreign visitors who become U.S. residents can only obtain a driver's license from the state in which they reside. Each state has its own driving rules and regulations. Check with your state's motor vehicles department to find out how to apply.

  5. Once you receive your U.S. driver's license from a state motor vehicles department, you will be permitted to drive in all other U.S. states. The laws in each state vary from one to another. It is your responsibility to know and obey the laws of that state while driving.

  6. The residency requirement for obtaining a U.S. driver's license varies with each state. Consult the motor vehicles department in your state for more information.

  7. If you are a foreign student coming to the U.S. to study, contact the university or college you will attend, as most institutions provide students with driving information and most have websites.

  8. The U.S. government has issued warnings about Internet vendors of worthless international driver's licenses. It is important to educate yourself about the dangers of these costly and illegal operations.

  • ftc.gov/opa/2003/01/idpfinal.shtm
    – ChatGPT
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 9:08
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    Welcome to Expatriates! There's an "edit" link if you want to make changes to your answer.
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 21:33
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    Some of the information you copied from your links was written for non-US citizens. And it seems like #7 could only ever apply to a non-US citizen. Did you misunderstand the question? It was about US citizens. Also, all but the first of your links appear broken to me.
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 21:34
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    I'm a US citizen myself, but I've been living in Japan for 12 years. As far as I understand, I can't get a driver's license in my previous home state of Texas as I'm no longer a resident there, or in any other state. Therefore I'm basically no different than a foreign visitor. Same as OP. My Texas drivers license is long expired and cannot be renewed. Texas DMV wrote told me I need to show proof of Texas residency, which I don't have.
    – ChatGPT
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 17:30

You can, in some states, with a virtual address. For example, in Florida if you get a virtual address, then one can use that address for a bank account and credit card (e.g., HSBC or Simple online, and Paypal). These provide "proof of residency".

Then one has to visit Florida for with Passport, Social Security card, and old drivers' license (expired or not yet).

Yes, this requires one physically present themselves in the US (cannot be done from abroad), and it also requires a virtual address and bank accounts, etc., for proof of residency (but it doesn't take much money to do that).

  • In Texas, I needed more than just a virtual address, The proof of residency needed to show my name on a lease/rental agreement or utility bill.
    – ChatGPT
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 9:01
  • @maxhodges the original question did not require a Texas locale, only that that was their last State residency. If one only needs to renew a drivers' license, one can do that in some states (not including Texas). Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 13:05

If you return to the US as a visitor, you drive with your country of residence's driver's license if that country is a party to the Multilateral Convention on International Road Traffic (1949). You may need to get an International Driver's License (IDL) if your foreign license is not in English, which is really just a translation of your foreign license. You can drive on your foreign license for a period of up to one year. However, if you become something other than a visitor, i.e. you start working, or otherwise become a resident of a particular state, you probably need to get a license from your new US state of residence.


You can have more than one residence. I live abroad, but use a friend's address as my US residence. My US credit cards, bank accounts and investment accounts all use my US address, and some also use my foreign address. As far as my former state is concerned, I still have a residence there, even if I don't live there. It's just not my primary residence.

  • Does your state charge income tax? The state may not care what address you give your bank, but if you tell the state you're a resident for your driver's license, they're probably going to expect you to pay income tax as a resident.
    – krubo
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 15:24

I had this problem a few years ago while working as a contractor in Iraq. My drivers license was from Washington State and to make things more complicated was I have a Commercial Drivers License with several endorsements. When I came back for 1 week in 2019 I needed to renew. Went to the DMV and when they asked my address I told them I could give them the mailing address for the base I worked on in Iraq. She just glared at me a bit. I said "I don't own property, but was born and raised locally, but I'm single... why would I rent a place that I don't live in"? Then I said that I have a local P.O. box that a friend checks for me while I'm away. My job is running heavy equipment and driving trucks for the military and a requirement is having my CDL current. Lot's of other single US expats work there as well. She asked about my parents address, "one is dead the other is in a nursing home" I replied. I finally said "I can give you my friends address, but you won't find me there". She just said "I'll pretend you didn't say that and proceeded to use my friends address". I can't be the only person that has had to deal with this? There must be some way of holding a US license when doing work for the Department of Defense outside of the US, when having that license is critical to performing that job? I asked the DMV employee "what do homeless people put down as an address, I see plenty of them driving and living in their cars"? Luckily I was able to use a friends address, even though that isn't really legal.

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