I have been reading up on license laws, and it seems that in all of the countries I have looked up (Singapore, Malaysia, US, UK, Germany) they require you to turn in your foreign driver license, or alternatively retake the driving test in the new country.

What is the rationale of such a law? I was unable to find any indication of the reasons behind such legislation.


Maybe you misunderstood the wording of the laws.

People can use their license to drive in other countries as a visitor. Once you become a permanent resident or stay longer than a set period of time, you must get a local license. Most of the time that's just a formality, you show your original license and you get a new local one for a little fee.

From then on, in that country, you must use their local license. You are not allowed to use your original license. However, that's for that one country. You still got your old license you can still use your old license anywhere else in the world.

The rationale is that each state has a register of their own license holders. They record traffic violations and if or when a license is revoked. So each state makes sure that when you are there for longer, you get to be in their register. They don't want you to just draw your foreign license when you are caught for a violation. And they want to make sure "revoked" means revoked. They cannot revoke other countries licenses, but they can make sure you have to use the local one, the one they can revoke if needed.

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    I don't think he misunderstood the laws at all. I know for sure that the UK and a very few US states will waive the driving test only if you surrender your foreign license to them. Most US states disregard your foreign license and make you pass their driving test if you want their license, as does Guerrero, Mexico. The only place I know that will waive the driving test but leave you with your foreign license is Hong Kong (and only if the foreign license is from the same country as your passport). – Dennis Aug 6 '16 at 2:18
  • @Dennis What would keep me from giving them my license and just calling my home country to get a new one? What if I visit my home country? Wouldn't they require me to use their license? I understand the need to have a local license and not dodge any fines by presenting a foreign license, but actually revoking the foreign license does not make any sense. – nvoigt Aug 9 '16 at 7:34
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    @nvoigt - "Wouldn't they require me to use their license?" , no for the grace period you would use your current licence, and if staying longer you'd have to do the exchange again. You could try and game it by getting a new licence from your home country, but a) you'd likely be found out and it's an offence and b) you'll likely invalidate any insurance in either/both countries. – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 10 '16 at 12:26

As nvoigt says, you can use the home licence as a visitor for a set period of time. In the UK and Canada it is 60 days. Any longer and you need to exchange the licence for the country's. Normally this is a straight exchange, no driving is tested (although they may do a vision test).

When you return to your original licenced country, you use the foreign one for the grace period again, then have to do the exchange the other way.

The rationale for this is simple, if you can keep both, it'd be easy for you to pull out your foreign licence if pulled over, and have any offence lost (these things rarely go back internationally).

For example, in Ireland there was an arrest warrant out for Ireland's worst foreign driver, a Polish man named "Prawo Jazdy"

What they eventually found was that the officers had been recording the info from the foreign licence wrong and that "Prawo Jazdy" means "Driving Licence"

more details here:

BBC News - The mystery of Ireland's worst driver

  • Prawo Jazdy is a bad example--it wasn't a local using a foreign license, but rather a bunch of Polish visitors. I have seen that problem in person, though--an internet cafe in China that hadn't bothered with trying to record my ID in their logbook until someone caused a flap. The only ID I had on me was my driver's license. I understood the problem but I couldn't read the logbook so I simply handed it to them and let them write what they needed to. I'm in that book as Mr. Driver. – Loren Pechtel Aug 10 '16 at 22:51

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