If you overstayed your visa or you entered without an inspection, you have too many points on your driver’s license, or your license has been suspended or revoked, you may have considered getting an international driver’s license. It may seem like a perfect solution if you can’t get a state-issued driver’s license. However, if you’re thinking that you can use an international driver’s license (IDL) or an international driving permit (IDP) in place of your state-issued driver’s license, you are dead wrong.
Foreign visitors who travel to United States and plan to drive here, should carry an IDP (International Driving Permit) or attach an acceptable English translation to their national driver licenses as all drivers must carry a valid driver license. The IDP will not replace a driver license, but it can be used in conjunction with the license to provide an additional source of motorist identification. The IDP is translated into the official languages of the United Nations and is useful in traffic emergencies. Note that non-citizens must obtain the IDP in their native country before traveling to the United States.
If you live and work in the U.S. and you are stopped by a law enforcement officer and present an IDL or an IDP as a sole proof of your identity and authorization to drive, you could find yourself in trouble. However, if you are not a U.S. citizen or green card holder, absent a specific valid visa status (such as F or H-1B) you will not be able to apply for a state issued driver license. In New Jersey, driver license applicants must prove that they are in the United States in lawful immigration status (but not a visitor), and at this time undocumented immigrants cannot obtain New Jersey driver’s license.
Currently only persons with valid visa in the following categories (per NJ MVC) may apply for a New Jersey driver license:
- Treaty traders
- Students and their families*
- Temporary workers, accompanying spouses and children
- Foreign information representatives and their families
- Exchange visitors and their families
- Intra-company transfers, accompanying spouses and minor children
- Persons with temporary protection from deportation
- Canadians with temporary residence
- Religious ministers and spouses
- Parents of U.S. citizens
- International athletes or entertainment groups
- Persons in a reciprocal exchange program
You will also need to present your foreign license (if you have one) as proof of driving experience and if you have an International Driver Permit (IDP) issued by your country or if your country is a member of the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic and your license is translated into English by a consulate or an MVC approved translator, and other documents as required to pass the 6 Point ID verification. If you are under 18 years old, you are subject to GDL Program requirements. Then, you may be issued a driver’s license with a “temporary visitor” notation that must be renewed each time your visa expires.
* Students and their families with an (F) visa must show Form I-20, student identification cards or certification on school letterhead indicating status and their I-94 passport.