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Drivers License

street_signRegulations governing driver’s licenses are a recurring problem for Americans abroad. Where and when a U.S. state driver’s license is valid for driving, buying or renting a car differs with each country, and with that country’s agreement (or lack of it) with the U.S. state that issued the license.

AARO has long worked to set up reciprocity agreements between individual states and foreign countries that would allow Americans to drive in those countries with their U.S. licenses, or to exchange them for foreign licenses when they become residents. AARO’s reciprocity campaign has so far focused essentially on Europe.

Driver’s License Facts

The question of driving privileges for Americans in the European Union (EU) is complicated because each country has a different protocol. The situation may become simpler in a few years: in March 2006, the EU Council of Ministers approved plans to create a single European driver’s license to replace the 110 different models currently in use. National licenses will then be phased out between 2012 and 2032.

Meanwhile, if you already have an EU driver’s license, it works just fine in some countries, but you may need to get it stamped in others. Many EU countries have simple exchange programs, although each has its own requirements. In Austria, you must state that your residence is your principal residence. Italy, on the other hand, has no exchange program.

The following information applies to Americans living in France, where AARO is based. Elsewhere, it is best to check your country of residence in order to avoid disappointment or, worse yet, fines.

France now has reciprocity agreements with 14 states:  Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

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