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Driving in the US: Japanese or International License


2 Apr 2007
Residents of some countries are exempted from having to carry an international drivers license when driving in the US. They can just use their national drivers licenses for up to 1 year.

Is Japan one of these countries? Can Japanese drive in the US with just their Japanese license, no international license?

My Japanese husband can drive in our home state with his Japanese license, although just to be extra safe he has an international license. I think this might vary depending on what state you plan to drive in though.
According Arizona DMV you cannot use a Japanese License. Maybe due to the japanese license contains birth information not easily readable for US law enforcement. They would need a International license. But that's what the internet is for right?
Thanks for your answers.

>But that's what the internet is for right?
Are you saying that I should search for the answer somewhere else and not here? Well, I can't find a reliable site with detailed information in English, but if you know one, please post it here.

This topic is ambiguous, some site are saying you need an International license, others are saying you don't. For sure there is a difference depending on the country the license is from.

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. Here are two resources:


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Not sure, what you are trying to say. None of the 3 URLS answers the question. Neither does the text you copied from the first URL. It doesn't mention which countries don't need an international drivers license.

What I would like to know is which "countries are exempted from having to carry an international drivers", or at least if Japan is exempted or not.

In answer to your original question, I will give you my opinion, only because I cannot seem to find it stated on an official site. I believe, from doing a quick internet search, that if your home country's driver license is in English, then you could probably drive without any 'hassles' in the United States.

By 'hassles' I mean, if you want to rent a car, or if you are stopped by the police for any reason.

For example, a quick search on car rentals brings up the following:

"International renters must be at least 21 years of age or older, have a major credit card in their own name, and a valid drivers license. For non-English licenses the renter must have an international drivers permit. Also some Enterprise offices require the renter to show their passport as well."

I would assume that a Japanese driver's license is in Japanese, is that correct? What state(s) are you planning on visiting?

Is there any reason why you cannot obtain an international driver's permit?
Thanks for these infos.

For getting an international drivers license I would need about half a day. So I don't want to get one in case it's not necessary.

A license in English might be required for car rental but for driving itself, many European licenses are sufficient.

Thanks again!

It depends on the country your original license is from. If you have a license from the U.S., you need an International license for the first 12 months. After that a regular Japanese license is required.

Some other countries can drive without an International license but need an official translation of their original license.

It depends on the country your original license is from. If you have a license from the U.S., you need an International license for the first 12 months. After that a regular Japanese license is required.

Some other countries can drive without an International license but need an official translation of their original license.
Thanks for the tip, kenasto!

In California, you can drive with your Japanese Driver's license. International Driver's license is not required. Here is what the California DMV says;
California Driver's License
If you will be driving in California or planning to purchase a motor vehicle (a car, scooter or motorcycle), you must get a California Driver's License. Most insurance companies will not provide coverage unless you have one and having insurance is a legal requirement. Tourists may drive (rental cars) in California for one year as long as they have a valid driver's license from their home country or an International Driver's license. Students or visiting scholars must apply for a California driver's license if either employed or a student in California.
Gotta love America's diversity! Just exactly where did you plan to drive in the U.S.?

If you are that hard-pressed for time and money to get an IDP, I would suggest rethinking your travels. It's a pretty small price to pay, IMO. I know. I had to get one to drive in the U.S. because my own U.S. license has expired.

It may take half a day or just a couple of hours (like me). Check with the drivers license station to see if they do this service on the weekend, too. Mine didn't.
all in all get an international drivers license, they are not expensive and you can go from state to state without worrying about local laws
Whether or not a foreign drivers license is valid depends on the state, so it's not a good idea to leave home without an international driver's permit. In Washington state, nonresidents can use valid foreign drivers licenses. However, in Oklahoma, only those countries with reciprocal agreements (those countries which permit Oklahoma Drivers' licenses) are permitted--and Japan does not have such an arrangement with Oklahoma or any other state. Most of western Europe (except Italy) accept US drivers licenses from any state.
An international driving permit, by the way, is NOT a translation of one's home driving permit. It is a permit based on international agreement whereby the nation signatories (listed on the permit) have agreed to allow them as valid driving permits. Of course, a prime requisite for obtaining an international driving permit in the first place is a valid driver's license. If it were a translation, it would need to be written in the language of the visited country--and English, the main language of the permit, is not THAT universal.
Can Japanese drive in the US with just their Japanese license, no international license?

Depends on the state/country obviously. I'm 一様日本人 and I travel a lot and keep my international license with me wherever I go. Its worth the money trust me you can use it in a lot of diffetent ways. The international license pamphlet tells you where you can drive with it since foreigners can't recognize Japanese (not to be shady towards any country)
Not sure what international drivers LICENSE you have. An international drivers PERMIT is valid for only one year in Japan.
mogimogi, where to get international driving license in japan?僕も日本人です。 will be in hawaii on october
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