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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

Is a UK driver's license valid in the US? If not, will I need to retake a test or can a license be 'converted'?

If this is state dependant then I'm interested in Illinois in particular.

Thanks (again)
H
 

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The site is a bit of a maze - takes a few clicks to get the information you want. Just for convenience, I'll quote one section of the Illinois site that seems to be relevant to the discussion:

>>Drivers moving to Illinois may use their valid driver's license from their home state or country for 90 days. You may obtain an Illinois driver's license or identification card only if you are becoming a legal resident of Illinois. If you have a valid driver's license from another state or country, you may use it to drive in Illinois throughout your stay (if you do not plan to become a permanent resident of this state). Illinois does not recognize the international driver's license.<<

Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The site is a bit of a maze - takes a few clicks to get the information you want. Just for convenience, I'll quote one section of the Illinois site that seems to be relevant to the discussion:

>>Drivers moving to Illinois may use their valid driver's license from their home state or country for 90 days. You may obtain an Illinois driver's license or identification card only if you are becoming a legal resident of Illinois. If you have a valid driver's license from another state or country, you may use it to drive in Illinois throughout your stay (if you do not plan to become a permanent resident of this state). Illinois does not recognize the international driver's license.<<
Thanks Bev! I clicked around the maze a bit and learned a lot but didn't see this. I have my answer I think.

I take it I will probably have to retake my driving test (daunting!). Does anyone know how difficult this is compared to UK standards?

Hans
 

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Thanks Bev! I clicked around the maze a bit and learned a lot but didn't see this. I have my answer I think.

I take it I will probably have to retake my driving test (daunting!). Does anyone know how difficult this is compared to UK standards?

Hans
Unless things have changed dramatically, the written exams in the US are much, much easier than anything in the UK or much of Europe. The driving exams are pretty basic - but it pays to study up a bit on what the tricky bits are. (Ask any high school kid taking driver's education in school - they have all the latest on the driving test!)

Usually in the US, you can go into the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a booklet for free that sums up all the rules of the road you'll need to know for both the written and driving test. No need to go through a driving school.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Go through the questions for the written test particullarly the off ones concerning alcohol/drug use. The driving test is common sense - school bus/rail crossing/parking ... Make sure to make a show of checking mirrors when changing lanes, being very cautious.
Personally I came to my first driving test with a pick up truck with 52 inch mudders and refused to parallel (how many lls?) with the question on whose insurance will pay. No problem. I still cannot park a truck:>)
 

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My wife and I moved to PA from the UK in August and had similar questions to those of the OP, at the time of the move.

The original post speaks to the situation in IL, and some of the things we discovered, in PA, are different. I offer our experience to those looking for PA info, but with the caveat that DMV state rules will change occasionally and the first port of call should be the State's DMV website!

In PA as of now (Dec 2009) the UK license is valid on its own for 60 days after arrival, and 1 year in combination with an International Driving Permit. We didn't bother applying for an IDP... mistake number 1. We should have applied for an IDP before we left. It would have given us more time to take the test and get a PA license...

Mistake 2 was not renewing my UK license before leaving our house in the UK. It has now expired and I no longer have a UK address to use for renewal...

After the relevant period (60 days or 1 year) a UK license holder in PA is required to apply for a learner's permit (involving form filling, evidence of residency etc and a multiple choice knowledge test based on the State's drivers manual, available off the DMV website and worth reading). I used an iPhone app called Driver's Ed, which gives sample questions and is available for all States. It got me used to the terminology and style of questions, so we understood the questions when it came to exam time. There may be other software that does the same thing and it definitely worked for me and wife.

Once in receipt of the learner's permit, you can apply for a practical test. This is pretty straightforward and involves driving safely, lots of mirror work and parallel parking.

The experience we had was not great. The officials at the DMV we went to were not used to foreign license questions. At one stage we were told by one official we could swap out our UK licenses for PA licenses straight away. In the next room we were given the facts. One must understand that people working in DMVs are not in the most fulfilling careers and tend to show this....

I believe that there is no state in the US which will swap out a UK license without taking a written and practical test.

If however you have a French or German license you are in luck in PA at least. They can be swapped directly.

Good luck to the OP and be ready to have an experience which will take a few years to be able to look back on and chuckle over...
 

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I really cannot understand why folks procrastinate over the license. Just go and take it. The exam is easy provided you read the booklet. The biggest mistake most make is ignoring the sections about teenage drivers thinking it doesn't apply to them. It may not, but it's in the test! The practical part is a breeze for anyone who has taken a European test -- five minutes round the block without hitting a child (an adult or other vehicle is generally okay) and you've passed.
 

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I really cannot understand why folks procrastinate over the license. Just go and take it. The exam is easy provided you read the booklet. The biggest mistake most make is ignoring the sections about teenage drivers thinking it doesn't apply to them. It may not, but it's in the test! The practical part is a breeze for anyone who has taken a European test -- five minutes round the block without hitting a child (an adult or other vehicle is generally okay) and you've passed.
I'd agree with Fatbrit's comments. If the procrastination is due to fear of failure, don't worry, in PA you can sit the theory test as many times as you like and the practical test can be taken 3 times before you have to renew your learner's permit. If you don't pass the practical, that in itself is probably telling you something you need to know...
If it is due to lack of time... that's more understandable but as our case proved, you can only use your UK license for a limited period, especially without an IDP, so MAKE TIME!

A driver's license is also a very handy ID
 

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Hi,

Is a UK driver's license valid in the US? If not, will I need to retake a test or can a license be 'converted'?

If this is state dependant then I'm interested in Illinois in particular.

Thanks (again)
H
I believe the UK Licence is not valid once you intend to take up residence, at least as far as MA is concerned.
As others have said: buy the Manual ($5 in MA).

3 weeks ago I passed the theory test and last Monday I passed the driving test in Boston so my experiences may be of interest.
The theory test is done on a computer after vision tests which include acuity, peripheral vision and colour blindness. You have to get 18 out of the 25 questions right in 30 minutes; they are "tick the box" answers with 4 choices.
All the questions were easy except several about penalties for youngsters driving with alcohol so I guessed these. I ended up with 2 out of the 25 wrong.
The driving test was only 10-15 minutes. I believe the testers in Boston are often cops doing it for pin-money. I was asked to do a 3-point turn but not to do parallel parking. Just lots of left and right turns. Remember it's most important to stop at stop signs - a "rolling" stop will fail you. Also important to look over your shoulder when reversing. I was asked to do the 3 hand signals which are not the same as UK ones. My tester told me after he was a great "Top Gear" fan so maybe that helped me !
 

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Something else I found when I took the practical. Because I didn't have an IDP to accompany my UK license, I was at that time legal only on my learner's permit and because a learner needs to be accompanied, had to prove I had arrived at the testing center accompanied by a full license holder. This would have been another brit, but I was told this would not be acceptable so had to find a friendly native to share the ride over to DMV. I have to say I am not convinced that a Brit with a UK license and IDP wouldn't have worked, but interpretation of the rules is not so consistent round our way (in Southeastern PA)...
 

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Hi,

Is a UK driver's license valid in the US? If not, will I need to retake a test or can a license be 'converted'?

If this is state dependant then I'm interested in Illinois in particular.

Thanks (again)
H
Your license and driving record mean nothng ..
you go back to the start

an IDP is only needed and valid if you licence is not in the language
of the country you are in
 

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Each of the 50 US states have their own driver's license and tests and the tests to vary. However, I found the test (both written and the driving test) to be a joke compared to the South African tets. (Sorry, not familiar with UK). For most states the written test is a computerizes "monkey puzzle", i.e. multiple choice questions.
You have to know the road signs and the rules governing punishment for driving under the influence of drugs, how to behave when there is a school bus on the road.
The rest is common sense.
For most states you can find the booklet on the DMV website in pdf format. Google should help you find those for any state. Just searc for DMV and the state in question.
I know that both Florida and North Carolina will accept your foreign license for 90 days. Both these states could not be bothered with the International Drivers Permit, BUT in North Carolina you need insurance if you want to rent a car and the rental company will demand the International Permit.
 

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Each of the 50 US states have their own driver's license and tests and the tests to vary. However, I found the test (both written and the driving test) to be a joke compared to the South African tets. (Sorry, not familiar with UK). For most states the written test is a computerizes "monkey puzzle", i.e. multiple choice questions.
You have to know the road signs and the rules governing punishment for driving under the influence of drugs, how to behave when there is a school bus on the road.
The rest is common sense.
For most states you can find the booklet on the DMV website in pdf format. Google should help you find those for any state. Just searc for DMV and the state in question.
I know that both Florida and North Carolina will accept your foreign license for 90 days. Both these states could not be bothered with the International Drivers Permit, BUT in North Carolina you need insurance if you want to rent a car and the rental company will demand the International Permit.
This is a good point raised by Andries. The IDP is useful in the US if you are traveling around the States and before you get a driver's license in the country. But it needs to be applied for in your country of origin (i.e. before you leave). If you are using it to give yourself some grace period before applying for a license in the state you intend to become resident in, be aware that only a few states will recognize them. I only definitively know that PA does recognize an IDP, but you will still need to accompany it with the valid home DL.

As Andries says, the driving test is pretty straightforward and is only a challenge if you are a truly awful/inexperienced driver or if it was a long time since you took a test in your country of origin (or both!). My wife and I felt that we were in the latter description but frankly need not have worried...

The test in PA is in two parts. The first part is a theory test, completed at a computer terminal, which tests you on driving regulations in that state. The local DMV will have a booklet which covers the knowledge you are expected to have before taking that test. If you pass, you get a learners permit, allowing you to drive whilst accompanied by a full license holder. You then make an appointment for the practical test, where you are asked to parallel park and drive round a few blocks. If you feel nervous you can pay for a lesson beforehand.

There was a useful iPhone app which allows you to practice your Theory test called Driver's Ed if you have an iPhone
 

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Yes, you will have to take a driving test to be able to drive and get a US Driving Licence. I was so worried about taking the test as obviously driving on the other side of the road and the steering wheel being on the left felt very alien, but believe me, it was so easy. It lasted about 15 minutes and after I told the instructor I had driven around London, she said "well if you can do that you are passed!). The hardest part was the written test. You are given the handbook with all the rules so make sure you study these for a few days before your test. You are given 3 attempts to pass this part of the test. If you fail, you will have to pay your fee again. I found that on my third attempt I had just about encountered all the questions so knew the answers!! Also, the driving licence is the main form of ID out here so very useful. Good Luck.
 

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Most states have all the information you need on-line. They even have sample tests you can take etc. You can also print out the driver's manual. Just do a search for "state name" DMV.
 

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Driver's license

Knowledge of rules of the road is just part of the equation. Make sure you review documentary requirements for applying for a driver's license. The federal govvernment has imposed strict regulations with respect to the documents needed for applying and for those of us here in states, renewing their licenses. Birth certificates, passports, visas, check the requirements for a given state for they can hang you up when one goes to the licensing office. This requires doing some homework!
 
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