Crossing Borders: Can Canadians Drive in the US?

Canadian Drivers in the US

Are you wondering if Canadian drivers, like newbies with L (learner) or N (new driver) licenses, or experienced ones with Class 5 licenses, can drive into the United States for an exciting adventure? The good news is, yes, you can explore both Canada and the United States with these licenses.

But here’s the deal: You should always have your license with you, just in case someone needs to see it. Stick to the regular rules and restrictions that apply to your particular license type. And it’s a smart move to learn about any special rules in the place you’re going to in the United States. Some places have age restrictions for new and learner drivers. Let’s dive into the details.

You can drive in the United States if you have a valid Canadian driver’s license. Traffic laws can vary from state to state.


ICBC Insurance Coverage in the U.S.

You’re covered in Canada and the U.S. on vacation

Your Autoplan insurance covers you anywhere in Canada and the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. But it’s important to check with the place you’re visiting to make sure you’re complying with its registration requirements. You’ll need to change your insurance policy if that jurisdiction requires you to register or license your vehicle there, even if you’re on vacation.

Driving Outside BC – ICBC

L and N Drivers in the USA

Canadian drivers in the US
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  • Canadians Can Drive in the U.S.: In most cases, Canadians, whether they hold “L,” “N,” or “G2” licenses, are permitted to drive in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.
  • License Variations: Regardless of the type of Canadian license you have, you can usually drive in the U.S. This includes learners (“L”), new drivers (“N”), and G2 and Class 5 license holders.
  • State-Specific Regulations: Keep in mind that driving rules may differ from state to state, so it’s essential to research the specific regulations of the state you plan to visit before hitting the road.

Follow Your ICBC Restrictions When Travelling To Faraway Lands

Just be sure to follow all of the same restrictions printed on the back of your driver’s license.

drivers license
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For example, yours might say stuff like: must display the official L -learner- or N -new driver- sign, zero alcohol, passenger restrictions, restrictions around needing to wear glasses or contacts, etc.

International Driving Permits

An International Driving Permit is not the same as your regular driver’s license. It’s like a special translation of your license that helps people in other countries understand it when you’re traveling. The IDP basically proves that you have a valid driver’s license in Canada or some other place. It can be super handy when you want to rent a car in the U.S. or other countries.

People who drive in the U.S. must have a valid driver’s license.

Foreign Nationals Driving in the U.S.

More about International Driving Permits

An International Driving Permit is a type of identification document that many different countries around the world recognize. When it’s accompanied by a valid driver’s license, it allows you to drive vehicles for leisure purposes in many foreign countries. It’s basically a translation of your identification into 10 different languages.

International Driving Permit
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Where to get International Driving Permits?

Only CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) is authorized to issue IDPs in Canada. This is under a UN-approved mandate. Any non-CAA-issued IDP is fake.

Get IDPs before your trip and only from Canada

If you want to get an International Driving Permit, you’ll need to get it before your trip and you’ll need to get it from Canada, not the U.S. The U.S. doesn’t issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors. 

IDPs for renting vehicles in the U.S.

Canadians with a provincial or territorial driver’s license do not need an International Driving Permit to drive in the U.S. but it’s a nice option to have, especially if you’ll need to rent a vehicle.

Where to get your IDP

You can get your IDP at any CAA store location in Canada. You can visit the store in person or mail the required documents. Find your closest CAA location here.

  • Members of the Department of National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces use this application form
  • For renting a vehicle in the U.S., you might need both your license and an International Driving Permit (IDP); individual companies may vary, of course.
  • Your International Driving Permit will only allow you to operate a vehicle in the same class as your Canadian driver’s license
  • The IDP is only valid for one year from the date of issue, or when your provincial driver’s license expires, whichever comes first
  • Some countries may have restrictions on the length of time you can drive there
  • IDP fees are $30.00 Canadian
  • You must be 18 or older and have a valid driver’s license (learner’s permits are not accepted)

Washington State

The following persons may operate a motor vehicle on a Washington highway without a valid Washington driver’s license:

(c) Sixteen years of age and has immediate possession of a valid driver’s license issued to the driver by his or her home country. A nonresident driver may operate a motor vehicle in this state under this subsection (2)(c) for up to one year;

Washington State Legislature


Visitors to Oregon can legally drive if they have a valid driver’s license from:

  • A Canadian Province
  • Another country
  • Any U.S. State/Territory
  • The District of Columbia

You are considered a visitor if:

  • Your permanent residence is somewhere other than Oregon
  • You are in the military stationed in Oregon
  • You are attending school in Oregon and are paying non-resident tuition
  • You do not plan to take any steps to become a resident of Oregon
  • Reference: Oregon Government


Canadian visitors to California who are over the age of 18 can drive with a Canadian driver’s license without the need to get a California driver’s license. This is true as long as your Canadian driver’s license is, of course, valid. Reference: California Government.

According to the University of Berkely California, tourists can drive rental cars in the state of California for up to one year as long as their Canadian driver’s license is still valid. Reference: Driving in California

You’ll be considered a resident of California if you are in California for six months or longer within a 12-month period and you aren’t visiting on a temporary or transient basis.


Drivers visiting Arizona don’t need to obtain an Arizona driver’s license. You can legally drive in Arizona using a valid driver’s license from Canada and other countries. An international driver’s license or permit is not required.

An international driver license can be printed in English and used in conjunction with a driver license from the other country. If an international driver license or permit is used alone, it must be issued by a country other than the United States. Vehicle rental companies may have additional requirements.

Arizona Government


Nevada honors licenses and permits issued by government agencies in other states and countries including Canada. Drivers who are under 18 years of age must obey the restrictions listed under Nevada Teen Driving.

Nevada Teen Driving Restrictions

  • Passenger Restrictions: Young drivers must not transport any passenger under the age of 18, except for immediate family members, for the first six months after their license was issued
  • Drivers under 18 may not drive between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they are traveling to or from a scheduled event such as school events or work
  • Local curfews: Minors must know and obey the local laws –>
  • Las Vegas Strip and Downtown – 9 p.m., unless accompanied by an adult
  • Elsewhere in Las Vegas – 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, Midnight on Friday and Saturday
  • Reno Downtown Gaming District – 9 p.m., unless accompanied by an adult
  • Elsewhere in Reno – Midnight all weekdays
  • Curfews in other Nevada cities vary. Call the local police department to find out more details for a specific city
  • Nevada has a .02 blood alcohol limit for drivers under 21
  • Drivers can also be arrested for any detectable amount of a controlled or prohibited substance
  • Minor driver licenses can be suspended for any of the same reasons as adult licenses and also for non-driving alcohol/drug convictions, firearms violations or habitual truancy. See License Suspensions

An International Driver’s License (IDL) isn’t required. If you do have an IDL, it must be accompanied by your government-issued driver’s license. An IDL is merely a translation of a license and is not valid all by itself. Reference: Nevada Government.

North Dakota

If you are at least 16 years old and have your valid Canadian driver’s license in your immediate possession, you are allowed to drive in North Dakota. Reference: North Dakota Government.


Foreign Driver’s Licenses From Treaty Countries

Drivers from treaty countries (this includes Canada) are allowed to legally drive in Michigan with a foreign driver’s license, as long as the license is printed in English (or accompanied by an English translation). Under Michigan law, drivers don’t need to show proof of legal presence. Reference: Michgian


5. Can I drive in Pennsylvania with my Foreign Driver’s License?

Individuals who possess a valid foreign driver’s license from their country are authorized to drive in Pennsylvania for up to one year from their date of entry into the United States, or upon expiration of their foreign license, whichever comes first. International driving permits are strongly recommended, but not required.

PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services

New York


Out-of-state and foreign driver’s licenses

You can drive in New York State with a valid driver’s license from Canada. You don’t need to apply for a New York State driver’s license unless you become a resident of New York State.

If you have a Canadian driver’s license, you don’t need an International Driving Permit, but it can be helpful if you have a license from another country. The permit verifies in several different languages that you have a valid driver’s license. Authorities who are unable to read the original language on your foreign driver’s license will be able to read the International Driving Permit because it is translated into 10 languages.

Reference: New York DMV


Vermont wishes to remind students and visitors that an International Driving Permit is not a valid license on its own. It must be together with a valid driver’s license from another country. Visitors to Vermont can drive up to one year with their Canadian driver’s license.

If you have a driver’s license in a language other than English, then you must also have an International Driving Permit, which basically exists to provide an English translation of the original license. Reference: Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)


According to the College of the Atlantic in Maine, Canadians may drive in Maine with a valid driver’s license.


According to Massachusettes Law MGL, Chapter 90, Section 10, all foreign licensed drivers – including Canadians – must follow these requirements when driving in the state of Massachusetts:

  • Must be at least 16 years old
  • Must have a valid driver’s license on you when driving
  • You can drive a vehicle of the same type in which you are licensed to operate in Canada (or another country)
  • If you have a foreign license that is not in English you must have one of the following:
    • An International Driving Permit (IDP)
    • A Translation into English of a Foreign License document
    • An alternative translation document that contains a photo and English translation that closely matches the information from an IDP
  • Your license must not be suspended or revoked
  • Reference: Driving in Massachusetts on a foreign driver’s license


According to the University of Connecticut, students and visitors can drive in Connecticut using their Canadian driver’s license for up to one year. If you have a driver’s license from another foreign country and it’s in a language other than Spanish or English, then you’ll also need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to legally drive with that license.

New Jersey

According to New Jersey, if you’re staying in New Jersey for less than 12 months, you can drive on your own non-Jersey driver’s license. 

If you have a foreign driver’s license and become a resident of New Jersey or if you intend to stay for more than 12 months, you’ll be required to exchange it for a New Jersey license.


According to Delaware.GOV – Moving to Delaware – Any Non-resident driver over the age of 16 who has a valid driver’s license issued by your home country can drive in the state of Delaware as long as your license is in your immediate possession (sounds obvious, but forgetting your license is a real thing).


According to the University of Virginia, you can drive with a valid Canadian license for 6 months after your arrival. For trips/moves longer than 6 months, the Commonwealth of Virginia will require you to obtain a Virginia driver’s license.

North Carolina

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, residents from other states or countries including Canada can drive in North Carolina using their driver’s licenses. The same restrictions or limitations imposed by your home state or countries apply in North Carolina (follow your British Columbia or Canadian driver’s license restrictions).

  • A learner’s permit from another state is valid in North Carolina if the driver is 16 or older
  • The International Drivers Permit is not accepted or recognized in North Carolina and it can’t be used as a driver’s license
  • If you move to North Carolina and establish residency, you’ll have 60 days to obtain a North Carolina driver’s license


According to Tennessee Code:

Tennessee exempts drivers who are sixteen or older from obtaining a Tennessee-issued driver’s license if they are a nonresident of this State and possess a driver’s license issued by any other state or country.


According to Eastern Kentucky University,

In order to drive in Kentucky, students and scholars must have a valid driver’s license. According to Kentucky law, all non-U.S. citizens may drive in the state on their valid foreign license and International Permit for up to one year from the date of admission into the U.S. provided their home country is part of the Foreign License ReciprocityIf you are from a non-Foreign License Reciprocity Country you must obtain a Kentucky license within 30 days to drive in Kentucky.


According to the Illinois Office of the Secretary of State:

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.


According to Indiana Tech:

Foreign Driver’s License: If you have a foreign driver’s license or international driver’s license, you can drive in the state of Indiana for one year from your original date of entry into the US without restriction. Please note, you must have the ID translated into English if it’s not already listed.


According to the Great State of Alaska:

  • You can drive in Alaska if you are at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license from Canada or another state or country
  • If you are going to be driving in the state of Alaska for more than 90 days, then you’ll need to get an Alaska driver’s license.
  • If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), your license is still valid, but once you become a resident of Alaska, you are required to obtain an Alaska CDL within 30 days


According to Honolulu Government:

  • Countries that ratified the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949) (and this does include Canada) can use their foreign national driver’s license along with their valid passport to legally drive in Hawaii
  • Drivers must be at least 18 years old
  • Drivers may use a foreign driver’s license no longer than one year after the date of entry into the United States
  • The foreign passport would indicate the date of entry into the U.S. 
  • It is strongly recommended that the foreign licensed driver possess an International Driving Permit (IDP) to avoid language barriers between the foreign driver and Hawaii’s law enforcement officials if your license is in a language other than English


According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles:

  • Visitors to Florida are required to have in their immediate possession a valid driver’s license issued in their name from Canada or another country of residence
  • If renting a car while visiting Florida, check with the rental car company prior to your visit to see what they require
  • Florida will honor another state’s learner’s license/permit while you are vacationing in Florida. However, you’ll need to abide by Florida’s learner’s permit restrictions which are as follows:
  • Drivers with a learner’s license may only drive during daylight hours during the first three months after issuance and until 10 p.m. thereafter, and always with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and occupies the front passenger seat
  • You’ll need to get a Florida driver’s license if you reside in Florida for more than 6 months


According to Georgia Department of Driver Services:

Canadian citizens with valid foreign driver’s licenses can drive for tourism or business purposes in Georgia. If you drive with a license issued by a foreign country, authorities may ask for your passport or visa to verify your license is valid.

If you move to Georgia, you must get a Georgia driver’s license within 30 days. You would be considered a resident of Georgia if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • If you accept employment (or engage in trade in Georgia) and enroll your children in a private or public school within ten days after the start of employment; or
  • If you have been in Georgia for 30 or more days

More to come…

Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor in beautiful North Vancouver at the age of 22 due to some crazy people who agreed to hire her. After that, there was never a dull moment teaching many different folks from many different places how to drive using automatic and standard vehicles and a minivan.

7 thoughts on “Crossing Borders: Can Canadians Drive in the US?

  • Kat

    I’m looking to do a 6-month internship in California, they require me a a valid class C driver’s license. Is that the same as Class 5 here in B.C.?

    • Carmen

      Hey I’m not sure, obviously I need to write an article about peopel to moving other places, etc. Thanks for the idea!

  • Claire

    My son is going to school in USA and has a L. He would like to take lessons there – can he drive or take lessons with just his BC L?
    He will be spending 10 months a year in the states

    • Carmen

      Hi, each state may have different rules. Which state is it? I’m not sure, but I can see if I can look it up.

  • I’m soon moving to New York state in the next 6 months for university and I just recently acquired a Class 7N license in BC with GLP. I have no plan of going back to Canada to complete the full license since I’m already an international student here and my student Visa will expire late this year. How will my BC class 7N license translate to a New York license and will I have to retake any road tests to get the license?

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