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A driver's license (USA), driver's licence (Canada), or driving licence (UK, Ireland, rest of Commonwealth) is an official document which states that a person may operate a motorized vehicle, such as a motorcycle, car, truck or a bus. Due to most Americans and Canadians possessing valid driving licenses, the driving license has become the de facto standard form of picture identification in those countries. The laws relating to driver's licensing vary between jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, a driving license is issued after the recipient has passed a driving test, while in others, a person acquires a license before beginning to drive. Different categories of license often exist for different types of motor vehicles, particularly large trucks and passenger vehicles. The difficulty of the driving test varies considerably between jurisdictions, as do factors such as age and the required level of practice.

Name variations

Driving licenses go by several different names, used both colloquially and formally. Driver's licence is used in Canada; driving license and driver license are used in the United States. The form driver licence is found in New Zealand and Australia (being introduced). Conversely almost all Australians refer to it as a driver's licence. Driving licence is used in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Malta, in European Union official usage, and in former British colonies such as Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and Singapore.


The first driver's license of sorts was issued to the inventor of the modern automobile, Karl Benz, in 1888. Because the noise and smell of his Motorwagen resulted in complaints by the citizens of Mannheim, Benz requested and received written permission by the Grand Ducal authorities to operate his car on public roads.<ref name="spiegel2008">Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref>

Up until the start of the 20th century, European authorities issued driver's licences similarly ad hoc, if at all.<ref name="spiegel2008"/> The first locality to require a mandatory driving licence and testing was Prussia, on 29 September 1903. The Dampfkesselüberwachungsverein ("steam boiler supervision association") was charged with conducting the tests, which were mainly concerned with the drivers' mechanical aptitude.<ref name="spiegel2008"/> In 1910, the German imperial government mandated the licensing of drivers on a national scale, establishing a system of tests and driver's education requirements that would serve as a model for the licensing laws of other countries.<ref name="spiegel2008"/>

As automobile-related fatalities soared in North America, public outcry provoked legislators to begin studying the French and German statutes as models.<ref>Anonymous, "Better Auto Laws Are Now Needed," New York Times, 18 August 1907, S3.</ref> On August 1, 1910, North America's first driver's licensing law went into effect in the U.S. state of New York, though it initially applied only to professional chauffeurs.<ref>Frederick H. Elliott, "Working Out New Auto Law In New York," New York Times 16 October 1910, 3.</ref> In July 1913, the state of New Jersey became the first to require all drivers to pass a mandatory examination before receiving a license.<ref>{{#if: New York's Auto Exports Increase-Big Jump in Cars Shipped Last Year-New Jersey Examines All Drivers

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Because a large number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States have no national identification cards and because of the widespread use of cars, driving licenses are often used as a de facto standard form of identification.

Many European countries and Canada require drivers to produce their license on demand when driving. In such countries, the driver must always carry their license on them when driving. In the United Kingdom, it is not necessary for drivers to carry their driving licence while driving. However, if stopped, a driver may be required to produce their licence at a nominated police station within seven days. The police issue a form for this purpose,<ref>Road traffic | Home Office</ref> colloquially known as the "seven-day wonder" or a "producer".

Some European countries require adults to carry identification at all times. A driving licence is not necessarily valid as identification in every European country.

In the People's Republic of China, Dominican Republic and Venezuela, the driving license number is the same as the citizen's ID number (which is up to 18 digits long).

A driving licence in Hong Kong carries the same number as the holder's ID card, but has no photograph. Upon inspection both must be presented. Plans to make the newly phased in Smart ID contain driving licence information have been shelved.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia requires all drivers to carry an ID card in addition to a license and present them whenever requested. Using a driving licence instead is only permitted if the request is made for on-site inspection/identification purposes, especially at checkpoints. Expatriates may be requested to present their visas as well.

License alternatives in the USA and Canada

In addition to the standard driving license and commercial licenses there are other types of driving identification:

Non-driver identification cards

In a case where a person does not have a license (e.g., someone who is unable or chooses not to drive), a state identification card can be issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles in its place which typically resembles a license and has the same security and identification features as a license but without extending driving privileges. Rules concerning this may vary state to state, but this can pass as identification for naturalized immigrants (usually stipulating length of stay by the expiry date, or only valid for 1 year if no date is listed for expiration) <ref name=""></ref> An existing driving license can be turned in, to exchange for an identification card (giving up the privilege of driving). Requirements needed to obtain a non-driver’s identification card vary by jurisdiction.

Enhanced driving licenses

Additionally, some provinces and states (British Columbia, Manitoba, Michigan, New York, Ontario, Quebec, Vermont, and Washington) are issuing Enhanced Driver's Licenses, and enhanced ID cards <ref>US CBP|</ref>. Enhanced licenses essentially combine a regular driving license with the same specifications of the new US passport card. Thus in addition to proving driving privileges, the enhanced license also is proof of U.S. citizenship (for EDLs/EIDs issued in the US) or Canadian citizenship (for EDLs/EIDs issued in Canada), and can therefore be used to cross the US-Canadian and US-Mexican borders by road, rail, or sea, but not air (this will always require a traditional passport book owing to International Civil Aviation Organization regulations).<ref>Enhanced Drivers Licenses: What Are They?, retrieved April 2, 2008.</ref> The enhanced licenses are also fully Real ID compliant. These cards have RFID so they may be used at border crossings that have RFID readers.

On March 27, 2008, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that Washington's enhanced driving license<ref>Enhanced Driver License/ID Card (EDL/ID)</ref> was the first such license approved under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative;<ref>Homeland Security and State Departments Announce WHTI Land and Sea Final Rule, retrieved April 2, 2008.</ref> according to a Homeland Security press release, the department is also working with Arizona, New York, and Vermont authorities to develop enhanced driving licenses.<ref>Publication of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) Land and Sea Final Rule, Questions and Answers, retrieved April 2, 2008.</ref> On September 16, 2008, NYS began to issue WHTI-Compliant Enhanced driver licenses (EDL). <ref>NYS DMV - Enhanced DMV Photo Documents for U.S. Citizens Who are Residents of NYS</ref> Texas was expected to also implement an enhanced driving license program, but the program has been blocked by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, despite a state law authorizing the Texas Department of Public Safety to issue EDLs and a ruling by the state attorney general, Greg Abbott, that Texas's production of EDLs would comply with federal requirements.<ref>Perry Denies Enhanced Driver's License Program, retrieved April 2, 2008.</ref><ref>AG Gives Conditional Approval To Enhanced License, retrieved April 2, 2008.</ref>

Licenses for different categories of vehicles

In a number of countries (including the United States, New Zealand and some provinces of Canada) people who drive commercially (especially truckers and taxi drivers) are required to have special licenses. For taxicab drivers, these licenses are usually called Chauffeur Permits. In most cases, commercial truckers must hold a commercial driving license or CDL. In India, a commercial driving license is valid for 5 years while an individual license is valid for 20 years. In the United Kingdom, one must hold a Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) license to drive a vehicle with more than eight passenger seats for hire or reward, or a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) license to drive a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight (Maximum Authorized Mass) in excess of 3 500 kg. Special licenses can also be required in order to transport hazardous materials. The cost of taking the series of tests and examinations to obtain these licenses usually means that an employer would subsidize his or her drivers.

Categories for driving licenses are standardised throughout the European Union, see European driving licence.

In India, people aged more than 50 years have to undergo strict medical tests in order to obtain a license. The license validity is 5 years and requires renewal every 5 years.

Organ donations

Licensing bureaus in many countries add an organ donation option on license forms. Sometimes a small picture of a heart or the term Organ Donor is printed on the driving license, to indicate that he/she has agreed to donate his/her organs in case of a sudden death, such as in a car accident.

In the United States, this is governed by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. In the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Ireland, willingness to donate organs for transplantion is also listed on driver's licenses. In Australia, the system of notating organ donation requests on licenses was replaced in July 2005 with a national registration system and the issue of special cards.

Driving license by region



Citizens of all Egyptian governorates are entitled to a Driving License once they have reached the age of 18. To obtain their licenses, applicants must pass only one test.

Until a few years ago, Egypt was known for having the easiest driving test in the world. In order to pass, all a person had to do was drive six meters forward and then reverse six meters. However, the test has recently been updated to make it more difficult, now the applicant has to answer 8 out of 10 correct answers in a computer test,then pass a forward & reverse S-track test.


The legal driving age of Moroccan Citizens is 18.

South Africa

The minimum driving age in South Africa is 18, except for small motorcycles which may be driven from the age of 16. To obtain a licence, applicants must pass a written or computer-based test to obtain a learner's licence, and then pass a road test to obtain the driving licence.


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The minimum age for obtaining a driver's licence in Romania is 16 for A1, 18 for A, B, BE, Tr, C, CE and 21 for D, DE, Tb, Tv, D1 and D1E. In order to obtain a driving license, a person must follow a driving school with a duration depending on the desired category and pass a theory and road exam.


North America


The age to obtain a driver's licence in Canada varies by Province, as do the necessary procedures. The minimum age for obtaining a Drivers' licence to drive solo in most provinces is 16. The territories vary.

United States



A driver is allowed a driver's permit at the age of 16, until they receive a driving license at the age of 18, they are not allowed to drive alone


A citizen may obtain a learner's permit once he or she has obtained a TRN (Taxpayer Registration Number), which may be issued as early as age 17. A learner will get their driving license upon being proven competent, only through the results of both a written and practical test. This license expires on the holder's fifth birthday after the date of issue.

Central America

Costa Rica

Every vehicle driver must carry a driving license (Licencia de Conducir), which is issued by a special education department (Dirección General Educación Vial) of the ministry of transportation and public infrastructure (Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte).

For this license to be granted there are three needed tests, practical driving (includes driving a car in simulated streets), theoretical driving (a multiple selection written test based on booklet issued by the education department or after taking a special course), and finally a medical test performed by a medical practitioner that tests eyesight, blood pressure and attests the presence of other diseases and behavior of the driver.

Every citizen can solicit a driving license at age 18, after being issued the first time, the license must be renewed after two years, and every successive occasion after five years.Template:Citation needed

Besides this document the driver must carry the national identity card (Cédula de Identidad), however both documents use the same identification number, the national identity card being the basis of the driving license number.

South America



Template:Driving licences in Asia



The minimum driving age varies between 16 to 18 years of age in different States and Territories. After the minimum age, a graduated licensing scheme operates, with State variations. Queensland implemented new laws after July 2007. Queensland follows a graduate licensing system, which runs like this: At 16 Years - learners permit (after passing theory test), Black and Yellow L plates must be displayed and 100 hours of on road driving must be logged including 10 hours of night driving. At 17 Years a Q-Safe practical driving test may be taken if the license has been held for at least a year and the 100 logged hours are confirmed. If passed, the driver is issued with a P1 license. Red and white P plates must be displayed. Restrictions include a B.A.C of 0.00, no mobile phones while driving (including hands-free), no more than 1 passenger between 10pm - 5am (direct family members excepted) and no high powered cars, e.g. Turbo or 8 and 12 cylinder engines. At 18 Years a hazard perception test is taken. The driver then obtains a P2 License, which places restrictions similar to a P1, except that hands free phones may be used and no special restrictions are placed on the number of passengers allowed. At 20 Years the driver obtains an open license which has a maximum B.A.C of 0.05.

New Zealand

The minimum age to obtain a Learner Licence is 15 in New Zealand.

International considerations

Many groups of countries have agreed to recognise driving licenses issued by authorities of any of its members. Examples include the European Union and the GCC, where holders of driving licenses issued by any member state can drive in all member states. Most countries worldwide will also recognize the licenses of citizens of foreign states wishing to drive as visitors. All EU member countries now issue licenses in a standard format, regardless of the language of the license.<ref>Transport - Driving license</ref>

The International Driving Permit (IDP) (sometimes erroneously called the International Driver's License) is a booklet which is an authorized translation of a driver's home license into many languages (especially languages with different scripts such as Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.). In some cases, it is obtained from a motoring organization such as the Automobile Association or the equivalent in the driver's home country. In other cases, it is delivered by the same government services that deliver ordinary licenses. The IDP has no validity except when used in conjunction with the driver's own license. The existence of the IDP is necessitated by many countries refusing to recognize driving licenses written in foreign languages without accompanying translations.

The People's Republic of China at present does not recognize IDPs (although Hong Kong and Macau do) and requires drivers to get an additional PRC license before being officially allowed on all roads. Holders of foreign licenses are exempt from certain requirements when obtaining a PRC license.

A minimum driving age often exists regardless of possession of a foreign license; an American cannot drive below the local minimum age in Europe, nor can a 17-year-old Briton drive in mainland Europe where the minimum age is 18.<ref>France</ref>

Many countries have established a driving license exchange arrangement after reviews of the foreign jurisdiction's licensing processes. Where standards in the other jurisdiction are comparable in areas such as medical standards, minimum driving age, and knowledge and road testing, an exchange (or honoring) of the foreign jurisdiction's license may occur. [1] This may also be called Driver’s License Reciprocity.<ref>$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=37&pt=1&ch=15&rl=91</ref>

Issues when moving permanently from one country to another

Most license-issuing authorities require holders of "foreign" licenses taking up residence in their jurisdiction to obtain a local driving license within a limited time (typically 6 months or 1 year). In most cases, the driver must follow the full local procedure for obtaining a license, but some jurisdictions have mutual recognition agreements and will exchange the foreign license for a local one without the need to undertake an additional driving test.

An exception is the EU, where licenses do not need to be exchanged since the introduction of the common EU-driver's-licence scheme.


British Columbia has a reciprocal license exchange scheme for other Canadian provinces and territories as well as the countries below provided the license is valid or has been expired for less than 3 years <ref> ICBC - Driver licensing</ref> :

  • Austria
  • Germany
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • United States

Ontario has a reciprocal license exchange scheme for Canadian provinces and territories, Canadian Forces Europe, and the following countries<ref>DriveTest - Exchanging a Reciprocal License</ref>:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States (applicants from Illinois, New Jersey and Vermont must provide a driving abstract dated within 6 months)


US driving license can be exchanged from the 14 states below during the first year of legal residence in France: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. <ref></ref>


The US Embassy, supported by the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, continues to actively press all US states to reach an agreement on the reciprocal recognition of driving licenses with Germany, essentially a waiver of testing requirements. <ref></ref>

Depending upon which state your driving license is from, you may be exempt from either the practical test or both – the practical and written – tests when you apply for a German driver’s license. Below is a list of states which have concluded agreements with the German government. See the list to determine if you are exempt from the practical test, written test, or both tests. <ref></ref>

US State Practical Written
Alabama exempt exempt
Arizona exempt exempt
Arkansas exempt exempt
Colorado exempt exempt
Connecticut exempt
Delaware exempt exempt
Florida exempt
Idaho exempt exempt
Illinois exempt exempt
Indiana exempt
Iowa exempt exempt
Kansas exempt exempt
Kentucky exempt exempt
Louisiana exempt exempt
Massachusetts exempt exempt
Michigan exempt exempt
Minnesota exempt
Mississippi exempt
Missouri exempt
Nebraska exempt
New Mexico exempt exempt
North Carolina exempt
Ohio exempt exempt
Oklahoma exempt exempt
Oregon exempt
Pennsylvania exempt exempt
Puerto Rico exempt exempt
South Carolina exempt exempt
South Dakota exempt exempt
Tennessee exempt
Utah exempt exempt
Virginia exempt exempt
Washington, D.C. exempt
Washington State exempt exempt
West Virginia exempt exempt
Wisconsin exempt exempt
Wyoming exempt exempt

Hong Kong

As stated on the application form for direct issue of full Hong Kong driving licence (Rev. 11/2008),<ref>Application For Direct Issue Of Full Hong Kong Driving Licence</ref> when a person has documentary evidence to the Commissioner's satisfaction that all of the following apply, the person is eligible to direct issue of a Hong Kong licence:

  • One has a full driving licence (but not an International driving permit) during the past three years issued by one of the following countries or places: Australia]], Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, People's Republic of China (includes Macau), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Republic of South Africa, Namibia, Taiwan, United Kingdom (together with Alderney, Bermuda, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey), United States of America.
  • The driving entitlement(s) for which one is applying must be equivalent to the class(es) which are authorized to drive by the issuing country or place; and
  • The driving licence was obtained by passing the relevant driving test(s) in the issuing country or place; and
  • Satisfies one of the three requirements below:
    • The license was originally issued on any date during a period of residence of not less than 6 months in the country or place of issue (entry and departure stamps on a passport, school transcript or employer's testimonial with employment period specified are accepted as proof); or
    • The licence has been issued for not less than 5 years immediately before the application; or
    • Hold a passport or an equivalent travel document of the country or place in which the licence was issued.


A foreigner above 18 years of age and holding a Work Pass/Dependent Pass/Student Pass may drive in Singapore with a valid class 3, 3A or 2B foreign licence, for a period of not more than 12 months. A Singapore driving licence is required after 12 months. Those on short term social visit may drive with their foreign licence for up to 12 months each time they enter into Singapore . For licence not written in English language, an International Driving Permit or translation is required.

Foreign licence conversion is only granted for class 2B and class 3 qualified driving licences.

In order to convert your foreign licence to a Singapore driving licence, you are required to pass the Basic Theory Test (BTT). Overseas theory test results are not admissible for consideration. <ref></ref>

United Kingdom

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which licenses drivers in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland, exchanges full licences issued by:<ref>Directgov *'exchange driving licence' interactive tool</ref>

  • Northern Ireland (Although part of UK, licences are issued by the DVA),
  • European Union/EEA and Switzerland,
  • The British Crown Dependencies
  • Gibraltar and other British Overseas Territories,
  • Australia, Barbados, Canada (by default, Canadian driver's licenses will only be exchanged for licences to drive automatic transmission cars, unless documentary evidence is provided that a manual shift test was passed in Canada), Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

United States

Delaware has a reciprocal license exchange for country below: <ref>[2]</ref>

  • Germany

District of Columbia driver’s license may be obtained while maintaining out-of-country driver’s license. A DC driving licence may vary for non-US citizens, depending on visa classification. The written test is required for non-US Citizens who possess an out-of-country driver’s license. <ref></ref>

Louisiana driving license holders of a valid driving licence can have their license exchanged under a reciprocity agreement with the following countries:

  • Germany

Nevada drivers who have never been licensed or those who currently hold a license from a foreign country or a U.S. territory must take vision, knowledge (written) and skills (driving) tests. <ref></ref>

New York State driving license may be obtained for a resident of another country. If you have a driver license from any nation except Canada, you must pass a written test, complete a 5-hour pre-licensing course and pass a road test to qualify for a NYS driver license. <ref></ref>

Washington State has a reciprocal license exchange for countries below: <ref>[3]</ref>

  • Canada: British Columbia
  • Germany

Texas has reciprocal license exchange with almost 100 countries.<ref>$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=37&pt=1&ch=15&rl=91</ref>

Consecutive licenses exchange

Theoretically as seen from the above exchange arrangement list, this kind of reciprocal license exchange scheme might become a backdoor for a person with a driving license issued by a country with less stringent driving test system (or even through purchase or bribery) to exchange for a license issued by a more reputable country without the need of any driving test. Some countries impose additional requirements such as residency, or proof that a driving test has been administered when obtaining the license issued.

For example, subject to fulfilling the other license exchange requirements, a Pakistan or Indian or PRC driving licence holder can exchange for a Hong Kong driver's licence<ref>Transport Department of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR - Driving in Hong Kong for Overseas Driving Licence Holders</ref> first. Then exchange for e.g. a United Kingdom full licence. Later the United Kingdom full licence can be exchanged for a Ontario Driving Licence which can later be exchanged for any state in the United States or Canada.

See also

External links

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