Canadian Drivers in the US – Yes, You Can
Wondering if Canadian drivers, including those with their L & N, can cross the border into our friendly USA neighbors and have an adventure? Yes, you can drive anywhere in Canada & in the U.S. with your L (learner) or N (new driver) license, and Class 5, of course.
You just need to make sure to bring your license in case you need to show it to someone, follow your restrictions as usual, and check with your destination for any location-specific laws.
You can drive in the United States if you have a valid Canadian driver’s license. Traffic laws can vary from state to state.
If you need to brush up on your L or N restrictions, check out my full article ICBC L&N Driver Restrictions – Summary and Bottomless FAQ to get all of the details. And if you’re preparing for the next road test, check out my article ICBC Road Test Class 5 vs 7 [Prepare and Conquer].
Table of Contents
N Driver Restrictions British Columbia (Class 7N New Driver ICBC)
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.
L and N Drivers in the USA
The very simple answer to this is generally, yes, Canadians including those with “L,” “N,” and “G2” licenses are allowed to drive in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. Individual states may vary, so check out the details before you go.
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.
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 a driver’s license. It is simply a translation of your driver’s license, designed for the convenience of authorities in other countries when you travel. The IDP merely verifies that you do indeed hold a valid driver’s license in Canada or another country. It may be helpful for renting a vehicle in the U.S. or other countries.
People who drive in the U.S. must have a valid driver’s license.
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.
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.
- To get an IDP, contact CAA – the Canadian Automobile Association. You’ll need to fill out this pdf form and return it to your local CAA office
- 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)
- Watch out for scammers. Scammers of international driver’s permits are a thing. They may try to sell you a fake International Driving Permit. You could lose money, and you may end up with travel delays or legal issues. Report international driver’s license scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 Reciprocity. If 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.
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…
7 thoughts on “Canadian Drivers in the US [Including L & N] Yes, You Can”
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.?
Hey I’m not sure, obviously I need to write an article about peopel to moving other places, etc. Thanks for the idea!
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
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?
does a driver with an N still have restriction in USA
Yes, same restrictions as BC.
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