Question: Can I drive a car in the U.S. with a valid Mexican driving license?
Answer: A valid Mexican driver’s license should allow you to drive within the United States for a certain amount of time as long as you are a visitor and not residing in the U.S. To determine the length of time that qualifies you as a visitor, check with the state’s DMV since laws differ.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) gives good information on what is required of U.S. states regarding foreign nationals driving in the U.S. The Wisconsin DOT states that foreign motorists from any of the countries who are party to the “United Nations Convention on Road Traffic” (Geneva, 1949) or the “Convention on the Regulation of Inter-American Motor Vehicle Traffic” (Washington, D.C., 1943) who visit the United States as tourists can drive legally using their valid domestic driver’s license for a period not to exceed one year from the date of arrival. They may drive either a personal or rental car.
Tourists from countries who are party to the Geneva Convention and the Regulation of Inter-American Motor Vehicle Traffic can also legally drive their own private cars bearing valid license plates/registration tags issued in their native country for a period not to exceed one year from their date of arrival.
Foreign tourists whose country is not among those that are party to the terms of either convention may be required to obtain a driver’s license and secure license plates/registration tags upon arrival in the United States (U.S.).
Mexico is a member of the 1943 Convention, so a driver’s license from Mexico should be honored here in the U.S. as the agreement requires.
Do I need an International Driving Permit?
In addition to having a valid foreign driver’s license, visitors are advised to carry an International Driving Permit obtained in their home country, as authorized by the 1943, 1949 or 1968 conventions.
The International Driving Permit (IDP) is translated into the nine official languages of the United Nations, including English, and serves as a translation to be used with the visitor’s valid driver’s license. It can be useful in emergencies like traffic violations or auto accidents.
Keep in mind that the IDP alone does not authorize you to drive in this United States — it is your valid foreign license that does this. For example, California does not require an International Driving Permit (also called an international driver license or international license). California requires foreign national drivers to possess a valid driver’s license issued by their home state or country.
So, if you are a tourist coming to the U.S., then your valid Mexican driver’s license should be accepted. If you want to know about state-specific laws and how long they will allow you to stay before considering you a resident and not a visitor, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state you’re planning to visit.
— Michelle Megna contributed to this story.
California DMV. “California Driver’s Handbook.” Accessed January 2023.
Progressive. “Car insurance for non-U.S. citizens.” Accessed January 2023.