In pretty much all states, it is illegal to carry two state-issued driver’s licenses. When you move to a new state, you are required to get a license from your new state and turn in the one from the state you recently left.

Key Highlights
  • In almost all states, you can only have one driver’s license. Normally, you need to have a license in the state where you are a permanent resident.
  • However, you can carry a couple of different types of driver’s licenses if you are in the military, moved from overseas or have an international driver’s permit.
  • If your driver’s license is suspended in one state, you cannot get a new driver’s license in another state until the suspension ends.
  • If you move, you’ll surrender your license and get a new driver’s license. There are some states that require you to take a driving exam as well as a written test.

Can you have a driver’s license in two states?

While state laws can vary, in almost all states, you can only have one driver’s license. Normally, you need to have a license in the state where you are a permanent resident and that license would be good to use throughout the United States as long as it’s valid.

If you spend most of your time in one state and have a vacation home in another state, you should get a driver’s license for the state where you spend most of your time.

No matter what type of license you are applying for, the state’s licensing office will check with the NHTSA’s National Driver Register (NDR). This database lists drivers who have serious offenses on their record such as a DUI or those whose driver’s license has been suspended, revoked or canceled.

Can I keep my out-of-state driver’s license?

While you cannot keep an out-of-state driver’s license in all states, the Sunshine State used to be an exception. Florida used to allow some residents to have a second license if they only lived in the state part-time.

However, this law changed when the federal REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 and went into effect in 2009. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing certain federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The deadline for residents to secure a REAL ID is May 3, 2023, when all U.S. travelers must be REAL ID compliant to board domestic flights and access certain federal facilities.

Is it possible to have two different types of licenses?

While it is very difficult to have multiple licenses from different states, it is possible to carry a couple of different types of driver’s licenses, especially if you are in the military, moved to the U.S. from overseas or have an international driver’s permit.

Military:

Some states permit “automatic” extensions of your license beyond its date of expiration. If you plan to rely on this “automatic” extension, it is still a very good idea to get in touch with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a letter verifying that the license remains valid.

In addition, in most states, active members of the military who are deployed or living in a state other than their home state can keep the license from their home state and are not required to get a license from the state they are currently living in.

Check out our detailed guide on who is eligible for USAA insurance?

International driver’s permit:

An international driver’s permit (IDP) allows you to drive legally in 174 countries when it is accompanied by your valid U.S. driver’s license. You are eligible for an IDL/IDP if you are a permanent U.S. resident at least 18 years of age and have a driver’s license that will remain valid for at least six months from the date of issuance of the IDP.

Foreign license:

If you live in a foreign country or go back and forth on a regular basis, you may have both a U.S. license and one from your home country. In most cases, if you are moving to the U.S., you will have to take both a written and driving test to get a U.S. license and the majority of states allow you to keep your foreign license.

What is the penalty for having two driver’s licenses?

You most likely won’t be able to have two driver’s licenses – you’ll need to surrender your old license when you apply for a new one. States typically require new residents to apply for an in-state license within 10, 30, or 90 days of establishing residency, according to legal resource Nolo.com.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get a driver’s license in another state if you don’t live there?

No. In order to get a driver’s license, you have to provide an address to establish your residency in that state. In most states, you will have to provide proof of your address. In Colorado, for example, you must provide two of the following in order to prove residency (all documents presented must be dated within one year of application):

  • Credit card statement, phone bill, bank statement or utility bill
  • Pay stub
  • First-class mail (with dated postmark)
  • Insurance policy
  • Mortgage, lease or rental contract or receipt (not handwritten)
  • Transcript or report card from an accredited school
  • Motor vehicle registration/title

Can you get a driver’s license in another state if yours is suspended?

No. Typically, if your license is suspended in one state you cannot move to another state and obtain a driver’s license there. All states check the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s National Driver Register (NDR) when a person applies for a driver’s license.

The NDR contains a listing of names and related identification, provided by state driver licensing officials of those drivers whose driver’s licenses have been canceled, denied, revoked or suspended or who have been convicted of certain serious traffic violations. If your name is on this list, you will not be getting a license in another state.

How long can you live in a state without changing your license?

In most cases, you must get a new license within 30 days, but it varies by state. As an example, in Virginia, you are required to title and register your vehicle with the Commonwealth of Virginia within 30 days of moving to the state and within 60 days of moving to Virginia, you must obtain a Virginia driver’s license.

In other states, it varies from immediately to 90 days.

Most states will allow you to surrender your license from another state and get a new one issued after taking a vision test. There are some states that require you to pass a written test and some may even require a driving exam, but that is pretty rare.

How to get a driver’s license in a new state?

When you move to a new state, one of the first things you want to do is to make an appointment at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Typically, the DMV in your new state will require you to fill out an application, prove your identity and residency, pay a fee and surrender your old ID.

Why states forbid carrying multiple licenses?

You cannot have a license in two states. States forbid carrying multiple licenses because two licenses would allow drivers to use their second license if their other one was suspended or restricted. Again, states reference the National Driver Registry, so you’ll be unable to procure a driver’s license in two states.

Sources:

  1. Colorado Department of Revenue. “U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents Identification Checklist.” Accessed May 2022.
  2. Nolo. “Can You Have a Driver’s License in Two Different States?” Accessed May 2022.
  3. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “About REAL ID.” Accessed May 2022.
  4. U.S. Navy. “Drivers’ License Extensions.” Accessed May 2022.
  5. NHTSA – “National Driver Register (NDR).”