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US drivers licences for expats

I am finding it increasingly difficult to get/renew a US drivers license. I normally do not drive a car in Vietnam so I have no real need for a Vietnamese license. More to the point, a Vietnamese license is essentially useless when visiting the US -- especially for things such as renting a car (or getting insurance). My home state (and I guess, most others) wants to verify my in-state address -- which of course I no longer have. I use a mail-forwarding service, but it is not in my home state.

What have other people done about maintaining a US driver's license.

I might be able to help. What State are you from?

my current state is Vermont ... but the reality is that my connections to the sate are becoming few and far between.

(thanks for any suggestions)

Vermont DMV is a hard one, sorry can't help you on it. MN DMV is easy.

When I returned to California, I just broke out my license, paid the renewal fee, grabbed the instant temporary license, and off to the races.

thanks both of you...
a couple of problems with Wild 1's method:
1. it is possible that I will never return to Vermont. Or at the very least, "residency" is coming very questionable: i no longer have (or soon will not have) many of the traditional proofs of residence: no bills, no property, etc.
2. "On return" is too late if one wants to rent a car. (3 years ago I returned, went to the rental car office and was refused a car because my VT license had expired the week before).

I would actually be content with a driver's license from any state but now they all seem to want me to be a resident (and prove it)

Woodsdancer,

Obtain an address from a state that you can visit.  Then, in place of a bill, you can present a rental contract.  Pick and choose the state, though.  In light of the recent changes in gun laws, some had made it harder for out-of-state residents to obtain their driver licenses or ids.  But, I don't see any of them get critical with you.  Your gun laws aren't as bad as those in the socialist states, are they?

thanx, but, hmm ... I guess I am being foggy.

i am slowly transitioning to a full time expat... that means that for all practical purposes I will soon no longer have an actual US address -- certainly no rental receipt.

I am still a US citizen and I would like to visit when I feel like doing so... and a driver's license is one thing I need -- and that seems to require a state willing to issue it. I presently have a Vermont license, but it is quite possible it will expire before I return.

Hmm, i guess in another thing I still want to do in the US is vote ... and again I seem to need an address (usually based on a drivers license I guess)

Woodsdancer,

I am a Vietnamese-American.  I can stay here, hassle-free, for as long as I please.  Yet, I still maintain a place of domicile.  If not for anything, I still want to go back there and enjoy an apple pie every now and then.  A tailgate party, with a few college buddies, is very nice every once in a while.

Get a relative, or a friend to help you with it.  Dude, if you are that cut-off, let me know.  I will hook you up.

I'm 68 US style or 70 VN style and live in a rather out of the way part of Viet Nam.

A few years back, when the local police saw me driving a car around, they asked one of my in-laws to contact me and show them my international license. I had one so no big deal. The Law has changed and settled some since then. Still, talking to the local police after getting my VN drivers license, most thought it was a waste of money as they weren't going to stop me anyway unless I was doing something really stupid.

The most thought out response was, in loose translation,

"We really hate stopping older people. We have watched you drive and you are a very careful driver. None of us are going to stop you. But, If you get into an accident, even if you are 100% innocent, the Court will find you guilty with out a VN lisence.

You will be guilty because, technically as a resident, an international or state license is invalid. They are only valid for a visitor. The verdict will be that if you hadn't been illegally driving, there would have been no accident."

I did spend a couple of years in Japan as an American Military Traffic Cop. I like to know what is going on.

thanks for the heads up, how does this go for tourists on scooters?

For anyone who's a US citizen, regardless of your current or future plans to live there, or here, or anywhere, I personally do not recommend cutting all ties - mainly for some of the reasons already stated in this thread. You need to find a relative (even a distant one) or friend who will allow you to use his/her US address as a "hitching post" for any possible future business you may need to do there. I currently use my mother's address as my own US address, and already plan to use my son's or daughter's address at some point in the future after my mother passes on. You might think right now that you're never going to have a need for an address in the US, but you never know. 15 years ago, I had no idea I would ever be married to a different woman and living in Asia now.

Regardless of who or what you are, when you operate a vehicle without the proper permits, you WILL be at fault.

@mark stutley, 50cc or less, no problem. Any thing higher you need a VN license. Regardless of your status here.

@70 years old, International drivers licenses (IDL) are not recognized in Vietnam now or were they back in 1969. MP at Zama?

With a US state drivers license or license from most countries that includes a motorcycle endorsement,  someone with a tourist visa is legal to drive a 2 wheeler of 175cc or less. Insurance is another story.

I haven't checked into 50cc and less. But electric bicycles and 50cc and less seem to be considered the equlivent.

For those of us with Visa exemptions or long term stay visas, I suggest getting the VN license.

@Budman1

Re: US drivers licences for expats
@mark stutley, 50cc or less, no problem. Any thing higher you need a VN license. Regardless of your status here.

@70 years old, International drivers licenses (IDL) are not recognized in Vietnam now or were they back in 1969. MP at Zama?


You and the local police LTC disagree on the legality of an IDL.
I had a US military drivers license while driving in Viet Nam during the War. Mid 1974-18 April 1975, I rode a motorcycle with out a driver's license.

1972-1974 SP, NAF Atsugi. I did take some U of Maryland courses at Camp Zama. I also had a US military drivers license while driving in Japan. Both the Viet Nam and Japan US military driver's licenses required instruction and local testing and were specific to the country involved.

I was able to renew my Texas dl online by using my parents address. They just reused the old photo and mailed out the new license in like 2 weeks.

VungTauDon,

They allow the same thing in California, for good drivers.  But I remember that it is only done once or twice, before they make you come in for the new photo.  But unless your license has expired for too long, as soon as you come in, they will issue you a new one; and you will be on your way.

the summary that seems to be evolving to my original question ("is there any way for an expat to get a US driver's license") is:
"No, not if you want to be completely legal."
Every site I have looked at says you must be a bona fide resident of their state. That would clearly preclude the use of a brother's address or similar ways of sidestepping the law.

I happen to have a vietnamese license -- granted to me on the basis of my Vermont license, so it expires the same date next year. Does anyone know: can you renew a Vietnam license without first renewing the US license?

(According to the Vermont DMV, I could legally drive for short periods of time in the US using the Vietnam license)

thanks again for any help

You can try this route

http://www.souvenirids.com/vermont.htm

woodsdancer wrote:

I am finding it increasingly difficult to get/renew a US drivers license. I normally do not drive a car in Vietnam so I have no real need for a Vietnamese license. More to the point, a Vietnamese license is essentially useless when visiting the US -- especially for things such as renting a car (or getting insurance). My home state (and I guess, most others) wants to verify my in-state address -- which of course I no longer have. I use a mail-forwarding service, but it is not in my home state.

What have other people done about maintaining a US driver's license.

It's best that you maintain a mailing address.  Mails are still sent horse and buggy here and takes about 2-3 wks from the States. You'll need it to maintain things like a credit card and an opened bank account to transfer funds back and forth when needed, and for voting. There are a lot of times that I would like to renounce my US citizenship because of the politics but that's foolish, and you have to keep your head separated from your heart.

Connecticut is similar to Vermont in many ways and will allow you to renew your license from oversea if you're out of the country for a certain amount of time i.e. job, military service, etc.  I'm sure Vermont is similar and has an online application that you can print out and mail back. They will send it here directly as they did mine. The biggest problem is that MVD in Connecticut doesn't take credit cards and you certainly can't send cash. I had to rely on a friend in the US to buy a money order to send it to them with the application. International driver's license is NOT recognized here at all so let's get that straight.

The other alternative you might want to look into is to open up a P.O. Box account but don't ever cut it off completely.

There are lots of mail forwarding companies also you can use. He is one such place in Vermont.
http://www.basfulfillment.com/mail_forwarding.php

woodsdancer wrote:

can you renew a Vietnam license without first renewing the US license?

The answer is NO. It happened to me and I've tried it already. It's predicated on the expiration date of the US license OR your Visa/temporary resident permit, which ever expired first. Even if you renewed your US license but your visa/TRP is expired, you cannot renew the Vietnamese license until you take care of the visa/TRP.

In my case, after I renewed the US license (auto), I thought they were going renew my Vietnamese license to the new expiration date of the US. Unfortunately, my TRP is set to expire a month and a half later. Conclusion: They renewed my Vietnamese license but only to the date when my TRP expires.  :lol:

Woodsdancer,

If other options do not work out for you.  Consider this:

DMV from the State of Arizona provides a driver license that lasts for 22 years! Yes, 22 years! I got mine issued last year, 2012 and the expiration date on my driver license is 2034! So I think if you want to invest a little time and effort to get it from AZ, you won't have to deal with renewing it every 2 years or so if obtaining from many other states.

Even if you have no family, relatives, or friends in the U.S., when you come back to the U.S. next time, stop by Phoenix, Arizona, I think what you can do is to rent a room to share(search craigslist, plenty around I am sure), once rented, then get a signed letter from the land lord stating that you are residing at that address, bring that to the DMV, state that you are self-employed, and request to get/renew/transfer your driver license.  Then off you go, continue with your journey.

To be sure, google AZ DMV and get their phone number, call them and present this scenario and ask them what else you must have in order to get your lic. transferred to AZ so that you come prepared.

Hope this helps.

thanks for the various suggestions...

yes, I know ways to fake it and get an illegal license (or to get one through subterfuge ... but I was really hoping there might be some legal way for an expat to get a driver's license from the US.

all of  the solutions I have seen so far, seem to require some element of fraud:
- clearly the place that sells /!\ I AM A STUPID SPAMMER /!\ would be illegal
- and it seems that any attempt to claim I live somewhere that i really don't (using a family members address) is slightly fraudulent
- renewing mine by mail would probably be ok, but my photo is too old to renew... requires a new picture

I don't even mind too much if the driver's license is slight fraudulent ... but if any taxing agency of the US ever concluded that the fraudulent address was designed for tax evasion it could get very ugly.

and thanks to Roe_Amerasian for what is probably a great idea for many people... Actually the Arizona license is not good for "22 years" ... but "until age 65" ...
and alas for those of us over 65, the law says "new license every 5 years and renewal must be in person" ... oh well, good try

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