Driver's license

Driver's license
The front side of an Austrian-issue European driving licence with all the languages of the EU
Reverse of the German-issue licence showing the categories of vehicle allowed

A driver's license/licence (United States, Canada, South Africa), or driving licence (United Kingdom, rest of Commonwealth, Ireland; see spelling differences) is an official document which states that a person may operate a motorized vehicle, such as a motorcycle, car, truck or a bus, on a public roadway. Most U.S. and Canadian residents of driving age have such a license,[citation needed] and it has become the primary form of picture identification in those two countries. The laws relating to the licensing of drivers vary between jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, a 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.



The world's first license to drive a motor vehicle, issued to Karl Benz upon his request.

The first license to drive a motor vehicle 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.[1]

Up until the start of the 20th century, European authorities issued licenses to drive motor vehicles similarly ad hoc, if at all.[1] The first locality to require a mandatory license 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 driver's mechanical aptitude.[1] 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.[1] Other countries in Europe also introduced driving tests during the twentieth century, the last of them being Belgium where, until 1977, it was possible to purchase and hold a license without having to undergo a driving test.[2]

As automobile-related fatalities soared in North America, public outcry provoked legislators to begin studying the French and German statutes as models.[3] On August 1, 1910, North America's first licensing law for motor vehicles went into effect in the U.S. state of New York, though it initially applied only to professional chauffeurs.[4] In July 1913, the state of New Jersey became the first to require all drivers to pass a mandatory examination before receiving a license.[5]


A non-professional driving licence of Bangladesh. A driving licence in Bangladesh is considered a standard form of identification as good as a passport.

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, driver's licenses are often used as a de facto standard form of identification.

Many European countries, New Zealand 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 license while driving. However, if stopped, a driver may be required to produce their license at a nominated police station within seven days. The police issue a form for this purpose.[6]

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

In the People's Republic of China (mainland), Hong Kong, Dominican Republic, Spain and Venezuela, the driver's license number is the same as the citizen's ID number.

A license 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 license 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 license 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 driver's license and commercial licenses there are other types of driving identification:

Non-driver's 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 may be issued by the same agency or department which issues driver's licenses. The state I.D. card 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 serve as identification for legal immigrants and international visitors (usually stipulating length of stay by the expiry date, or only valid for 1 year if no date is listed) [7] An existing driver's 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 driver's licenses

Additionally, some provinces and states (British Columbia, Manitoba, Michigan, New York, Ontario, Quebec, Vermont, and Washington) are issuing Enhanced Driver's Licenses,. These are not permits allowing motorists to drive in an enhanced manner but contain ID features like enhanced ID cards.[8] Enhanced licenses essentially combine a regular driver's license with the same specifications of the new U.S. 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 United States) or Canadian citizenship (for EDLs/EIDs issued in Canada), and can therefore be used to cross the U.S.-Canadian and U.S.-Mexican borders by road, rail, or sea, but not air (this will always require a traditional passport book) [9] 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 driver's license[10] was the first such license approved under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative;[11] according to a Homeland Security press release, the department is also working with Arizona, New York, and Vermont authorities to develop enhanced driver's licenses.[12] On September 16, 2008, NYS began to issue WHTI-Compliant Enhanced driver licenses (EDL).[13] Texas was expected to also implement an enhanced driver's 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.[14][15]

Licenses for different categories of vehicles

Driver's licenses within the European Union are subdivided into different categories.

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 driver's 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 driver's 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 five years and requires renewal every five 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 driver's 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 New Zealand and Republic of 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.

Driver's licenses by region



Egyptian citizens are entitled to a driver's license once they have reached the age of 18. To obtain their licenses, applicants must pass a driving test as well as several computer tests.

In order to pass, all a person had to do was drive six meters forward and then reverse six meters. However, the test was 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 in addition to an assessment of parking skills.


Driver's licensing in Ghana is conducted by the nation's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority. The legal driving age is 18.


The legal driving age of Moroccan Citizens is 18.[citation needed]

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 license, applicants must pass a written or computer-based test to obtain a learner's license, and then pass a road test to obtain the driving license.


The European Union has adopted a common format for driving licenses, and a common set of driving license categories. They were introduced to replace the 110 different plastic and paper driving licenses. The common format with the same information in the same place on all licenses allows the driving license to be understood, even if it is in a different language.



The minimum age for obtaining a driver's license 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 driver's license, a person must follow a driving school with a duration depending on the desired category and pass a theory and road exam.


United Kingdom

The minimum driving age in the United Kingdom is 16 for mopeds under 50 cc, and 17 for cars and for motorcycles. Access to motorcycles producing more than 25 kW (34 hp) is restricted to riders with two years experience or aged 21.[16]

North America


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

United States

The eligible age varies substantially by state, but nationally by age 16 one can obtain a license after passing the requisite tests and drive without adult supervision. Since the driver's license is a commonplace document that carries much of the necessary information needed for identification, it has become the primary method of identification in the United States.[17]


In Barbados, a person 16 years or over can apply for a Learner's Permit which allows them to drive for a specified period with an accompanying tutor. During that period they will be tested on their driving skill and their knowledge of road signs and traffic laws. On passing both the written and driving test the license is issued. Once issued a driver's license is valid for a period of one to five years depending on which period of time the driver chooses to pay for. On the expiry of the period for which the license is issued, it will become renewable on the last day of the driver's birth month and will again be valid for the time period for which payment is made. Visitors and non-nationals who are the holders of a valid driver's license issued in their country of residence or origin are not allowed to drive automatically in Barbados but must go to a police station to have a temporary local driver's license issued. The license is issued on payment of a fee and the production of the visitor's existing license.


A driver is allowed a driver's permit at the age of 15, with the cost of approximately 100 dollars, a duration of a year, and requiring to drive with an adult at all times. At the age of 16, the fee drops to 30 dollars, and is basically the same license as an adult, only with a two year expiration date (until the majority of age). When a driver turns 18, he or she is allowed the License.


A citizen may obtain a learner's permit once he or she is age 17. A learner will get their driver's 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.

Costa Rica

Every vehicle driver must carry a driver's 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 driver's 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.[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 driver's license number.

South America




In India, being a state matter, each Indian state has a "Regional Transport Authority or "RTOs" (Regional Transport Offices) that issues licenses. Minimum age is 18 years for all vehicles, however motor cycle having engine capacity below 50 cc may be driven at age of 16.


Pakistani driver's license issued by Lahore District Police.

The minimum age for eligibility for learner's permit is 18 years de facto; as the driver's information is saved against the Computerized National ID Card number which is issued at the age of 18. The License Issuing Authorities vary to each district and work under the relative District Police. Currently there are no hard and fast rules regards eligibility, issuance, verification or usage of driving licenses in Pakistan as well as there are no standardized driving regulations.

Lahore District

To obtain a driver's license in Lahore District one must register for the learner's permit at any of the local District Police's designated license offices and after 42 days can apply for test for a regular full license. The test phase consists of a theory based test followed by a short practical test. Only the ones who pass the theory test are allowed to take the practical test. The whole test stage is a single day process where both the tests are to be taken the same day. The driving license currently issued hold basic information of the Driver including Name, Father Name, Date of birth, Address, Authorized Vehicle Types, Emergency Contact, Blood Group, Fingerprint Impression, Driver Photo. The license also has a magnetic strip but its viability is yet to be made public.

Rawalpindi District

License issuing authority is Chief Traffic Officer. In-charge of Licensing Branch is a DSP Traffic HQ, who is also given a charge of issuing licenses on behalf of CTO. The said DSP is further responsible for managerial and driving tests issues, under the supervision of Chief Traffic Officer.[18]



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.

New Zealand

The minimum age to obtain a Learner Licence is now 16 in New Zealand, formerly 15.

Cook Islands

Cook Islands driving licenses are issued at police headquarters on Rarotonga, on production of a valid license from the visitor's home country. To use a scooter or motor cycle (the main hire vehicles for tourists) a short test has to be taken by anyone whose home license is only valid for cars, in which a police officer observes the applicant riding up and down the main street of the capital.

International considerations

Many groups of countries have agreed to recognize driver's licenses issued by authorities of any of its members. Examples include the European Union and the GCC, where holders of driver's 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.[19]

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 non-Latin 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 driver's licenses written in foreign languages without accompanying translations.

Temporary visitors from the United States to France (less than 90 days) are permitted to drive with a valid U.S. state driver's license. In addition to holding a U.S. driver's license, visitors are advised (but not required) to carry an International Driving permit, or attach a French translation to their U.S. state driver's license.

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.[20]

Many countries have established a driver's 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. [3] This may also be called Driver’s License Reciprocity.[21]

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 driver's 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-license scheme.


British Columbia has a reciprocal license exchange scheme with other Canadian provinces and territories as well other countries provided the license is valid or has been expired for less than three years.[22] Ontario has a reciprocal license exchange scheme for Canadian provinces and territories, Canadian Forces Europe, and some other countries.[23] Quebec has a reciprocal license exchange scheme for Canadian provinces and territories, Canadian Forces Europe, American states and other countries.[24]


U.S. state driver's licenses can be exchanged from the 15 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, Texas and Virginia.[25]

If you are a resident of France (holder of a carte de séjour or carte de residence), you may drive in France with a valid U.S. state driver's license for a one-year recognition period, beginning on the date of validity of the first carte de séjour (exception for students who are allowed to use their driver's license for the duration of their studies). In addition to having your U.S. state driver's license, residents are also required to attach a French translation done by a sworn translator (expert traducteur or traducteur assermenté).


The U.S. Embassy, supported by the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, continues to actively press all U.S. states to reach an agreement on the reciprocal recognition of driver's licenses with Germany, essentially a waiver of testing requirements.[26]

Hong Kong

As stated on the application form for direct issue of full Hong Kong driving license (Rev. 11/2008),[27] 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 license:


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 license, for a period of not more than 12 months. A Singapore driving license is required after 12 months. Those on short term social visit may drive with their foreign license for up to 12 months each time they enter into Singapore. For license not written in English language, an International Driving Permit or translation is required.

Foreign license conversion is only granted for class 2B and class 3 qualified driving licenses.

In order to convert your foreign license to a Singapore driving license, you are required to pass the Basic Theory Test (BTT). Overseas theory test results are not admissible for consideration.[28]


Residents in Sweden having a foreign license can exchange it to a Swedish license, if it is from a EU country, an EEA country, Switzerland or Japan.[29] Foreign licenses are valid if the holder has not been living in Sweden for more than a year (and some more requirements).

United Kingdom

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which licenses drivers in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland, exchanges full licenses issued by:[30]

United States

Delaware has a reciprocal license exchange for Germany and France.[31]

A District of Columbia driver's license may be obtained while maintaining out-of-country driver’s license. D.C. driver's licenses may vary for non-U.S. citizens, depending on visa classification. The written test is required for non-U.S. citizens who possess an out-of-country driver's license.[32]

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.[33]

New York State driver's license may be obtained by a resident of another country. If the driver has a driver license from any nation except Canada, they must pass a written test, complete a 5-hour pre-licensing course and pass a road test to qualify for a NY State driver's license.[34]

Washington State has a reciprocal license exchange for Germany, South Korea, and British Columbia.[35]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Lutteroth, Johanna. "Der Lappen, der die Welt bedeutet" (in German). einestages. Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  2. ^ "Altes vom Auto: Meldungen aus 125 Jahren:Tops und Flops (a summary of the highlights and lowlights of the first 125 years of motoring history)". Auto Motor u. Sport Heft 4 2011: Seite 16. date 27 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Anonymous, "Better Auto Laws Are Now Needed," New York Times, 18 August 1907, S3.
  4. ^ Frederick H. Elliott, "Working Out New Auto Law In New York," New York Times 16 October 1910, 3.
  5. ^ "New York's Auto Exports Increase-Big Jump in Cars Shipped Last Year-New Jersey Examines All Drivers" (PDF). New York Times. 1913-07-14. pp. 11. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  6. ^ Road traffic | Home Office
  7. ^
  8. ^ US CBP|
  9. ^ Enhanced Drivers Licenses: What Are They?, retrieved April 2, 2008. Archived March 11, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Enhanced Driver License/ID Card (EDL/ID)
  11. ^ Homeland Security and State Departments Announce WHTI Land and Sea Final Rule, retrieved April 2, 2008.
  12. ^ Publication of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) Land and Sea Final Rule, Questions and Answers, retrieved April 2, 2008.
  13. ^ NYS DMV - Enhanced DMV Photo Documents for U.S. Citizens Who are Residents of NYS
  14. ^ Perry Denies Enhanced Driver's License Program, retrieved April 2, 2008.
  15. ^ AG Gives Conditional Approval To Enhanced License, retrieved April 2, 2008.
  16. ^ "Motorcycles you can ride". Directgov. Retrieved 8 June 2011. 
  17. ^ "U.S. Drivers License Application". U.S. Immigration Support: Your Guide to U.S. Visas, Green Cards, and Citizenship. 
  18. ^ City Traffic Police Rawalpindi
  19. ^ Transport - Driving license
  20. ^ France
  21. ^$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
  22. ^ ICBC - Driver licensing
  23. ^ DriveTest - Exchanging a Reciprocal License
  24. ^ New Residents of Québec and Holders of a Driver's Licence Issued Outside Québec
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Application For Direct Issue Of Full Hong Kong Driving Licence
  28. ^
  29. ^ Foreign Driver’s Licences
  30. ^ Directgov *'exchange driving licence' interactive tool
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ [2]

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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