International Driving Permit For Florida

By James | Last updated June 25, 2024

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Panic set in among international visitors to Florida in mid-February 2013 when it was discovered that the Florida legislature had passed a bill requiring all overseas visitors to Florida (including Canadians) to hold an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as their normal driving licence issued in their home country.

The International Driving Permit provides an English translation of foreign driving licences, but Florida lawmakers appeared to overlook the fact that a large number of Florida visitors already have a licence written in English!

The bill was enacted on January 1, 2013, as part of several highway-related laws, when amendments were made to section 322.04 of the Florida Statutes. Unfortunately, it had not been publicised, and Florida’s tourism industry was shocked.

Driving down the Florida roads
Driving down the Florida roads

The law stated that an overseas driver who was stopped by the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) without an International Driving Permit could be subjected to imprisonment or a citation and a mandatory court appearance. No other US state has made the International Driving Permit a mandatory requirement.

Temporary Reprieve

After appeals from foreign agencies, particularly Canada, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) attempted a damage limitation by issuing a statement saying that the bill might contravene the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949), to which the USA is a signatory.

For the time being, they stated that the FHP would not enforce the requirement to hold an International Driving Permit while the bill was being reviewed. However, until the bill was amended or repealed, an International Driving Permit was still required by law.

Many automobile agencies recommended that drivers still apply for an International Driving Permit as the law had not yet been repealed. It was unclear whether car rental insurers would insist on them, as technically, without an International Driving Permit, your normal driving licence was not deemed valid. It was also unclear what the stance of other Florida local police forces was on the revised statute.

Florida roads and overpasses, towards Miami
Florida roads and overpasses towards Miami

Law Repealed

It was uncertain how they could amend the law, as either drivers require an International Driving Permit or they do not. The only other option might have been to restrict the requirement to drivers from certain countries, i.e., non-English-speaking.

In the end, the legislature reconvened in March 2013, and the law was entirely repealed.


Whilst an International Driving Permit is no longer mandatory, it is generally recommended for the United States of America. However, Visit Florida, the official tourism board say you do not need one but you should always carry photo ID whilst driving.

If your existing driving licence is not in English it is probably still a good idea to get an International Driving Permit to help avoid any confusion should you ever need to show it to an official.

If you do decide to apply for an International Driving Permit note that there are three different versions and for the United States you need IDP 1949.

UK Drivers

For UK drivers, an International Driving Permit can be obtained in person from a limited number of main Post Offices (around 2,500) for £5.50. It used to be possible to purchase them by post from the Automobile Association or the RAC. Still, in February 2019, the UK Government stopped this facility, and now they can only be purchased in person.

The International Driving Permit is valid for one year from the date of issue and can be purchased up to three months before the date of travel.

Before applying, check that you have all the required documentation. Essentially, to obtain an International Driving Permit in person, you will need a signed passport-sized photo, your driving licence (including its paper counterpart), and your passport.

The UK government website (opens in new window) provides more information on the International Driving Permit and which countries it is mandatory in.

If you have a licence issued by another country, then you should check with the motor vehicle department of that country to obtain an IDP.