Americans looking to visit their Canadian neighbors in the North may be interested in obtaining an international driver’s license before embarking on their trip. While not always mandatory, a translation of a U.S. driver’s license to French can be useful when travelling through Canada.

Valid licenses from foreign countries are typically accepted in Canada for a short time. Even Americans driving in Canada after an extended period of time will be required to attain an international driver’s license from the USA.

What is a Canadian International Driving Permit?

An international driving permit translates your state-issued driver’s license for officials from foreign countries to interpret. These permits translate government-issued licenses into 10 different languages. When you go to drive in Canada, your license will be translated to be readable in English and French.

An international permit is not a substitute for a valid license, nor can it be used in place of a suspended or revoked license. If you are wondering, “what is an IDP used for”, they can be utilized when you are required to prove your identity or your authorization to drive without any further tests or applications.

When do I need an international driver’s license in Canada?

All drivers from foreign countries are required to obtain an international driver’s license before driving a car or renting a vehicle while visiting Canada. Drivers from America have the benefit of driving in Canada with just a valid U.S license if they remain in the country for less than 90 days. Any tourists or visitors who stay in Canada for longer than 90 days may be required to get an AATA or AAA International Driving Permit to avoid potential fines.

How to Get an International Driver’s License for Canada

Motorists in the United States can request an International Driving Permit from two different authorized agencies. The only approved distributors are the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Applications can be mailed to either organization for processing, or they can be submitted in person at an AAA brand office. In order to be eligible, applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have a valid U.S. driver’s license. The following items are required to complete a request:

  • A completed international driver’s license application from AATA or AAA.
  • Two original passport photos.
    • They can be taken at AAA brand offices for in-person applications.
    • Photos must be signed on the back for mailed applications.
  • A valid U.S. driver’s license.
    • A photocopy of both sides is required for mailed applications.
  • Payment for the AATA or AAA International Driver’s License Fee.

Note: If you are a Canadian driver applying for an International Driving Permit, you must contact your local driver’s license office and ask about the application procedure. This procedure only applies to U.S. drivers requesting an International Permit to drive in Canada.

How long do International Driving Permits last in Canada?

Whenever a Canadian IDP is issued, it will be valid for one full year from the date of application. Furthermore, permits must be utilized within six months of the application date. This means that you must apply for your International Driving Permit within six months of your trip.

Permits will also remain valid along with your current driver’s license. If your driver’s license expires, your permit will also no longer be usable. Permits are nonrenewable, so new applications must be submitted for each request.

Note: Anyone who becomes a permanent resident in Canada will need to abide by the local driver’s licensing laws. International permits are only intended for temporary visitors and tourists.

Where to Get an International Driver’s License in Canada

If you already have a valid U.S. driver’s license, you can request an International Driving Permit in person or by mail. Furthermore, if you happen to be out of the United States, you can submit a request to either the AATA or AAA by mail.

This is the only application method for Americans who are already in Canada, but need an IDP because they will be in the country for over 90 days. Currently, there is no option of applying for an international driver’s license online.

Tips for Avoiding International Driving Permit Fraud

Due to the immense number of travelers requesting international driving permits, there have been numerous organizations that have started selling fake permits. In the United States, the only agencies that are authorized to issue these permits are the AATA and AAA. Be cautious with individuals or companies that try to sell these permits online on their websites or through unsolicited emails.

In any case, be mindful that International Driving Permits cannot be purchased online. Fake permits are typically useless and can cost victims a lot of money. Always ensure that the agencies have the proper authorization to distribute travel documents.

Driving Rules in Canada

Although an international driver’s license may be required, the driving laws in Canada are very similar to those of the United States. Vehicles still drive on the right-hand side of the road, but speed limits are posted in metric units.

Additionally, you may notice that road signs are in English, French or both in certain provinces in Canada. Signs in Quebec may only be displayed in French, so be prepared if you plan on visiting the province. Some other unique driving rules in Canada include:

  • Car seat requirements for children under 40 lbs.
  • Smoking in cars where minors are present is prohibited.
  • Cell phones must be used in hands-free mode while driving.
  • In Montreal, right-hand turns are not permitted during red lights.

Driving in the Winter

Driving a car through a Canadian winter can be incredibly challenging, even if you are an experienced driver. Make sure to check the weather conditions before traveling and prepare for the possibility of heavy snow, black ice, and white-out conditions.

Have a fully charged cell phone and emergency contact numbers available for easy calling. Pack a small travel kit with items such as blankets, flashlights, ice scrapers and kitty litter if you ever need tire traction. Sometimes, the safest option may be avoiding driving until a winter storm passes.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.