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International Driver’s Licenses

How to get a legitimate IDL

Q. I received an e-mail to apply for an international driver’s license. Is it legitimate?

A. E-mail offers usually pitch unauthorized, phony substitutions of your U.S. license that can cost $100 or more. But a bona fide international driving permit (IDP) is honored in more than 150 foreign countries and is required in about 40 countries (it’s necessary if you travel more than 300 miles into Mexico or 50 miles into Canada). You still need to have your U.S. license with you. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends getting an international permit for a visit to any non-English-speaking country, even if you’re not driving, because it essentially translates your U.S. license into 10 foreign languages and will be readily recognized by most foreign officials.

The permit costs $15 and is valid for one year. It’s available through AAA or the National Automobile Club.

If you retire or relocate to a foreign country, you need to get a new permanent driver’s license, issued in the country of residence.

The U.S. State Department says people can report the peddling of bogus or unauthorized IDPs sold via e-mails or websites to their local office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau or their state attorney general’s office.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of “Scam-Proof Your Life” (AARP Books/Sterling).


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