Can my Foreign-national Wife Drive in the US with their foreign driver’s license?

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This is a common question for Spouses that recently arrived to the US on:

  • K1 Visa
  • IR-1/CR-1 Visa
  • Tourist, Student, or ESTA/VWP

In short, laws differ by state. Your state may permit a foreign driver’s license for a short period of time. However, based on NC Law, the answer can be a little long.

First, if you are immigrating to the US, just arrived on an immigrant visa (K1, CR1, IR1, etc), or are adjusting status (I-485), you are probably considered a Resident of NC or some other US State and you would be held to “residency standards.” An NC Resident should have an NC Driver’s License within 6 months of moving to the US. Additionally, not having a US-Based License could easily be deemed by law enforcement as having ZERO driver’s License, and can easily give an immigrant spouse an NOL or No Operator’s license violation.

Second, don’t forget the car insurance. If you are uninsured, that can be a ticket-able matter.

Third, please know the local laws. Speeding, Driving too Slow, Passing a School Bus, NOT REDUCING SPEED in a School Zone during School Hours, there are a number of local laws that may be unfamiliar to a foreign national spouse, and they can easily / quickly get you in trouble.

So, should a foreign spouse drive with a foreign driver’s license, no, and try to avoid it wherever possible. You should contact the local DMV to see if the immigrant spouse is eligible for a State Driver’s License.


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