How to translate your driver’s license for the DMV

How to Translate Your Driver’s License for the DMV

Published:   |  Updated:   |  Posted in: Driving License
How to Translate Your Driver’s License for the DMV

A driver’s license is one of the most essential documents for Americans. They need it to legally drive cars on the road or demonstrate their competency in handling four-wheelers. But a driver’s license is also the most crucial ID document in the United States. That’s why over 220 million US citizens have it today, and if you plan to move to the US in the future, you may need one, too.

What happens when you visit America with a driver’s license from a different country? Can you handle a vehicle on American soil with a domestic driver’s license? Yes, a domestic driver’s license is acceptable in the US, but only if you’ve translated it from your native country’s language into good old English.

In this blog, you’ll learn step-by-step how to translate your driver’s license for the DMV. By hiring certified translators beforehand, you can make your visit to the nearest DMV an hour-long trip.

Introducing the DMV

When it comes to registering your car and obtaining your driver’s license, the place you’ll always go to is the DMV. The term “DMV” stands for the Department of Motor Vehicles, but some states interpret the D as Division or replace it with a B for Bureau. The local DMV will take care of driver licensing in every state except Hawaii. So, if you are traveling to the US, you must take advantage of a visit to this sacred site.

Unfortunately, the DMV has a muddled reputation due to uncooperative staff and waiting lines that never get any shorter. That’s why you should check a local DMV’s Google ratings. See what people are saying about it. This way, you can get your new driver’s license very quickly.

Interesting fact! Do you know that driver’s licenses existed before the DMV? The first DMV was established in 1915 when it replaced SOS as the primary agency to issue driver’s licenses. But licenses existed in 1915; they had been around since 1903.

Benefits of a Translated Driver’s License

A driver’s license isn’t just necessary to drive a car; it also proves that you are competent enough to take the wheel if the occasion arises. Similarly, translating your driver’s license shows the DMV that you were a competent driver back in the Old Country.

In this section, you’ll find the primary reasons why someone would need a translated driver’s license. Our focus will be on the first benefit i.e., translating your driver’s license for the DMV.

  1. Compliance: In some states, a translated domestic driver’s license can help you get a new one quickly in the United States.
  2. Job: Maybe your new job in America requires you to have a driver’s license. You need to translate your driver’s license when submitting your US visa application.
  3. Identification: As we’ve explained, the driver’s license is like your ID. You may show it to the cops, take it to work, and present it whenever someone needs to identify you.
  4. Universality: America is a car-centric country, and 90% of US adults drive different vehicles, most importantly, a car. There’s no better option for cruising your way through the heartland of the US than in your car.
  5. Driving Test: When you appear for your driver’s test to get a state-issued driver’s permit, ensure you have a valid translation of your previous driver’s license. It’ll tell the authorities your driving qualifications, restrictions, and other necessary information.

Hopefully, you now understand why translating your homeland-issued driver’s license is vital if you plan to travel to the United States anytime soon. Next, you will learn how to drive around the US as a foreigner.

Driving a Vehicle in the US as a Foreigner

In the 20th century, globalization led the civilized world to introduce the concept of IDP, or what we call an International Driving Permit. The most intelligent minds in the world realized how people doing business around the globe would have to translate their domestic driver’s licenses into many languages. So, an IDP resolves this issue by translating that thing into 10 to 12 languages.

Almost 180 countries consider IDPs valid; in countries like the US, an IDP is valid for a year. However, some other countries have recognized its validity for three years. But even if you have an IDP, you’ll have to keep the original domestic driver’s license with you all the time when driving in the US.

So, driving a vehicle in the US can mean any of the following three scenarios:

Scenario #1

  • You have a driver’s license from your country of origin and an IDP.

Many states will let you on the street with these two documents. You’re a licensed driver for one year with an IDP. However, it is still advisable to visit the local DMV and get a US-issued driver’s license ASAP.

Scenario #2

  • You only have a driver’s license from your home country.

Hire credible translators to translate your domestic driver’s license into English. Then, you can get a driver’s license after passing the driving skills test, written exam, and vision screening.

Scenario #3

  • You have neither a driver’s license nor an IDP.

In this case, you’ll have to get a learner’s permit first. Showcase your driving skills at a local DMV to get a US-issued driver’s license.

Now, let’s look into the requirements for translating your domestic driver’s license for the DMV.

Driver’s License Translation Requirements

Okay, we’ve discussed why and when you’d need a translated driver’s license. In this section, you’ll find the ABCs of driver’s license translation. The problem with these requirements is pretty telltale. States have different requirements, and it’s a little difficult to generalize them for the audience. In some states, the local DMV’s website may show vague information. In others, the DMV may be picky about the documents you must translate and submit. They may also require a translation accuracy certificate.

That’s why visiting the nearest DMV and asking the staff about their requirements is the right idea. But if you insist, here’s what the DMV generally demands from foreigners trying to translate driver’s licenses. Please go through these requirements carefully and then double-verify everything at your local DMV:

  • You must be of age.
  • You must work with certified translators.
  • You must get your translated license notarized as well.
  • You must bring the original domestic license along with the new one.
  • Can you submit these documents online or visit the local DMV? It depends on what the local DMV decides.

Important note! Some states, like S. Carolina, have a particular driver’s license translation form. In others, you must hire DMV-approved translators (like Connecticut). New York-bound foreigners must fill out a unique form with precise details to meet the DMV requirements.

It’s time to share a step-by-step process for translating your driver’s license.

A Step-by-Step Process of Translating your Driver’s License

Translating your documents is the first step toward securing a future in the US. The same goes for your driver’s license. So, without further ado, here’s how you can translate your driver’s permit and get the DMV’s permission to put your car in motion:

Step #1: Pay them a Visit

It would be best to visit the local DMV first instead of working with a translator immediately. Ask them about their requirements to ensure you get everything right instead of paying for a worthless translation. Don’t just follow the instructions you find on the DMV’s website, but verify them in person. This is what you should do:

  • Ask the DMV office how exactly you should translate your domestic license.
  • Do you have to fill out a unique form first? Or work with their translators?
  • Do they want you to add specific details to the translated document?

Step #2: Find a Translator

Unless the DMV maintains you should hire specific translators, you can search for professional translators online. Finding someone who can provide you with an incredible translation is easy. You may get overwhelmed by the abundance of translation services available online. This is what you should do:

  • Look for professional translators with enough expertise and experience in this field.
  • Ensure they are ATA-certified and can submit the translation within a day.
  • Look for online reviews to verify the credibility of your translators further.
  • Submit your domestic driver’s license through a secure channel.
  • The translators will submit the output in 24 hours with a translation accuracy certificate.

Step #3: Validate the Translation

In most cases, a certificate of translation accuracy is enough for the DMV. However, in other states, the local DMV office may ask you to notarize the translated license for added validity. It merely adds an extra layer of fraud prevention to a document. Reach out to a notary public who will put a seal and stamp on it, vouching for the translator’s credibility.

However, certified translators can also do this job for you; they will contact a notary public and, for extra charges, get your translated license notarized.

Step #4: Talk to the DMV

Next, you’ll submit this document to the DMV. But here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • Submit the original domestic driver’s license along with the translated version.
  • Ensure you keep copies of both these documents in case they get lost.
  • The DMV office will return the original after determining it’s valid.

Step #5: Get Approval Fast

The final phase is called verification. The DMV will check if the original license is valid. Does its content match the translated document? Then, they will either approve the translated version or issue you a brand-new driver’s license. You can use this document to travel around the country. But remember to renew it after it expires or if you relocate to a different place.

Follow this simple process, and you’ll soon be free to navigate the streets of the United States.


This article explores how to translate your driver’s license for the DMV to drive a car legally in the United States. Converting your domestic driver’s license into lingua franca starts with hiring a certified, ATA-approved translator. Get your translated driver’s license, the translation accuracy certificate, and other relevant documents; take them to the nearest DMV. They will approve the domestic driver’s license or, in some cases, issue you a new one. Now, you can drive a car hassle-free in the US.

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FAQs – Translated Driver’s License

Can I translate my driver’s license on my own?

No, amateurish translations aren’t valid. So, it would help if you didn’t use Google Translate to convert the driver’s license into English. Also, you cannot ask friends or family to do it for you as it’d be a conflict of interest.

What’s an International Driving Permit?

An IDP is a document you’ll get in your home country (the US government won’t issue you one). This doc will serve as an official translation of your driver’s license into ten languages.

How long can you Drive with a Domestic Driver’s License?

An IDP lets you drive around for a year in the US. But if you have a translated driver’s license, it’d be better to replace it after three months and apply for a US-issued one.

Do I need to translate my Driver’s License if it’s in English?

Technically, you don’t have to translate your driver’s license if it’s already in English. But it’d be better to get a US-issued one, especially an International Driving Permit.

How much does a Driver’s License Cost in the US?

A valid state-issued driver’s license can cost between $10 to $89, depending on your state. If you live in Missouri, it has the cheapest driver’s license, but getting one in Washington costs a pretty penny.