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Driving with US driver's licence?


I've been residing in Brussels for the past year and did not yet exchange my US driver's licence. Haven't been stopped yet (knock on wood!) and I bought and registered the car, so far without any problems. I would be happy to exchange the licence, but my issue is -- how will I drive in the US? I go back frequently, I drive either my own car there or I rent (depending on location), and when I asked a lawyer friend in my home state, he told me it would actually be ILLEGAL for me, as the resident of my state, to drive there on a foreign driver's licence. So it seems like a catch 22... I have to break the rules, either in Belgium or the US. Anyone has a similar experience? Many thanks!


Once you have been resident here for more than 6 months, you need to get a Belgian driving licence. The reality is that it's unlikely that you'll ever have a problem. If you intend to be here for a couple of years or more, I'd change it. It is after all the law.

However, your bigger issue may be your insurance, it may be invalid if you are not legally entitled to drive here.

And as for your lawyer friend, well, it won't be illegal for you to drive there as you are not resident there, you are resident here.

Jul 4, 2016 11:05

"it won't be illegal for you to drive there as you are not resident there, you are resident here"
True, but the US license is more than a simple driving license, it serves as your official ID card in the States. So you need to have it with you every time you go back.
You have 2 options:
-You can exchange it for a Belgian license, but every time you travel back to the States you would have to go to your commune and get it back and return it again once you're back. Ridiculously inefficient.
-You can exchange it for a Belgian license and next time you go to the US, you contact the DMV in your state and declare your license lost. They send you a new one which you can keep. Problem solved.

Jul 4, 2016 11:27

I agree with Anon, you cannot be resident in two places so, presuming that you are registered as a resident in Brussels, you cannot still be a RESIDENT of your US state any more than you could if you had moved to another US state.

The accepted international rule is that you are resident in the (national) state where you spend more than 182 nights a year, or, if you do not spend more than 182 nights a year in any one state then in the state where you spend the highest number of nights.

Jul 4, 2016 11:33

You need the license from where you are resident, simple as that. As a Belgian resident visiting the US, as seems to be the case, you can drive on your Belgian licence.

Jul 4, 2016 12:47

How do you deal with jury duty if you're still a resident of your state back in the USA? Funny thing was, first year I moved to Belgium, I got a notice to show up for jury duty. I had to send a letter testifying that I now lived in Belgium. So officially speaking, I'm no longer a bona fida resident of my state.

However, I still have a driver's license from my state. I don't have a car in Belgium, but have rented a car numerous times in Europe with my US DL and haven't had a problem

Also, not giving up my US DL as it seems that when you rent cars under your USA address/driver's license, you tend to get unlimited miles and cheaper rates with rental cars.

But I know a couple of other Americans who have gone back to the USA, claimed that they lost their DL, and they got a new DL and that way they could have two copies of it.

In fact, when I was traveling in the USA and my state stopped issuing two ID's (state ID and driver's license), I simply went in, told them that I lost my DL, and got a new one. This way I had two id's when traveling and once I left my DL in my rental car, so good thing I had my other license in my briefcase to show the TSA.

Jul 5, 2016 08:16

I'm wondering what happens when the American has a serious accident and is found to be a Belgian resident driving on an invalid licence? I'm also slightly mystified as to why anybody would think they get additional benefits when hiring a car with a US licence, but hey ho...

Jul 5, 2016 10:31


Exactly the same thing as would happen to a Belgian caught driving without a licence AND without insurance, except that deportation would become a possibility too, particularly if the accident was both serious in itself and had serious consequences.

Jul 5, 2016 11:34

It's all a bit silly considering that exchanging licences is pretty darn painless and it can be used in the US with no issues. Having said that, there is a surprising number of Americans around Europe who are here entirely illegally. Bit tricky changing your licence then.

Jul 5, 2016 12:10

As a stop-gap, perhaps you purchase the IDP (international driving permit) from US? I think only two agencies offer official IDP - AAA and NAC. Here's more info from DMV:

I don't know how long you plan to stay in Belgium or any other factors but the IDP is valid for one year. I attempted to rent a motorbike in Brussels and the company required it in addition to the US license.

Jul 7, 2016 12:25