International Driver’s License (IDP) in Canada

In Canada, only persons with government-issued licenses have legal rights to drive a car. The law requires that drivers always go about with their licenses while driving. This gives you the legal freedom to drive about in Canada.

Do you have an international driver’s license, and wondering if you can use it around Canada? Read on to find out!

What is an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

IDP for short, the International Driving Permit is a document that allows a person to drive in a foreign country. An IDP translates your license into English and French. This document authorizes Canadian visitors to drive in Canada for a specific duration, which varies across provinces and territories.

Canadian visitors should take note, however, that the IDP can only be requested in their home countries, and not in Canada. Get more information from a particular province you wish to drive in to be sure your IDP covers you.

Before You Visit Canada…

Before landing in Canada, you need to go through Canadian driving rules and road signs. These may be somewhat different from what holds in your home country. Some driving lessons may come handy – particularly for winter driving.

Also, before you exit your home country, get an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). This strikes out the additional hassles involved in translating your license from your local language to English.

French licenses are only acceptable in select provinces.

That said, a copy of your driving records, issued by the relevant licensing authority in your home country, will be needed. This can help boost your driving experience credits when swapping your license.

Using a Foreign License in Canada

Visitors with a foreign government-issued license, you may be allowed to drive around with it – albeit for a limited time.

If you are in Canada and wish to use a license issued by your home country, you may also need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your home government before coming over to Canada.

Obtaining a Canadian driver’s license entails some processes which vary across territories and provinces. It may also consider your driving history.

The processes may include:

  • A theoretical test in road usage, and associated rules – a study guide may come handy here
  • Scheduled driving tests

There a truckload of study resources and online lessons that can help you ace your driving tests with relative ease. After obtaining your license, you will need a routine renewal to sustain its validity. The expiry date is clearly stated on your license.

For how long can I use my foreign license?

Newcomers with a foreign license can still use their driver’s license but for between 60 to 90 days – based on your province.

Regardless of residence, the first step to obtaining a license is to present evidence of your home-country license at a local driving test center. Driving experience, valid personal identification, and applicable fees are other requirements.

What are the steps to obtaining a first-time Canadian International driver’s license?

Many provinces require that you undergo a Graduate Licensing Program. Typically, the process entails three processes, including:

  1. Knowledge-based written exam and, in some cases, an eye test. Successful applicants are issued Learner’s Permits.

Noteworthily, this permit does not equal a license. With a learner’s permit, you need to always have someone with a driver’s license in the car with you while driving – else, legal sanctions.

  1. Following your first practice year, you may be expected to undertake a road test for an intermediate driver permit. With this permit, you are qualified to drive alone.

The use of electronic gadgets is, however, prohibited at this stage – not even hands-free.

  1. Following your first two to three years of driving experience, you may qualify to take another test for a full license.

Take note, however, that the timing varies across provinces and territories.


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