TN Visa & U.S. Driver's License

Question: Now that I have a TN visa, do I need to obtain a new driver’s license in order to drive in the U.S.?

Reply: Whether you may continue to use your Canadian or Mexican issued license depends on the applicable driver license laws and regulations of the state where you currently reside.

Some U.S. states will honor valid foreign driver licenses from certain countries. However, the authorization to drive in a particular state based on a foreign driver license may be limited, e.g. to a one-year period. For extended periods of stay, TN visa holders may be required to obtain a driver’s license issued from the state’s motor vehicle department. In many cases, a foreign driver license from Canada or Mexico may be converted to a state license without taking a road test. See, e.g. Massachusetts.

Other states such as New York recognize foreign driver licenses, but require that individuals obtain a NY license upon meeting NY state resident requirements. New York law defines a resident as a person who lives in NYS with “the intention of making it a fixed and permanent abode.” The law presumes that an individual is a resident of NYS if he/she lives in NY for a period of at least ninety days. Although a TN visa worker may not possess immigrant intent for purposes of U.S. immigration law, under NY law a TN visa worker may be considered a resident of NYS for purposes of NY’s driver’s licensing requirement.

As each state has its own driver’s license rules, TN visa workers should contact the state’s motor vehicle department to determine if they are required to obtain a state driver’s license. Much of this information will be available on the state’s motor vehicle department website.