Do I Keep My U.S. Driver’s License?

Once you are the proud owner of an Italian driver’s license, you may be asking yourself “Do I keep my U.S. driver’s license?” I must stress, and add a disclaimer, these are only my opinions and thoughts, and you are responsible for following the laws specific to your own situation.

Once you become a resident of Italy, and after your first year, you are required by law to be driving under the authority of an Italian driver’s license. Then, you will have a decision to make regarding your state driver’s license from the U.S. If you are maintaining a residence (especially if you own property) back in the U.S., along with your Italian residency, it might make an easier argument for keeping your U.S. driver’s license. If you don’t have a residence or own property back in the States, you might be walking on shaky ground if you renew your U.S. driver’s license. Many states expect you to surrender your license when you have established residency in another state or another country, and after having obtained a license in your new state or country. Some states even require that you sign a statement, when renewing a license, that you are not resident elsewhere.

If in doubt, consult your state’s department of motor vehicles and/or an attorney. You don’t want to be getting yourself into trouble just because you want to have a U.S. driver’s license in your back pocket, yet you have been “long gone” as a resident of a state. I would also be concerned that maintaining a U.S. license could give further reason for a state to claim you as a resident and hold you accountable to state income tax (again, consult a tax attorney to legally compliant). And, there is the issue of jury duty, and voter registration to consider.

In Italy the police are only concerned with whether you have an Italian driver’s license after your first year’s residency anniversary. But, back in the States it could be a different story. I know many American expats living abroad cringe at the thought of surrendering a U.S. driver’s license. But, it will all be okay, and you can use your Italian driver’s license to drive in the States (preferably along with an International license, which translates your Italian license).

And, should you decide to return to the States to live after your license there has expired, just remember that studying for a written exam, and taking a practical driving exam (if required) will be a piece of cake after going through the arduous experience here in Italy!