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Foreign Driver's Licenses

Question:

I've been driving to RSA since 1988. Most of the time whenever I am asked for my license by traffic police, I show my USA driving license. Since the last 20 years, I've never been questioned that my USA license is invalid and I need an International Driving Permit. About 2 months ago I was stopped by traffic police near Groot Marico and the traffic policeman, upon inspecting my USA license, told me that my USA license was not valid for driving in RSA and advised that I need International Driving Permit. I was told that one can use their countries' driving license for 6 months. Please let me know what exactly the law says about using foreign licenses. If this is true, why do all car rental agencies accept foreign licenses prior to handing over keys for rental cars?

Answer:

Section 23 of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 provides that a driving license issued in any other country (in other words a foreign license) shall be deemed to be a license for the purposes of driving in South Africa and the period in respect of which the license shall remain valid to drive in SA, shall be as prescribed. This section is supported by Regulation 110 (1) which states that a foreign driving license shall be valid to drive in SA if:

  1. (i) The license has been issued in an official language of SA; or (ii) A certificate of authenticity or validity issued in an official language of SA by a competent authority, or a translation of that license in an official SA language, is attached to the license.
  2. The license contains or has attached to it a photograph and the signature of the license holder.

These provisions of the Act clearly permit a person to drive in SA with his/her foreign driving license, provided the license meets the above requirements. The license will be valid for the period that is stated on the license itself (if a time period is listed). In your case, as a visitor to SA, you are certainly allowed to drive with your USA license. The time period for which your license will be valid in SA will be stipulated on your license itself (if any). However, as a regular visitor to SA, it is advisable that you use an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in SA, as this document is easily identifiable by our traffic officials and will prevent you from encountering any possible problems with them. Many car rental companies (as a policy) now require an IDP when renting cars to foreign visitors as this will ensure compliance with their insurance requirements regarding the rented vehicle. However, some car rental companies will easily accept a foreign license as it may not be a requirement in terms of insurance the position is subjective to each individual car rental company.

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