Note: all information and links about military spouses and driver’s licenses is accurate as of 28 July 2020. However, this is not legal advice. If you’re not sure about the rules in your state, use the links listed below to verify the regulations or check with your base legal office.
It’s the big question: do I need to get a new driver’s license when we PCS to a new state? The good news is that most of the time the answer is no. The bad news is that there are still states that don’t give exemptions to military spouses. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) allows military spouses to maintain their driver’s license in their state of residence. There is nothing in the MSRRA that addresses driver’s licenses, and I don’t see any provisions that could be used to support that argument.
Check out my Pinterest Board: PCS Resources/Military Moving!
Alabama: An Alabama driver’s license is not required for any non-resident at least 16 years old who has in his/her immediate possession a valid drivers license issued in his/her home state or country. This includes military personnel from other states and their families stationed in Alabama, even though their assignment in Alabama may be of long duration.
Alaska: If you are active duty, stationed in Alaska, and choose to remain a resident of another state, you are not required to obtain a license in Alaska, nor is your spouse. However, your dependents are required to surrender their out of state license and obtain a license in Alaska.
source: http://doa.alaska.gov/dmv/akol/military.htm (click on the “stationed in Alaska” tab)
Arizona: Arizona states “Active duty military personnel based in Arizona who qualify for exemption under the Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2003 are not considered Arizona residents.” They do not mention an exemption for military spouses.
Arkansas: “The following persons are exempt from licensing under this chapter: …
(3) A nonresident who is at least sixteen (16) years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid noncommercial driver’s license issued to him or her in his or her home state or country may operate a motor vehicle in this state only as a noncommercial driver;
(4) A nonresident who is at least eighteen (18) years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid commercial driver’s license issued to him or her by his or her home state or country may operate a motor vehicle in this state as a noncommercial driver or may operate a commercial motor vehicle as provided by § 27-23-123;”
source: http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/arcode/Default.asp, as linked to from the Arkansas Legislative homepage https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/
California: “Visitors over 18 years old with a valid driver license from their home state or country may drive in California without getting a California driver license as long as their home state driver license is valid.” and “An NRM (non-resident military) service member on active duty in California and spouse who lives with the service member qualifies for the NRM vehicle license fee (VLF) exemption on any vehicle or trailer coach”
Colorado: “Active duty U.S. military personnel and their spouses are exempt from obtaining a Colorado driver license when they have a valid driver license issued by another state. Military personnel on active duty in Colorado and who claim another state as their home state of residence may register their vehicle(s) in Colorado.”
Connecticut: “Military personnel and dependents stationed in Connecticut are not required to obtain a Connecticut license”
Delaware: “Members in the military service and their dependents are not required to obtain Delaware driver licenses and vehicle registrations until 60 days after separation from the service.”
District of Columbia: So, DC is just different. They appear to have slightly different rules for your driver’s license and your vehicle. Driver’s licenses appear to have reciprocity without doing anything, but if you live in DC, you’ll want to register your vehicle as a non-resident vehicle in order to avoid hefty parking fines.
US Military Personnel on Active Duty:
This category includes military personnel on active duty, their spouses, and their minor dependents under 21 years of age, provided the military member signs an affidavit stating the dependent or spouse resides at the same address in the District as the military member.
“If you have lived in the District of Columbia for 30 days or more and you drive a vehicle in public, you must get a driver license from DC DMV—unless you are a student, diplomat, active military member, part-time resident, member of Congress, or presidential appointee and are thus eligible for driving privilege reciprocity with your home state or jurisdiction.
“Reciprocity permits for active duty military personnel are valid for 1 year and are renewable. To be eligible you need:
Valid military identification or military orders for military member, dependent, or spouse
- A valid out-of-state driver license
- A valid out-of-state vehicle registration in the name of the active duty military member, dependent, or spouse
- Proof of insurance in the name of the active duty military member, dependent, or spouse, as required by the issuing registration
- Proof of District residency. You will need 1 document from the list of proofs available at the link below:
- Proof of Current District of Columbia Residency “
Florida: “Military service members and their families who live and drive in Florida, may do so with a valid out-of-state driver license. There is no requirement to obtain a Florida driver license when military and their family members move to Florida, take a job, or enroll their children in public schools.”
source: https://www.flhsmv.gov/military/ (click on the link that says “Am I required to obtain a Florida Driver License when I move to the state?”)
Georgia: No exemption found.
Hawaii: There are several anecdotal references to Hawaii not requiring military spouses to obtain a Hawaii driver’s license, but I can not find the statute.
Idaho: “Members of the U.S. Military on active duty and their dependents who hold a valid driver’s license from another state and who claim residency in that state, are not required to obtain an Idaho driver’s license.”
source: http://itd.idaho.gov/itddmv/ (click on link that says Drive’s License / ID Cards and scroll down!)
Illinois: “You may obtain an Illinois driver’s license or identification card only if you are becoming a legal resident of Illinois. If you have a valid driver’s license from another state or country, you may use it to drive in Illinois throughout your stay (if you do not plan to become a permanent resident of this state).”
Indiana: “For the purposes of obtaining a driver’s license, learner’s permit, or identification card, the following persons living in Indiana solely for any of the following reasons are not considered to be residents of Indiana:
- Educational purposes
- Active duty in the Armed Forces
- Temporary employment “
Iowa: No exemption found.
Kansas: “The following people can drive on a valid license as long as they are at least 16 years old: Military – Members of the Armed Forces on active duty or members of foreign military on temporary duty with the Armed Forces, as well as their spouse and children.”
“For the purposes of the motor vehicle drivers’ license act any person who owns, rents or leases real estate in Kansas as such person’s residence and engages in a trade, business or profession within Kansas or registers to vote in Kansas or enrolls such person’s children in a school in this state or purchases Kansas registration for a motor vehicle, shall be deemed a resident of the state of Kansas 90 days after the conditions stated in this subsection commence, except that military personnel on active duty and their military dependents who are residents of another state, shall not be considered residents of the state of Kansas for the purpose of this act;
Kentucky: No exemption found.
Louisiana: “A resident dependent of any person on active duty with the armed forces of the United States and stationed within Louisiana but who is domiciled in another state and who has in his immediate possession both a valid license issued to him by his home state and a current military dependent identification card, hereafter in this Section referred to as a military dependent, shall be permitted to drive a motor vehicle in this state without examination or Louisiana license during the period of residency with the supporting member of the armed forces while stationed in Louisiana and for not more than ninety days thereafter.”
Maine: “The following people are exempt from the license requirements of this chapter: …
A spouse of a member of the United States Armed Forces while accompanying that member on active duty assignment to this State, and who is not a resident of this State and who has a valid license issued by another jurisdiction; and
Maryland: ” The licensing requirements of this title do not apply to: …
(7) A member of the armed forces of the United States or of the United States Public Health Service who is serving on active duty and any dependent of the member, if:
(i) The driver has with him a license to drive issued to him by his state of domicile; and
(ii) The license authorizes the driver to drive in his state of domicile vehicles of the class he is driving in this State;”
Michigan: I can not find language that specifically applies to military spouses. Here’s what I can find: “You may drive in Michigan with an out-of-state driver license as long as the license is valid, and you are not a Michigan resident.” I can’t say what the courts would rule, but I would argue that a military spouse who maintains their residence elsewhere under the MSRRA would fall under this category.
Minnesota: “If you work for the United States Armed Forces, or you are a family member of someone in the Armed Forces stationed in Minnesota, and hold a valid out-of-state driver’s license, you do not need to obtain a Minnesota license.”
source: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/Pages/dvs-content-detail.aspx?pageID=551&pageTitle=Driver%27s%20License%20-%20Class%20D%20%E2%80%93%20New%20Resident (click on the Frequently Asked Questions link)
Mississippi: “DPS policy permits non-resident military personnel and their family, and any out of state college students to drive in Mississippi provided they hold a valid driver’s license from another state.”
Missouri: No exemption found.
Montana: No exemption found.
Nebraska: No exemption found.
Nevada: “Certain persons are exempted from obtaining a Nevada driver license:
- A nonresident on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces who has a valid license issued by his or her home state, or such a nonresident’s spouse or dependent child who has a valid license issued by such state.”
New Hampshire: No exemption found.
New Jersey: No exemption found.
New Mexico: No exemption found.
New York: It appears that military dependents may be exempt from the requirement to obtain a New York state drivers license. This is based upon information from local installation legal offices, but I can not find any statutes that agree.
North Carolina: The following are exempt from license hereunder: ….
(3) A nonresident who is at least 16 years of age who has in his immediate possession a valid driver’s license issued to him in his home state or country if the nonresident is operating a motor vehicle in this State in accordance with the license restrictions and vehicle classifications that would be applicable to him under the laws and regulations of his home state or country if he were driving in his home state or country. This exemption specifically applies to nonresident military spouses, regardless of their employment status, who are temporarily residing in North Carolina due to the active duty military orders of a spouse.
North Dakota: North Dakota’s exemption does not appear to apply to the family members of military: ” A person is deemed a resident of North Dakota when they have lived here for 90 days, unless they are a nonresident student, a tourist, or a member of the armed forces.”
Ohio: You have to give Ohio points for being clear about the rules, even if they’re not really great for military family members:
“Nonresident military personnel may use their home state driver license. Family members must obtain an Ohio license.”
source: http://publicsafety.ohio.gov/links/bmv3741.pdf (page 9)
Oklahoma: No exemption found.
Oregon: “Exemptions from requirement to have Oregon license or permit. A person who is granted a driving privilege by this section may exercise the driving privilege described without violation of the requirements under ORS 807.010. A grant of driving privileges to operate a motor vehicle under this section is subject to suspension and revocation the same as other driving privileges granted under the vehicle code. This section is in addition to any exemptions from the vehicle code under ORS 801.026. The following persons are granted the described driving privileges: …
(11) The spouse of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States on active duty who is accompanying the member on assignment in this state may operate a motor vehicle if the spouse has a current out-of-state license or driver permit issued to the spouse by another state in the spouse’s possession.”
Pennsylvania: I can’t find a specific military exemption, but I did find this: “All new residents with out-of-state non-commercial driver’s licenses must obtain a PA Driver’s License within 60 days of establishing Pennsylvania residency.” One way of interpreting this is that you only have to change your driver’s license if you are changing your residency to Pennsylvania.
Rhode Island: No exemption found.
South Carolina: From their military page, “If you and your dependents are temporarily stationed in South Carolina, you are not required to get an SC driver’s license if this is not your home state. But, you must have a valid license from your home state if you want to drive in this state.”
South Dakota: “The following people can drive on a valid license from their home state, so long as they are at least 16 years old.
Military – Members of the Armed Forces on active duty or members of foreign military on temporary duty with the Armed Forces, as well as their spouse and children.”
Tennessee: The following persons are exempt from licensing: “Any active member of the armed forces assigned to a military installation or base located within this state, and the member’s spouse, who have in their immediate possession a valid driver license issued to them in their home state or country; provided, that this exemption only applies if the member of the armed forces has not established Tennessee as the member’s domicile.”
Texas: “The following persons are exempt from the license requirement imposed under this chapter: …
(3) a nonresident on active duty in the armed forces of the United States who holds a license issued by the person’s state or Canadian province of residence; and
(4) a person who is the spouse or dependent child of a nonresident exempt under Subdivision (3) and who holds a license issued by the person’s state or Canadian province of residence.”
Utah: No exemption found.
Vermont: No exemption found.
Virginia: “If you are an active duty member of the Armed Forces stationed in Virginia, you, your spouse and dependent children may drive with a valid driver’s license issued by your home state or country. It is not necessary for you to obtain a Virginia driver’s license.”
Washington: “In addition to persons exempt from driver license requirement pursuant to RCW 46.20.025, the following persons are exempt from the requirement to obtain a valid driver’s license issued to Washington residents under chapter 46.20 RCW: ….
(2) Military personnel who are at least sixteen years of age who have in their immediate possession a valid driver’s license issued by the jurisdiction designated as their home of record. A spouse or dependent of a person who meets the criteria of this subsection is also exempt from the driver’s license requirement, provided that the spouse or dependent has in his or her immediate possession a valid driver’s license issued by the jurisdiction designated as his or her home of record.”
West Virginia: It looks like the laws of West Virginia don’t exempt military folks from getting a license. Here are the people who are exempt (emphasis added):
“If you live in West Virginia and want to drive a motor vehicle on the public roads, you must have a West Virginia driver’s license, unless you are exempt. You must carry your license with you when you drive.
Who is Exempt?
- Any person operating a motor vehicle in the armed services of the United States in the performance of official duties.
- A nonresident who is at least 16 years old and has a valid driver’s license from another state or country (limited to 90 days in a calendar year).
- A nonresident who is attending a West Virginia college or university and has a valid license from another state
If you know of another provision, please let me know!
Wisconsin: no exemption found
Wyoming: “The following persons are exempt from the licensing requirement under this act: …
(iii) A nonresident on active duty in the armed forces of the United States who has a valid license issued by his state of residence and the nonresident’s spouse or dependent son or daughter who has a valid license issued by the person’s state of residence;”
One of the hardest things about knowing driver’s license laws is that the specific military exemptions are often hard to find. Unfortunately, it isn’t really wise to rely on word-of-mouth advice on a topic this serious. While most law enforcement officials would probably give you a warning and inform you of the actual laws, it is better to be sure that you know the laws in the first place.
As always, if you see something here that conflicts with the information you have, please let me know. If you know of a source that I don’t have, share so I can spread the knowledge.
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