Answer: Yes – Under certain conditions.

In Ohio, a driver who is a resident of another country and who is a bona fide tourist visiting the United States may drive up to one year with their own national license plates (registration tags) on their vehicle and with their own driver’s license.  When US citizens visit foreign countries, they too may drive under the same conditions.(Digest of Ohio Motor Vehicle Laws)

These reciprocal privileges are made possible by the United Nations International Convention on Road Traffic (Geneva 1949).  A list of the countries who have reciprocity under this U.N. Convention can be found here.  Note that although China is not listed as a participant, the Republic of China did sign the Treaty in 1969 and does have reciprocity with the United States. (See Participant List, Note 3). 

Every visiting motorist from a ratifying country should also carry an International Driving Permit, but this is not obligatory.(Digest of Ohio Motor Vehicle Laws).  

It may, however, be helpful to have an International Driving Permit if stopped by Ohio police.  Some local police might not be familiar with the laws relating to foreign driver’s licenses.  Additionally, a language barrier may make it difficult to communicate with local police.  An international driver’s permit may help to clear up confusion if a driver is stopped. 

If your country does not have reciprocal privileges with the United States, you must visit an Ohio BMV driver license exam station to obtain an Ohio driver’s license. 

If you have been stopped or charged with no operator’s license due to confusion surrounding your international driver’s license, talk to one of our Ohio traffic attorneys about your case.  If you have a valid license in your home country, have been in the U.S. for less than one year, and your home country has reciprocity with the U.S., an attorney may be able to help get your no operators charge dismissed.  

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