• How foreigners and NRIs can get driving license in India

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    Driving in India requires a valid driving license issued by the Regional Transport Office (RTO) in India. This is applicable for NRIs and foreigners as well. Even if they have a driving license in their home/residing countries, they must obtain a license in India if they wish to drive their motor vehicles within India. RTOs have a specific set of guidelines for issuing driving licenses to drivers from foreign countries. Those who already have driving licenses in their home countries will not have much difficulty when it comes to getting a driving license. Let’s take a detailed look at the different aspects of driving licenses for NRIs and foreigners.

    Guidelines for NRIs and Foreigners

    There are people who come to India from other countries for professional as well as personal reasons. These visitors can get driving license in India according to Section 9(3)(a)(iii) of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988. Once they obtain the license, they can drive their vehicles throughout the country without any hassles. Before getting a license, the following factors must be taken into consideration:

    • NRIs and foreigners cannot use their home/residing country license to drive on Indian roads.
    • An international driving license is valid in India, but the validity is restricted to a maximum of one year.
    • NRIs and foreigners who wish to reside in India for more than one year must apply for an Indian driving license.
    • Those who already have driving licenses in their home countries can apply for a driving license in India without getting a learner’s permit.
    • Applicants who wish to get a driving license can apply for it in their nearest RTOs.
    • The applicant must be at least 18 years of age in order to obtain a driving license in India.

    Documents required for driving license application

    If you are a foreign national or an NRI looking for a driving license in India, you can visit the RTO directly and apply for a license. While direct application is possible, some people might find it a hassle to go through all the paperwork on their own. In this case, they can opt for the service of a driving school. They will help you file the application and guide you on the paperwork in exchange for a small fee. Some of the documents required for filing a license application are listed as follows:

    • Duly filled application form
    • Passport sized photographs
    • Proof of identity or age proof
    • Residential permit
    • Medical fitness certificate
    • Copy of existing license in home country

    If you are applying for a license for the first time ever (in any country), you need to get a learner’s permit first and then apply for a permanent license.

    How to apply

    Once you have collected all the documents in the list given above, you may proceed with the application process. There are different types of vehicle licenses (two-wheeler, light motor vehicle, heavy motor vehicle, etc.) in India, and you need to pick the right vehicle type based on your requirements. The procedure might slightly differ based on the type of vehicle chosen. You may visit the RTO directly and submit all the documents along with the application form. The necessary fee must be paid by the applicant along with these documents. Following the submission, an officer will verify all the submitted documents and request modifications if necessary. In many RTOs, it is no longer necessary to take a driving test if you already have a license in your home country. However, if a driving test is required, you need to clear the test before the license is issued.

    Why you must have Indian driving license

    Foreigners and NRIs who reside temporarily in India often come across a situation where they need to drive a vehicle. If you are a tourist visiting India only for a few days, you don’t have to go through the trouble of getting a driving license. However, if you are going to live in India for a while, it is better to have a valid license to take care of your everyday commute. If you are caught driving a vehicle without a valid license, the traffic police may impose some penalties on you. Repeat offenses could result in serious penalties. Some people might think that they can drive in India with the licenses issued in their home countries. As noted earlier, this is not true. You need to have a valid Indian driving license or international driving license if you wish to drive on Indian roads.

    Guidelines regarding vehicles

    If you wish to import your personal vehicle from your home country to drive here in India, it could be a very expensive, time-consuming affair. You must pay for import duties, which could even be more than the actual value of the car. Re-registering your vehicle in India from your home country is another time-consuming and expensive process you may have to come across. Most importantly, Indian cars have the steering wheel on the right-hand side. If you are from a country with left-hand driving system, your vehicle may not be road legal in India. Considering these hassles, it is better to buy a new or used vehicle in India for an affordable price.

    Things to note while driving in India

    If you are a foreigner looking forward to driving in India, you must first consider the following things:

    • Indian roads in major cities can be extremely congested due to the high population of the country.
    • The quality of Indian roads in some cities and towns may not be as great as those in some developed nations.
    • You must follow traffic rules and road safety norms if you wish to avoid the chaos on Indian roads.
    • Drunk driving is an extremely serious offense in India that could attract serious penalties including jail time.
    • You must carry all your documents including driving license, registration certificate, insurance certificate, etc., while driving on Indian roads.


    In many cases, foreigners and NRIs get driving licenses in India for professional purposes. There are also cases where foreigners enjoy a leisure trip and drive to certain parts of India. No matter what your reason is, you need to have a valid driving license before you can drive a vehicle in India. The process given above is mostly hassle-free. However, you may have to wait for a while before you get the required license.

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