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If you’re not a Canadian citizen and you want to drive in Canada, you’ll want to follow some guidelines to assure the safety of yourself, your passengers and other motorists as you learn new regulations and traffic laws.  Visitors to Canada can use their driver’s license without having to get a Canadian license to cover the period of a vacation or other short visit. Though not required, obtaining an International Driving Permit translates your home license into English and French, Canada’s two official languages. This may help when you make inquiries or rent a car.

Immigrants from some countries can simply exchange their driver’s license for a Canadian version, usually with an eye test and short written test, depending on provincial regulations. These countries include:

  • USA
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • France
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Korea
  • Japan

Obtaining a License

Without an existing driver’s license, you will go through the same process that all Canadians go through to become licensed. The protocol varies between provinces.  In Canada, it is the provincial and territorial governments that issue licenses, and with that license you will be able to drive through all of Canada. A list of provincial agencies responsible for licensing drivers is available at the end of this article.

Most provinces have a multi-step system to obtain a license. The new driver typically passes a written test of traffic rules, signs and general motoring safety. This is often accompanied by a vision test to make sure that the driver can safely see the road. Unlike a medical vision test, a driver who uses glasses or contacts is permitted to use these while taking the test. Once the first license step is issued, the new driver is allowed to drive as long as he is accompanied by a fully licensed driver. Gaining experience under controlled conditions, this learning period extends for a predetermined period. In that period, usually after a year, the driver can take a road test to acquire the next level license. This may be the full license in some provinces, or, as in Ontario, it comes with restrictions for a further period. When completed, the driver moves to full license status.

Insurance and Foreign Drivers in Canada



For those who are visiting for short periods, there are no special insurance provisions, as long as the car they are driving is in itself insured. Rental agencies may insist that you add coverage, due to your residency. Checking with the agency in advance is your best bet for current information.

When you’re driving the car of a friend or family member, the person who buys insurance for that car should contact the insuring company and inform them that you will be driving that vehicle. This ensures that insurance coverage extends to your use of the car.

For new residents of Canada, car registration and insurance are connected. You must provide proof of insurance before you can register your car and receive license plates. You can, however, purchase a car without a driver’s license or insurance in most places, though you can’t operate the vehicle legally.

Provincial and Territorial Licensing Agencies

About the Author: Robert Davis

He is an insurance content professional with vast knowledge and a special aptitude and interest in imparting insurance education. He has authored many articles on insurance.

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