An international driving permit is a document that you need to obtain in order to drive a vehicle while abroad. It’s issued by the same authority as the national license and you need to have both to drive legally.
The permit is an easy document to get since you don’t need to take or pass any tests and there’s only a small fee involved. There are a few different types of permits out there and it’s important to know the differences between them before applying for one.
How to Apply for an IDP?
It’s possible to get an international driving permit online without having to jump through any hoops if you already have a driving license. There’s also a small fee you’ll need to cover and you’ll need to provide two photos as you would have for a passport.
It takes about a week for a permit to arrive at your address, regardless of what type of permit you’re getting, and after it arrives you’re free to drive abroad as long all of your other documents are in order as well.
Types of Permits Based on Expiration
There are two types of permits based on how long they are valid. An international permit can last a year or it can last 3 years before it needs to be renewed. Countries that require you to have the later version are rare – in Europe, it’s only Germany and Bosnia Hercegovina.
Once your permit expires it’s no longer valid and you’ll need to renew it. This can be done online as well and if you plan to send some documents abroad in order to do so, you’ll need to do it via a special currier.
How Different Types of International Permits Were Set Up?
International permits as we know them today came to be in 1946 when an international convention set them up as a document recognized by the countries that signed a treaty. At this point, 150 countries are a part of that treaty and they all recognize the permit.
The convention also set up different types of permits covering different vehicles based on how much they weigh and how many passengers they can take on board. For the most part, this makes a distinction between vehicles used for personal and professional purposes.
The first category covers the use of motorcycles. It defines motorcycles are vehicles that have a cubic capacity of 125 cm3 or less. A motorcycle also can’t have more than 11 KW of power. This is what’s considered a light motorcycle and the tests and medical requirements for driving it are the simplest compared to other licenses.
A person with this type of national license can drive a motorcycle and no other vehicle. Other categories cover both the vehicle they are created for and all other vehicles of lesser categories. As is the case with any other international permit, you’ll need a national license to make it valid.
This is the type of permit you’ll need to drive motor vehicles other than those mentioned above, that have an overall mass of less than 3500 kg and less than 8 seats excluding that of a driver. It also allows for a vehicle to have a trailer that can’t weigh more than 750 kg and a vehicle and a trailer combined can’t exceed 3500 kg.
This will cover most cars that are made for personal use and therefore the needs of most drivers. Those who have a permit to drive these vehicles can also drive vehicles mentioned in category A.
Category C permit covers motor vehicles that are heavier than those mentioned in category B. It applies to vehicles that weigh more than 3500 kg and less than 7500 kg. This permit also allows you to have a trailer but it can’t be heavier than 750 kg and the allowed mass of a vehicle includes the weight of the trailer.
This permit covers trucks and when it comes to international permits chances are that those are obtained for professional use. When that’s the case, it’s usually the employer obtaining the license for their drivers.
D category is made for vehicles that have more than 8 seats excluding that of a driver. This license doesn’t specify the weight of the vehicle involved since it’s a license mostly issued for bus drivers and therefore the weight of the vehicle is less important.
In many cases, national laws require a person to have another lower category permit for a designated period of time before they are allowed to take additional tests qualifying them to drive a bus and therefore to obtain a category D license. It’s also not issued to those who have had major traffic violations with other categories.
Lastly, the E category is made for vehicles that have a trailer and whose weight is between 7500 kg and 12.000 including the trailer. This license is made for long-haul truckers. Depending on which country is issuing a national license you’ll also need to have at least some experience driving smaller vehicles before applying for this one.
An international permit, as well as a national license, need to specify all the categories that a holder is licensed to operate. The countries that accept an international permit also accept this classification of vehicle categories.
What Happens When You Don’t Have a Permit?
If you’re caught without a permit you can get a fine or you can have your vehicle impounded. Things are usually worse for a driver if they are caught without a permit while making some other traffic violation.
The same goes for those who are caught driving a vehicle for which they don’t have a proper permit category. The types of international permits are standardized and for the most part, a driver shouldn’t have too much trouble with finding the one they need. It doesn’t hurt to ask if you’re not sure, and the institution issuing the license should know.