Support our mission

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — If you’re an overseas Defense Department employee trying to renew a stateside driver’s license, even an expired one, your life is going to be a lot simpler if you’re wearing a uniform.

Not as much if you’re a DOD civilian.

And probably not at all if you’re a DOD civilian who let that state license expire.

All states have measures in place to honor a driver’s license until the servicemember returns home.

“If your driver’s license expires while you’re overseas, and you’re staying overseas, you don’t have to worry about renewing it until you go back to the state,” said Master Sgt. Jeff Loftin, 18th Wing spokesman at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Servicemembers who want to keep their stateside licenses current anyway can apply online or by mail, he added.

There’s even a simple, one-stop Web site — — likely to provide all needed information for each state and Washington, D.C., he said.

On Marine bases in Japan, “servicemembers can always contact the Marine Corps Bases Japan Safety Office or visit their state’s department of motor vehicles Web site for information on their state’s licensing requirements,” said Gunnery Sgt. Chuck Albrecht, a public affairs spokesman.

“It is up to the individual to contact his or her state’s department of motor vehicles prior to the expiration of his or her stateside driver’s license,” he said. “Requirements vary from state to state. Some can be renewed through the mail … some require a photo.”

A dependent or civilian living overseas should contact that state’s motor vehicle department about renewing a still-valid stateside license. Most states allow for renewals by mail or online. Some require certified eye exams and other documents; others require little more than filling out a few forms and paying a renewal fee.

Again, may contain all the information needed. A private company sponsors the Web site, which has become an authority on stateside vehicle registration and driver licensing information. The site is supported by advertising, but there is no charge for the information.

Civilian Defense Department employees or dependents returning to America with an expired state license may have to jump through more hoops. In fact, some states require returning civilians seeking new licenses to establish state residency and undergo written and road tests.

Rules for obtaining stateside licenses for persons who have POV licenses but have never had a stateside one, or who have a POV license and didn’t renew their stateside one in the time required, vary by state.

For example, servicemembers who have a license issued by the U.S. Armed Forces may drive in New York for a maximum of 60 days. Dependents who have only military-issued driver licenses cannot drive in New York.

Also, a military POV driver’s license cannot be exchanged for a New York state driver license. If you have only a military driver license, you must apply for an original state driver’s license.

One bit of good news about that POV license, though: Even if a person has let the POV license expire, all that’s needed to renew it is the expired license and a copy of the license-holder’s orders.

Renewing expired driver’s licenses

Here’s what four of the larger-population states require to renew expired driver’s licenses:

New York

A state driver’s license is good for all military members for as long as they serve outside the state. The Department of Motor Vehicles extends their licenses automatically. Once a servicemember returns to the state after discharge, he has up to 30 months to renew. The DMV recommends all servicemembers fill out a notification of military service with the DMV. It’s free.

All others can file for a renewal by mail or online one year before the license expires or any time up to two years after. All you need is a certification you passed a vision test.


Servicemembers stationed outside California don’t have to worry about their license expiring. All they need to do is contact the DMV and they will be issued a special card to be carried with their license that shows their license is still valid after the expiration date. Civilians living out of state can renew their licenses by contacting the DMV for a one-year extension.


Persons serving in the military out of state may renew their licenses by mail or online. Just contact the DMV for the paperwork. A license may be renewed up to a year before it expires. Civilians living out-of-state can follow the same procedure. The state recommends anyone about to move overseas for an extended period to renew their license before they leave. Texas does not have a grace period to extend driving privileges beyond the expiration date.


Military members, their spouses and dependents can use their expired licenses for up to 45 days after they return to Illinois following discharge or assignment to a base within the state. All they need to do is apply for a Military Deferral Certificate, which must be carried with the license.

Log on to for details on licensing rules, procedures and fees in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

— Stars and Stripes

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up