Driving in Canada is regulated at the provincial level. That means that each province and territory establishes its own rules and policies for driving. Therefore, the exact rules for international students who want to drive in Canada will depend on the province where you are studying.
Generally, if you have a valid licence from your home country, you will be allowed to drive in Canada for a limited time when you first arrive. Though, it is often required that foreign drivers obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before arriving in Canada. In certain provinces, international students are eligible to drive using a foreign licence for the duration of their studies, while other provinces require international students to apply for a licence provincially.
Here are the international student driving regulations for some of Canada’s most popular destinations for college and university:
Ontario: In Ontario, new residents with valid foreign licences are authorized to drive for 60 days after first arriving in Ontario. After the 60-day grace period has elapsed, international drivers in Ontario must exchange their licence for an Ontario licence, or apply for a new licence. Ontario has a licence exchange program with certain countries in order to make the process more efficient.
British Columbia: Full-time international students do not require a BC licence, but need a valid licence from their home country and it is strongly recommended to have an IDP for licences not in English or French. Part-time international students will need to obtain a BC licence within 90 days of moving to the province.
Quebec: International students and international trainees do not require a Quebec licence for the duration of their program, but they need a licence from their home country it is recommended to have an IDP for licences not in English or French.
Alberta: International students may drive using their home country licence and an IPD for a period of one-year. After the one-year, they must obtain an Alberta licence. However, if the student leaves the country and returns, the one-year period starts over again.
In all cases, international drivers must be aware of and follow all Canadian driving laws.
The International Driving Permit (IDP) is a document that allows drivers from one country to drive in other countries. The IDP grants the authorization to operate a motor vehicle in Canada for a limited period of time that varies by province.
Notably, foreign nationals cannot apply for an IDP from within Canada. You must apply from your home country. The IDP will provide an English/French translation for foreign drivers coming to Canada.
Please consult the provincial and territorial driving regulations of the places you intend to drive to ensure that your IDP will cover you. As indicated above, it may be necessary to obtain licencing from the province in which you choose to reside.
All foreign nationals who drive in Canada must ensure they familiarize themselves with Canadian driving laws, rules, and regulations. These rules are determined on a provincial basis, so you must consult the guidelines of the provinces in which you intend to drive.
Generally, Canadian driving regulations stipulate that all vehicles must be properly registered and have valid insurance. Failure to produce licence, registration, and proof of insurance can result in a hefty fine and other penalties.
As well, Canada has very strict regulations regarding the consumption of alcohol and marijuana and the operation of motor vehicles. The exact rules vary province to province. Any person found be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can face criminal charges for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) which can jeopardize immigration applications, causing a person to be deemed criminally inadmissible to Canada, so international drivers should be cautious about drinking, drugs, and driving.
If you are interested in coming to Canada as an international student, simply complete our free international student assessment! A member of our team will review your eligibility and contact you to discuss your options.
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