Monday, February 08, 2010

Indian Driving License in Japan

Q - Is an International Driving License (IDL) issued in India, valid in Japan?

A - Technically, maybe. Practically, no.

For the past one year, I have been using the IDL issued by RTO Delhi because Japan is clearly listed among the countries where the document is supposed to be valid, as per bilateral agreements. Since the document is valid only for one year, I went last week to the Unten-Menkyo (Driving Licence) office at Mito, to get it `converted`, as per the local requirements.

As per the rules, you are required to submit, along with the application form -
  1. Driving License
  2. International Driving License
  3. Japanese translation of DL (either by Japan Automobile Federation or by the Indian Embassy)
  4. Alien Registration Card
  5. Photos (2)
  6. Processing Stamp-fees (Yen 2400)
My driving license had been issued by RTO (Sarai Kale Khan, Delhi, 1994), and my IDL (Black booklet, RTO Delhi, valid till 22 Feb. 2010) was issued by the same office in March 2009.  When I contacted the Indian Embassy for the translation they said, `You bring a translation and we`ll attest the document`.  Sure enough, when I submitted my documents on 5 Feb. 2010, they examined the originals, found it in order, and attested the translation (Charge - Yen 1400).

The next day, regrettably, my application was rejected. What was surprising, however, by the reasons given by the officer at Mito for doing so -
  1. The International Driving License issued in Delhi does not conform to the `Geneva` format. Hence it is not recognized in Japan;
  2. The Delhi driving license does not specify the date of issue.
  3. The Delhi driving license is not in a format recognized by Japanese authorities.
The IDL issued by Government of India clearly specifies that the document is valid in Japan. If the Japanese authorities do not share this understanding you may have a situation where Indian citizens using Indian IDL`s are being penalized or harassed for using what they think is a valid document.

I had conveyed this concern by email to the Indian Embassy in Tokyo (,,, but there has been no acknowledgment or response from their side. I guess they are all too busy finalizing the FTAs to bother about such mundane issues.

So if you're planning to get an Indian driving license "converted" in Japan, please make sure it is a new one.  And don`t expect any help from the Indian Embassy in Tokyo.
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