Driver License Dilemmas

I have no idea what the official line is – but the need to find out when I am supposed to transfer my driver’s license just jumped out and bit me this week!  I lost my driver’s license!

….or thought I had, actually misplaced is a better term.  I eventually found it – scared the children as I ranted, raved, and tore apart the apartment we are living in while my son recuperates! – but found the license.  See, I’m in MN where my son’s surgeon is, we are stationed in OH, my car is registered in VA and my license is from TX, where my parent’s live and I hope to retire.

Recently, a wise and knowledgeable friend told me I was probably not technically following the letter of the law on when to change licenses.  I’ve kept it in TX because it’s easy for me to dream about going home when we retire.  Then I don’t have to get it replaced with every move.  But now I have my doubts.  Do I need to turn it in and get an OH license?  Can I keep my TX license from my home state?  Giving it up would truly be a shame – it’s a good picture! 

Can’t I just keep the one with the good photo – it’s not expired?  I really do plan to move there someday.  The bummer for me, when I thought my license was lost and I was thrown into the pit of despair, was how I was going to get it replaced – would I have to fly to TX?  Where would the cost of THAT ticket come from?  Wasn’t looking forward to explaining the need for said ticket to the spouse either!  If I was licensed in OH, it would be easier (when I get back home) to handle such a miserable situation.  But since I’m over 40 and have only lost the license one other time in my life (found it again that time too), what are the odds of me needing this??????

So, do any of you know what my legal responsibility is as a military spouse for driver’s license stuff in the states we so frequently move in and out of???????

About the Author


GBear is a current SpouseBUZZ blogger.

  • Calico

    I keep my Texas drivers license current and refuse to get a CT license tho we have been stationed up here for over 10 yrs now. For me, it is an excuse to fly down home to visit family once every four years, at least, while renewing my license. I could renew by mail (and keep the old photo), but this is my excuse for the expense of traveling there. Check out the web site for the state where you are stationed, and I’m sure you’ll find there are special rules for military and dependents. As long as the TX license is not expired, there is certainly no rush for this.

  • Sarah

    I don’t know if there are special rules for military, but I do know that my uncle got a ticket when he moved and registered his car in Maine but still had his NY license. I worried about the same thing, which is why I registered our cars by mail in MO since that’s where my license is. I agree that this is a pain in the neck that’s not usually spelled out for us…and every time you call the DMV you get a different answer or a person who goes “Military? Huh?”

  • You can renew online for a Texas license if you completed your last renewal in person and your license is within one year of the expiration date. You keep the same picture.
    My husband recently renewed his online. We both use our parents’ local addresses.
    The only downside is that we’re at a loss when it comes to voting in state and local elections in Texas because we’re out of the loop, and we cannot elect state and local officials wherever we live at that time, i.e. NC, because we’re registered in TX. We’re still trying to work that one out…

  • dutchgirl

    I think it depends on the state… although I have heard other wives swear up and down that you can keep the license from your home of record.
    I have taken the nomad’s route and just change my license to wherever we’re living at the time. Unless I’m too lazy (like right now) and still have a current one from the previous state we were in. I’m afraid I neglect my civic duty to vote sometimes.

  • Jennifer

    In my experience you are allowed to keep your license from your HOR. I am from California, and I still carry a CA license, even though we haven’t lived there in 7 years. I just renew by mail. We are in Georgia right now, and they will let you just exchange your valid out of state license for a Georgia licence, you pay a small fee and fill out a form. It may be the same where you are. But we did have to register both our cars here in Georgia, since this is where our cars are.

  • Tracie (Navy wife)

    GBear – here’s the scoop from the Ohio BMV website.
    Nonresident military personnel may use their home state driver license. Family members must obtain an Ohio license.
    It appears that you do have to get an OH license. I had to do the same thing in VA but I didn’t take care of it right away – I decided to wait until my CA license was expiring before I got a VA license. You may not have any issues with continuing the TX license but if you ever get pulled over, a cop might say something about the fact that you haven’t registered for a OH license. Hope that helps. :)

  • Jewel

    Don’t know if I’m right, but have been warned not to break the “3 state rule”. I change my license to reflect my current address, however our cars are registered out of state in my husband’s home of record where he holds a driver’s license. I think it also depends on where you live as to the state’s regulations. For instance, one state we recently lived in required Milspouses to obtain a license from that state within a few months of arriving there, although I knew many spouses who ignored this law and just kept their license from their home of record.

  • USMC SSGT wife

    Each state has different rules for spouse and AD military member. My homestate is NH, when I moved to SC, they require to switch license within 30 days as a spouse BUT the active duty member does not have to in any state as far as I know. I know my husband has been pulled over even with and expired NH license and as long as he head his military ID he was fine. The registration can slide in SC until it needs to be renewed but in MD, same license rules but registration must coincide with license AND excise fees…which active military is exempt but dependents are not so if its in the spouses name you still have to pay… and in MD if you don’t follow the 30 day rule it’s $250 fine or some thing crazy like that…now I am back in NH temporarily and I had to change my license back but not my registration until it expires…I DO think this is crazy…everything is always chaos when you change duties for this reason.

  • Hi all – great discussion by the way! Here is my two cents — my husband and I are both from the same state so for the last seven years we have kept our license from out home of record and get our tags/license plates there too…we mail a check and have our family members pick them up and put them in the mail for us. We have chosen to do it this way because I do not know how people can afford to register a car each time they move to a different state — some require spendy inspections, etc. The only major thing we do when we move in regards to cars is make sure our insurance is current — i.e. telling the ins. company where we are living and go off of that state’s rates. It is funny that ya’ll are talking about this..I just looked at my license and it expires in a couple months…guess I need to start planning a roadtrip:)

  • First, let me thank you all for your inputs! Tracie – thank you so much!
    However, does anyone else feel this is gross discrimination? Why does the military personnel get to keep the old outdated, expired license and we (who travel with him) don’t get the same consideration….why is this??? It would seem to me that both the military member and their families should all get equal treatment under the law. It’s not as though we can just homestead while the spouse is off traveling to his various assignments. Why should the rules for us be any different? Curious….

    • Kat

      Because we have more time available to go get ours changed, while they dont. :)

    • JCT

      Maybe it depends on the state, by my husband had to pay a fee in NY and the DMV ladies scolded him about having an expired license “a military ID is not a driver’s license, you could get a big ticket for trying that off base”. My husband swears he was told otherwise.

  • AFWife_Niki

    I understand your pain. I recently (like two weeks ago) had to give up my precious NJ license because I got a job down here in TX off base. and they required a TX license. I was holding on to my NJ one for dear life because we are definately not staying in TX forever and we plan on moving to NJ when hubby gets out.
    I don’t know how TX works, but if you are from NJ and you are out of state because you’re military, all you have to do is carry this form from the dept. of motor vehicle with you stating you are active duty and if your registration, inspection, and I think your license is expired you are exmpt until you return to NJ. I’m not sure if that applies to spouses, but I act like it does because I’m not about to drive my car 23 hours across the country to have it inspected.

    • USAF Wife_ Cat_ 96

      I have always carried a TX DL for 15 yrs now. of course hubby and I are both from TX. As of inspections You have 3 extra months to get to your HOR and get things taken care of. if not get it done in the state your are in(as long as their inspections requiremnts are the same as where you are from. Like Texas has emission testing and as long as we are in a state with emission testing we can get it done there.

  • Tracie (Navy wife)

    I think it is ridiculous that we have a different set of rules that applies to us. We make the sacrifices too and travel along with them so why make it hard on us or go through extra steps.

  • k

    FYI ~ Most states offer exemptions on license expiration dates for active duty and dependents. My dh has a license from his HOR which is not where we are stationed. I have one from our current state, and they both read “military exempt” under the expiration date. As long as he is active duty we don’t have to renew.

  • We have our cars registered in Florida so we keep our licenses in Florida as well. We originally used a family member’s address but have switched to our Louisiana address. Yes, we have Florida licenses with Louisiana addresses on them! Our registration also has the Louisiana address on it. There’s a requirement for Florida insurance with Florida registration but we get past that with a DMV military waiver (although USAA prints us insurance cards for both Louisiana and Florida just in case!). We simply use the family member’s address as our HOR and our Louisiana address as our current residence. No one has ever questioned that. Although a Texas cop did look at my husband’s license with a quizzical look when he was stopped one day!

    • ~Sara

      For FL driver’s license you are required to change your address within 10 days of moving regardless of being in the military. It is on the FL DMV site and you can do the address change there. I’ve always had a FL license and had kept my parents’ address (HOR) since my husband joined the military 16 years ago, until a few months ago when I was dealing with a FL agency and was made aware of this.

  • It isn’t fair that there are different rules for family members and active duty members. But it can be the reality. It all depends on the individual state. NC allows me as a family member to keep a license from a different state. CA required me to get a CA license within 30 days. That’s the one I still have although I have no plans to retire there — it’s a good picture.

  • dual miltiary wife

    Dont know if this helps, but you can use the 2 out of 3 rule. As long as 2 of your items (i.e. insurance and tags) are the same state, it doesn’t matter about your driver’s license.
    At least for military it’s that way, wouldn’t see why it wouldn’t be for spouses…

  • dual miltiary wife

    Also, i know here in CO, you can use the military clause and not pay as much for registering your car….it actually saves us money by using the current state’s licensing plates!

  • angela

    We still own our house in Texas that we lived in before hy husband joined. We are renting it out to my husband’s parents. It is so easy. We still have all of our stuff sent to that address. Credit cards, car insurance, tags for our car, cell phone bill, car payment it is like we never moved. My in-laws collect it all and send it in one big envelope every month. Now that my husband is deployed and I am back home my husband told me to start looking for another car before he gets back so it can have Texas tags also. We want to stay away from having our stuff in different states.

  • OverseasWife

    Help! I am stationed in Japan with my AirForce spouse and have an expired TX license. Does anyone know if I can I still legally drive in the states with my military ID and my foreign licence? Thanks!

  • Ali B

    I found this website, thought it would help.

  • Sasha

    hi i have a lil delemma…my ca registration just expired and i live in VA and i paid online…and then they said it was incomplete they needed proof of insurance ….do u think that if i get pulled over i will be ok with the receipt online saying i paid the renewal while i wait for my tags??? also…this might sound stupid but, can i got to VA dmv and show them my proof of insurance and get my CA dmv tags or no??? ….thanks every one

  • Oren

    Hi everyone. I am a Deputy Sheriff in Texas. I actually came across this page while trying to see if there are any military (JAG, etc.) exceptions to state law but I have not been able to locate it. I am sure every state is different but as of what I can find right now, If you are housed on a military base you are conisdered a nonresident in the state of Texas and you can maintain your out of state drivers license. Once you move off base, you establish residency within the state of Texas and must now follow through with the state laws. The State of Texas requires that you get a Texas Drivers License and Texas Registration on your vehicle within 30 day. After that it become s violation.
    Anyone who finds anything to the contrary, please contact me at
    Here is the Law:
    Tex. Transp. Code @ 521.027 (1997)
    The following persons are exempt from the license requirement imposed under this chapter:
    (3) a nonresident on active duty in the armed forces of the United States who holds a license issued by the person’s state or Canadian province of residence; and
    (4) a person who is the spouse or dependent child of a nonresident exempt under Subdivision (3) and who holds a license issued by the person’s state or Canadian province of residence.
    Chapter 521 defines a nonresident as:
    (7) “Nonresident” means a person who is not a resident
    of this state.
    Also further, chapter 502 defines it as:
    “nonresident[0]” means a resident of a
    state or country other than this state whose presence in this state
    is as a visitor and who does not engage in gainful employment or
    enter into business or an occupation,…”
    Find Texas Traportation Code here:

  • Rai

    As active duty military, you are consider a resident of your home of record. This is the state listed on your LES. Thus if you live in a different state that what is on your LES, you are a non-resident of that state. So according to the law posted above, military active duty and their spouses do not need a TX license if they are a resident of another state, because their active duty status also gives them non-resident status.

  • Army Wifey

    It has been my experience that when we live off post or I get a job off post that I am required to change my drivers license to that state. My husband has never had to change his license and since the vehicles are in his name they are registered in his home state. The only thing we do with each move is change our insurance to the current state.
    Be careful with laws that state that dependents are exempt from switching – many of them (like the TX law above) state that if you are “gainfully employed” in that state and/or NOT living on the military installation, you may still have to change it.
    Better to be safe than sorry – go to the local DMV and ask.

  • envoy-ette

    My AZ lincense is a 25 year lincense!(& my home of record) I’m going to move at least 4 more times before heading back. It has saved me headaches, as I couldn’t renew from overseas. We are now in IL, and they want my AZ lincense replaced with their 4 yr. IL. one..and they intend on TAKING MY AZ ONE.
    What a headache!

  • Julie

    I couldnt help but laugh because I read that having some of the same concerns myself. I have a NC license, CO plates and registration, just got stationed in FL. I bought my car prior to marrying my husband but due to military moves, deployments, etc have yet to get back to NC where my car title is to add his name to it. Until then, since his name is not on the title I have to pay for each new registration and plate. Yuck.

    • Peter Rivera Sr.

      Checkout the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Relief Act. I applies to military members serving their country on Active Duty. I kept my original Arizona Driver’s License for 21 years during my career in the U.S. Navy. Good luck. Just keep your insurance current and you’ll do just fine.

  • linda D

    I live on base in md, my drivers lisence from my home state expired less than a year ago. I am getting ready to drive to my home state of Washington, is my military id and expired lisence good enough?? Or do I need to get my lisence renewed here in Md before I go?

  • A driver’s permit has conveyed an outsized significance in my life. While attempting to get a permit at age 16 to our years after my mom in the Philippines sent me to live with my grandparents in California figured out I was in the nation illici.