Living in China as expats, we’ve all heard stories about visa renewal issues, tax questions and other official document situations that come up. Now we’ve come across a new one – and would be interested in hearing if others have as well. Topic: renewing your driver’s license back home.
My husband’s birthday was earlier this month, and his driver’s license in the states was expiring on that date. In the U.S. – depending on state laws – your license generally expires on your birth date, and you may not be able to renew by mail more than one time before having to show up in person. This was the year Gary needed to be there for renewal.
But here’s a new hiccup for us. We no longer have any ties to the state where our driver’s licenses are processed. We have no property, no job, and no mailing address. For whatever reason, we still do pay income taxes there (it’s beyond my understanding, but his employer’s tax people say this must be so; the employer being in yet a different state). I’m thinking that if we pay taxes, surely we must be able to get a license. I doubt, however, that the current homeowners living at the address where my license is “legal” would much appreciate knowing I still claim it as my residence. To really add to the confusion, we have a legal mailing address in yet a third state – thank goodness my mother doesn’t mind receiving our mail, and as far as I know we don’t owe that state anything.
None of this is really a big deal while we are living here. But when we go back home, like my husband did this past weekend for work, we have to drive. So, how to rent a car? The states don’t recognize Chinese driver’s licenses since it’s apparently not reciprocal. And rental car companies won’t legally rent you a vehicle without a valid driver’s license.
Last summer we decided to preempt any problems and we talked to Hertz. They were a bit perplexed, but did have a book full of officially translated driver’s licenses from various countries that qualified a person to rent a car. Naturally, that book did not contain China, but the clerk said she was “sure” that it’d be ok if we presented this translation. We do know that Chinese colleagues here don’t ever have an issue renting a car when they travel to the U.S. on business, so there might be something to that. Still, it’s not very reassuring, making you feel like it depends on the mood of the Hertz clerk when you arrive to get a car.
Not taking any chances, Gary had his license officially translated. After a visit to the Driver License Notary at Beijing Fangyuan Notary Public Office, approximately RMB 250 and five business days (among other forms and details), my husband received a large bound document, complete with pages of translation, and proper chops for validation. And as of the phone call from Saturday morning, we breathed a sigh of relief to learn that this did indeed work (and yes, the Hertz employee did ask for his license).
Now, we just hope he doesn’t get pulled over for any reason…