Florida repeals law requiring international driving permit for foreigners

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Legislators in Florida have approved a bill repealing a law from last year that requires foreigners visiting the state to have international driving permits.

The bill passed unanimously in the Florida House on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass as well.

Under the law that quietly took effect in January, foreign drivers who didn’t have the $25 permit that translates license information into English could have been charged with driving without a license.

Florida officials had said the law was passed so police weren’t faced with foreign licence documents in languages they couldn’t understand.

But as the law prompted a flurry of indignant reaction in mid February, much of it from Canadians, the state highway department learned that the permit requirement violated an international driving treaty.

At the time, the department said it would “not take enforcement action” based solely on the lack of the permit, and would work on amending the legislation.

Under Florida’s laws, international visitors still must have a valid license from their country of residence to drive in the state.

The passage of the bill repealing the contentious law will be welcome news for the many Canadians who pushed for Florida to accommodate Canuck drivers who frequently motor around the state.

Many had expressed astonishment at the lack of publicity around the new rules.

Even the Canadian Automobile Association had said it only learned of the change when an American Automobile Association worker in Florida called to discuss the changes.

Officials in Florida had scrambled to reassure Canadians they were still welcome to visit the state as news of the change prompted a flurry of anxious questions and angry responses from snowbirds.

Florida’s official state tourism marketing corporation has identified Canada as its top international market. Visit Florida said 3.1 million Canadians travelled to the state in 2010.