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All correct.

You CAN get a US company to insure you, provide you have a billing address in the USA. And that's the kicker - that means an address to which your credit card or bank account is registered. Oh, and many companies require a state-issued driver's licence.

Then you have to negotiate the problem of registering the vehicle in your name so you can actually insure it, as every DMV will want proof of your address within that state. I think Wyoming and South Dakota were the only exceptions, but that may have been tightened up on now. There is the option of having a US resident buy the car for you and then add you as a driver on the insurance policy, but a lot of companies may still refuse to insure someone without a US licence (even though the IDP is supposed to be global) or residential address. And whoever is carrying the policy is going to be liable for you, so they probably should be a pretty good mate and have no assets that the law can touch! Because the Americans use driving licences as ID cards, things have tightened up dramatically after 9/11. The days of flying out, buying a $500 clunker (ha!) and driving across the USA are sadly gone.
 

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As far as I know, you have to have a visa and an SSN, basically something with a US address. It's also time-consuming depending on the state. I got an appointment for my theory test with no problem but when I came to book the 'behind the wheel' test, I was told there would be a wait of at leat 4 weeks. Eventually I rang almost every DMV office in California and Needles DMV was brilliant (not often you hear that said about the DMV!) and booked me in a day later. Again, because the driving licence is effectively the national ID, it has been clamped down on.
 
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