What kind of ID does the US accept when visiting bars or drinking age events?
For tourists visiting the states, what kind of ID do you need to carry with you to visit bars or drinking age events? I understand the passport is the main piece of ID but do they accept any other forms of ID from other countries such as a driver's license with a photo?
In San Francisco/the Bay Area, I've only been denied once when showing my Swedish driver's license. All other pubs, wineries and liquor shops have accepted it. Probably varies a lot though, and San Francisco has lots of internationals coming and going so bouncers are probably used to non-US IDs.
A friend visiting from Mexico was denied entry to a bar in Kansas, when she presented her Mexican national ID. Admitedly, the bouncer was a jerk, and anyone else probably would have accepted her ID.
Showing a driver's license in order to be allowed to drink alcohol always puzzled me.
It's because the driver's licence has your date of birth and photo on it. Any other ID that has those would work. In some states in the US, you can get a driver's licence which doesn't give you permission to drive, because you need a driver's licence for other reasons, such as getting into bars. You could use your passport, but it's a bad idea to carry that around.
@JeremyMiles "it's a bad idea to carry that around" unless you're near the Mexican or Canadian border. In that case, it may be a bad idea to go out without your passport. See, for example, http://redbus2us.com/h1b-issue-at-immigration-checkpoint-within-us-must-carry-passport-visa-for-travel/
At a certain store they would consistently refuse to accept my passport "because it is not an American issued document". Fortunately I had a visa in it, which was good enough for them. I did wonder what someone travelling with ESTA could have done ... At a bar on the other hand they said that just showing a *photo* of an ID is good enough, acknowledging that it's not always a good idea to carry passports around. So in practice anything can happen.
There is no nationally, or even locally mandated standard. I've certainly seen friends have no issues using both Passports and Drivers Licenses from their home country. I've also seen people have issues - especially when their ID is written in a non-latin script, or when they have a DOB which can be misread by using a non-American date ordering scheme, (i.e. someone born on August the 10th, 1992, would have their BOD listed as 8/10/92 here in the states, and would be of legal drinking age. If their ID instead reads 10/8/92 a not particularly sharp waiter may give you a hard time - admittedly, an extreme edge case.)
Realistically, there's no single answer that can be provided here however, because there is no standard for what's accepted. At the end of the day, the acceptability of your proof of age is up to the merchant with whom you do business to evaluate. You'll have an easier time in more cosmopolitan cities like New York, but realistically, you can't do much better than your Passport, and I've almost never seen an issue with one.
For what it's worth, I've personally seen someone turned down for using a passport. It actually happened frequently where I went to school. The argument was that the employee had no way of verifying on the spot that the passport was real and valid. This happened in a college town where there are commonly issues with fake Ids and underage purchase/consumption.
As an example of the lack of any standard, even some of the states don't recognize other states' IDs. Massachusetts, by law does not allow any ID except a Mass license/ID or a Passport. Nothing. In practice this is often ignored, for obvious reasons, but I've been denied at restaurants multiple times for being out-of-state.