Chances are, at some point after your arrival, you’d love to get behind the wheel again! The rules can be a little complicated here: some driving licenses are easy to exchange without bureaucracy, others require you to start from scratch. If you already have a valid driver’s license from your home country and you’d like to get a German driving license, read on.
Scenario 1: Your driver’s licence was issued by a member state of the EU/EEA
You can relax. Your driver’s permit will generally be considered valid in Germany until its expiry date as long as it is a domestic licence and not an international permit. If you’re planning on staying in Germany past the expiry date of your EU/EEA license, you may be eligible to apply for a German license of the same category as a type of renewal of your existing license. Check out this official resource for more specific information.
Scenario 2: your driving license was issued by a country outside of the EU/EEA
You can use your license for the first six months after you become resident in Germany. After this point, you’ll need a German license if you’d like to rent or buy a vehicle and drive it. Go to a Bürgeramt (citizen’s registration office) and apply for a swap.
Here’s where it gets tricky. The exact procedure depends on which country issued your license. For countries like the USA and Australia, the provisions also vary from state to state. A license issued by some countries/states will allow you to simply swap the license over. Others want to see proof of a theoretical exam, a practical exam, an eye test, completion of a first-aid course or even all of these. There’s a handy table you can look at to see whether you need to sit a practical or theoretical exam, but if you’re confused, book a Skype Coaching and we’ll take you through the whole procedure over the phone or Skype.
Do I Need an Official Translation of My Driver’s Licence?
The decision lies with the office – we’ve had clients who were turned away for not having a translation, and clients who got their licence exchanged without a translation. The ADAC (General German Automobile Club) does written translations of licences for around 40-60EUR, depending on content, but it can take 10-14 days. If you want your license translated quicker, send a PDF scan to Red Tape Translation. We’ll match whatever price you got from the ADAC, it will be completed by a state-certified translator, it will be accepted by the office, and our turnaround time is around 3-5 days.
Red Tape Translation can also book an appointment on your behalf and send an interpreter to your appointment with you to help things run smoothly.
Our personal experience with the license exchange procedure is that it can take up to 2 months to receive your new license. So plan ahead if you’re hoping to rent a car or van for your next move or holiday in Germany!