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Driving License in Germany: Everything you need to know

Driving License in Germany: Everything you need to know

If you’re a foreigner planning to live in Germany or simply visiting and wishing to drive legally in the country, obtaining a driving license is a significant step. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process, requirements, and key information you need to know about driving license in Germany.

Can Foreigners Get a Driving license in Germany?

Certainly, foreigners can acquire a driving license in Germany. This license adheres to the EU standard, making it valid not only in Germany but throughout the European Union and the European Economic Area (EU/EEA). This convenience simplifies travel and mobility within multiple European countries.

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Special Agreements for License Exchange

Germany has specific agreements with select countries to facilitate the exchange of foreign driver’s licenses for German ones. These countries include Andorra, Hong Kong, Monaco, San Marino, Namibia, Australia, New Caledonia, Canada, New Zealand, Croatia, and more. If your country isn’t on this list, you may need to take a driving test.

Foreign Driver’s Licenses in Germany: EU/EAA and Non-EU/EAA Countries

    • If your driver’s license is issued by any EU/EAA country, there’s no need to explore this article further. Germany acknowledges and upholds the validity of your license until its natural expiration. However, it’s crucial to bear in mind that the renewal of such licenses must take place in the country of their origin.
    • On the other hand, those with driver’s licenses from non-EU/EAA countries must adhere to different regulations. In this scenario, your foreign license remains valid for a period of six months following your registration of a German address. Once you have officially registered your address in Germany, you are granted six months to continue using your foreign license for driving within the country.

Duration of Validity with an International Driving Permit

Driving license in Germany are valid for 15 years. To renew, schedule an appointment with your local authority about four weeks before expiry. Renewal doesn’t require retaking the driving test. Bring your current license and a passport photo. The cost is around €24, and you’ll receive the renewed license in about four weeks. Foreign licenses must be exchanged, not renewed, in Germany.

Driving in Germany: Visitor vs. Resident

For Visitors to Germany:
    • In Germany, your foreign driver’s license is accepted for driving, including motorcycles with the relevant license, but not temporary licenses or learner’s permits.
    • It’s advisable to have your license translated, which can be done in two ways:
      1. You can opt for an International Driving Permit (IDP), available to many nationalities through various channels like the Post Office in the UK, AAA or AATA in the United States, or CAA Travel Centre in Canada.
      2. Alternatively, you can secure a certified translation from a qualified translator, your country’s embassy or vehicle registration office, or a recognized automobile association (e.g., ADAC in Germany, AA in the UK, AAA in the US, CAA in Canada).
    •  Exceptions to translation include EU/EEA licenses, Andorra, Hong Kong, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Senegal, Switzerland, Vienna Convention licenses, and German licenses.
For Residents of Germany:
    • If you decide to establish residency in Germany, your foreign driver’s license remains valid for six months, after which it becomes invalid. However, EU or EEA driving licenses retain their validity until their expiration date.
    • When your foreign license loses validity, you have two choices:
      1. Convert your foreign driver’s license to a German one.
      2. Undergo driving lessons, pass the driving exam, and obtain a new German driver’s license.

Getting a Driving License in Germany

Candidates in Germany must take both theory and practical tests when obtaining a driver’s license. While some may find these tests less challenging than those in other countries, they can still be relatively expensive. The country has two primary testing organizations, DEKRA and TÜV.

Steps to Get a Driver’s License in Germany:

  1. Register for Lessons: If you’ve never held a driver’s license, you’ll need to enroll in a driving school (Fahrschule). Your driving school will assist in registering you for the necessary tests once you apply for a driving license.
  2. Theory Test (Theorieprüfung): The age at which you can take the theory test depends on the type of vehicle you intend to drive. For cars, you can start three months before your 18th birthday. You must attend 12 hours of theory lessons (6 hours if you already have a license).
    • The computer-based theory test covers road signs and driving scenarios and is offered in eleven languages. It includes 30 questions, each with two to five error points for wrong answers, with a maximum of ten error points allowed and a limit of one incorrect answer for five-point questions. The cost is approximately €25, with possible additional registration fees at some schools.
  1. Practical Driving Test: After passing the theory test, you can take the practical driving test, usually costing around €120 (additional registration fees may apply). You can take this test one month before your 18th birthday.
    • The 45-minute practical test includes an identity check, vehicle safety inspection, and assessment of your driving skills, encompassing safe driving, rule adherence, speed control, traffic awareness, and maneuvers.
    • Not all mistakes lead to automatic failure, but disregarding right of way, causing danger, running red lights, overtaking violations, and unchecked lane changes do.
    • Test results are provided immediately, and if you pass, you’ll be issued your German driver’s license.
    • Failing the test allows two retakes with a two-week gap. Beyond three attempts, longer waiting periods apply, and there’s no specific limit on the number of tries.
  1. Probation Period: Passing your driving test grants you a German driver’s licence with a two-year probation. During this period, avoid alcohol before driving, as traffic violations may result in added licence points. Repeated offenses could lead to fines, extended probation, or licence revocation.

Converting Your Foreign Driver’s License to a German One

If you plan to live in Germany, you can convert your foreign driver’s license to a German one, enhancing your mobility and convenience.

Basic Requirements for License Conversion
    1. Eligibility: You can convert licenses from any country, but specific regulations and exceptions come into play.
    2. Timing: Conversion can be initiated at any time post your relocation to Germany, with certain time limits for particular cases.
    3. License Type: The potential to convert may fluctuate for truck or motorcycle licenses, depending on the country of origin. Generally, EU and EEA licenses enjoy smoother conversion procedures.
    4. Expired Licenses: Expired EU or EEA licenses are convertible, but this doesn’t extend to licenses from other countries.
    5. Temporary Licenses: Temporary licenses or learner’s permits aren’t eligible for conversion.

Obtain License Before Moving: To qualify for conversion, secure your foreign driving license before moving to Germany. The process doesn’t permit obtaining a foreign license after relocating and then seeking conversion.

The Conversion Process
    1. Register Your Address: Start by registering your address (Anmeldung) and obtaining the essential registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung).
    2. Check Country-Specific Requirements: Conversion prerequisites hinge on your home country. This may involve passing theoretical or practical driving exams, completing a first aid course, or undergoing an eye test.
    3. First Aid Course: If your license isn’t from an EU, EEA, or Annex 11 country, you must complete a nine-hour first aid course (Erste-Hilfe-Kurs) at an approximate cost of 70€.
    4. Eye Test: Non-EU, EEA, or Annex 11 license holders need an eye test (Sehtest), a brief and cost-effective procedure, usually under 10€.
    5. Consider Driving Lessons: While not mandatory, taking driving lessons is highly recommended, especially for newcomers to German road rules.
    6. Secure a Bürgeramt Appointment: Book an appointment at the Bürgeramt, but be prepared for high demand and consider scheduling well in advance.
    7. Attend Your Appointment: Ensure you bring all necessary documents, including your foreign driving license, photocopy, passport or personal ID, passport photo, registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung), and the 36.30€ fee. Non-EU/EEA license holders require a certified translation of their driving license.
    8. Patience Is Key: After your appointment, prepare to wait for the verification process. Processing times vary, with Berlin taking a few months and other cities several weeks.
    9. Collect Your German License: Upon notification that your new German driver’s license is ready, schedule an appointment, visit the relevant office, present your passport, and claim your new driving license.

Please note that processing times and requirements may vary by location. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, contact your local authorities.

Finding the Right Driving School

    • Enrolling in driving lessons at an accredited driving school is a mandatory requirement for obtaining a German driver’s license. Tools like Farschule-123 can help you locate the nearest driving school based on your preferences, including the type of vehicle you wish to learn to drive.
    • For non-German speakers, it’s comforting to know that theory classes are available in various foreign languages, making the learning process more accessible.
    • The required driving lessons include:
      1. Basic training on the practice range
      2. 5 hours on federal or country roads
      3. 4 hours on the freeway (Autobahn)
      4. 3 hours at night
      5. Any additional hours can be arranged in consultation with the instructor.

Financial Considerations

Acquiring a German driver’s license can be a substantial financial commitment, particularly if you are not eligible for a reciprocity agreement, as the examination costs can be quite high. On average, Germans typically allocate between 1500 to 2500 euros for this endeavor. However, it’s essential to note that the cost can vary based on your location within Germany. Residents in the northern regions generally face lower expenses, while those in the southern parts of the country may encounter higher costs.

Here’s an approximate breakdown of the overall administrative expenses associated with acquiring a German driving license:

    1. Application fees: 40€-50€
    2. First aid course: 25€-40€
    3. Eye-sight test: 5€-8€
    4. Introduction to the theoretical exam: 55€-65€
    5. Theoretical exam fee: 22.49€
    6. Introduction fee for the practical exam: 145€-165€
    7. Practical exam fee: 91.75€

The driving school fee is separate and varies depending on your choice of school. Prepare for these financial considerations when pursuing your German driving license. Keep in mind that the overall cost may vary based on your location and personal choices.

TIPS to get Driving license in Germany

Before Driving:

    • Adjust mirrors and seat properly before starting; the examiner will guide you.
    • Check your mirrors to ensure you are within the lane; it’s crucial for safety.
    • If allowed, review your driving route; it might be part of the exam.

Traffic Signals and Speed:

    • Slow down at yellow signals; it helps manage stress and keeps your mind clear.
    • Always follow and stay within the speed limits; crossing it can lead to mistakes.

Lane Discipline:

    • Avoid driving too slowly; it can obstruct traffic, but stay within speed limits.
    • Check before changing lanes; look at the sides, blind spots, and solid lines.
    • Never cross solid lines; it’s a rule on regular roads and the autobahn.
    • When a car is turning, indicate and go around if safe; be cautious not to make mistakes.
    • Use the second lane for two-lane turns; it provides better visibility.

Intersection and Right of Way:

    • Remember the “right before left” rule when driving.
    • Execute “Umkehren” at the first suitable opportunity.
    • Watch for signs indicating turns in the exam; they can be tricky.

Autobahn Rules:

    • Never cross solid lines on the autobahn; follow the rules.
    • Maintain your speed while exiting; adjust after seeing speed limit or exit signs.
    • Accelerate when entering the autobahn; change lanes one at a time, checking mirrors and blind spots.
    • Don’t blindly follow the vehicle in front; be observant of signals and oncoming traffic.

Special Instructions:

    • Stop at pedestrian lanes for people; slow down and check for pedestrians or cyclists.
    • Be aware while parking; look around and be cautious.
    • Use shoulder checks for emergency parking before moving back.

Understanding Signs and Instructions:

    • Pay attention to “möglich” signs; it’s important for driving decisions.

In conclusion, obtaining a German driver’s license as a foreigner is feasible and opens up travel possibilities throughout the EU/EEA. Make sure to follow the correct procedures and be aware of the financial commitments involved in the process. Safe and responsible driving is a priority in Germany, and obtaining a driving license in Germany is a testament to your commitment to road safety.

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