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Living in Germany
Getting a German Driving License
If you plan on driving or owning a car in Germany, there are several aspects to consider: What’s easier – importing your vehicle or buying a car in Germany? Do you need a German driving license? What about insurance? This Relocation Guide to Germany hopefully answers all your car-related questions.
Just like the import regulations for motor vehicles, the official recognition of foreign driving permits strongly depends on your country of origin. A license from an EU member state is equivalent to a German one. If you have a permit from a non-EU member state, you also have to consider how long you are planning to stay in Germany.
- If you intend to stay for fewer than six months, you can go on using your foreign license.
- If you stay in Germany for six to twelve months, you have to get an extension for your international permit from the local Driver’s License Department (Führerscheinstelle) after six months. Don’t forget to bring an official translation of your foreign permit and proof of your intended departure (e.g. a flight ticket). Again, a German driving license isn’t necessary.
- If you stay for longer than twelve months, you do need a German driving license after all.
If you need a German driving license, make sure to find out whether you have to take both a written exam and a practical road test, only one of these exams, or none at all. The requirements are again dependent on your country of origin. People whose driving permit was issued in one of the following states can simply exchange it for a German license:
Andorra, Australia, Canada, Channel Islands & Isle of Man, Croatia, French Polynesia, Israel, Japan, Monaco, Namibia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, and Switzerland.
Drivers with licenses from the following US states or territories do not need to take any test, either:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
Drivers who received their license anywhere else will have to take at least one of the exams before they can get a German driving license.
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If you have to take the theoretical test for the German driving license, don’t underestimate the challenge. Up to a third of all students fail this multiple-choice exam on their first try. For this reason, there are several preparatory textbooks, guides, and software packages available. If you need an English-language program, you should probably ask a local driving instructor for advice.
Speaking of driving instructors: Signing up for driving lessons in Germany can become very expensive, as the law requires candidates to take a lot of mandatory 101 classes. If you are able to drive, but just need some practice to prepare for your exam, ask your instructor whether he or she offers special lessons for experienced drivers. They are usually cheaper than regular driving lessons for absolute beginners.
Licenses for young drivers (i.e. 17-year-olds) or for driving a truck, bus, or motorcycle often come with a number of extra conditions. You should ask a driving instructor or the staff at the Führerscheinstelle for further details.
Once you are able to exchange your old permit for a German driving license, you have to take the following documents to the nearest Driver’s License Department (Führerscheinstelle):
- an official translation of your foreign driving permit
- an application form for a German driving license
- a passport or ID card (and two extra photos)
- your German residence permit
- a statement from your driving instructor that you have passed the written exam and/or the road test (if either test is required)
- proof that you have taken a first-aid class recently
- proof that you have passed a medical vision test