Transfering One's Driver's License

Depending on where your license is from, you might have to take one or the other test. We have decided to first describe everything and then afterwards point to sub-pages, where you can determine what you personally will need to meet. In doubt, when you do not come from an industrial part of the world, you will have to do everything over again. But even then, just take the statutory minimum of lessons. When the driving school refuses to accept it then go to another. However, when the school tells you that you do not drive so well because you drive too “ungerman”, then consider taking another lesson or two.


When do I have an “orderly domicile” in Germany?

Orderly domicile means having personal and/or professional ties to your place of residence. If you are only here for personal reasons, then you will have to live here for at least 185 days (§7 I FeV). Therefore, if you or your spouse are employed in Germany, you will have “orderly domicile” here in terms of the law. In practice, orderly domicile will be assumed as of the date of police registration (polizeiliche Anmeldung), or on the starting day of your employment.  

What does “registration” mean? What happens with my personal data?

This is very complicated. Your data will be recorded for the German authorities and a note will be sent to the issuing agency of your driver’s license at home. If your German registration cannot be marked on your driver’s license, you will receive a German driver’s license – after handing in your national license (§29 FeV).

What happens to my national driver’s license when I go back home?

I presume you have received a German driver’s license in the meantime. German authorities are not permitted to tamper with official documents from other countries. Your national driver’s license is still valid, as it would be if you had not left your home country in the first place. If the Kraftfahrzeugamt has taken your national license into custody, then you will have to hand back the German one before leaving – unless it has been sent back home again. In that case, use your German license until you get back home and when returning the German license, apply for a home license. No matter how sophisticated or complex the system is, never drive without a license! That could land you in jail anywhere in Europe. This is especially true if you are incarcerated outside the country, where you do not have a residence permit.
What is all this commotion about driving without a license? I just don’t get it. Can’t it suffice that I can drive? Is it really that important to have the license?

Sorry, but his is not just a petty matter! Of course, most important is to have the permission to drive motor vehicles. The driver’s license is just a written document to prove and show this permission. If you only forget the license at home: that will only be an administrative offense, which might be fined. You are expected to be able show your permission at all times whenever you drive. Practically seen, if the police wants to see your license and you do not have it with you, do not think they will let you let you drive one more millimeter. If you are in your hometown they might give you a ride back home. If you are not in your home city this will not only be time consuming, but also very costly. Even now, the police will not let you drive. Supposing you were caught without permission then you may be bound to spend up to a year in prison or receive a pecuniary punishment; (§21 StVG).

1.)  For Citizens of the EU or of Certain Privileged Countries

I belong to the EU Club. Will my national driver’s license be accepted in Germany?

Your national license will be accepted as long as you do not take up “orderly domicile” in Germany (§28 I FeV). You are entitled to the same rights and duties as you were at home. Your permission to drive a car is proven by having a national or international driver’s license. For simplicity sake, get an international driver’s license before leaving.

What requirements do I have to meet to obtain a German license, now that I have an international license?

If you apply for a German license within three years of establishing orderly domicile, you will be exempt from the following requirements (§30 FeV):

  • eye test,
  • medical examination,
  • driving test,
  • first-aid instruction,
  • regulations on education.

Be prepared to bid farewell to your national license.


I do not belong to the EU Club. Will my national driver’s license be accepted in Germany?

In accordance to §31 II FeV, your li­cense is only valid for three years – after picking up orderly domicile. Afterwards you must apply for a German license.

How long can I drive my car here on my international driver’s license?

You may drive here up to three years after taking up orderly domicile. Consider your international license as a "international" translation of your national license. It's nothing special.

What happens if I want to register in the seventh month of orderly domicile in Germany? Do I have to apply for a new driver’s license?

At that time, you are allowed to drive a car everywhere else but in Germany. To drive in Germany again you will be treated as a person with­out a driver’s license, meaning you will have to meet virtually all driver’s practical and the­o­re­ti­cal training requirements. But it is not all that bad. You are an experienced driver, you should re­­quire only the minimum number of practical and theoretical lessons. In case your driving tea­cher does not agree, go to another one before hiring him to teach you. In Germany, there is a free market: if somebody does not offer what you want, check out someone else. Supposing you are caught without permission then you could be bound to up to one year in prison or pecuniary punishment (§21 StVG).

I learned that I had six months to register for receiving a German driver’s license. However, I also heard that I would only get a probationary license. That seems ridiculous.

Hold on. It depends on how long you have had your permanent driver’s license (§33 II FeV). In Germany, you will normally get a permanent driver’s license after driving safely for two years of probationary time. If your license was issued two years ago or more, you will receive a permanent license. So, you can relax.If your domestic license is not yet two years old, then the date of issue plus the time in Germany in which you were allowed to drive will be considered. An example: Let us say you drove a car for 1¾ years when you came to Germany to live here permanently. If you registered after three months, then you would receive a permanent license. Now, say you register after one month. In that case, you will be registering two months short of having a permanent license. In this case, you will have to wait two months.

After some time of driving abstinence, I want to hit the road again. What do I have to consider?

First of all, you will have to take driving lessons. If you are still a good driver, only the minimum amount of hours should be sufficient – otherwise take a couple more lessons. If you apply within three years after taking orderly domicile, you will be exempted from driving lessons and theory classes (§31 II FeV). You will still have to meet the general requirements:

  • eye test,
  • age requirements,
  • theoretical examination,
  • practical examination.


Special Contents for Certain Countries:

1.)  For Citizens of the EU or of Certain Privileged Countries
2.)  Transferring Driver's Licenses from Canada
3.)  Transferring Driver's Licenses from Certain Privileged Countries
4.)  Transferring Driver's Licenses from U.S.A. and Puerto Rico
5.)  For Citizens of a Country not Mentioned in the Tables Above

Additional information