How to convert an existing driving license to a German driving license (Führerschein)?
If you are a non-EEA national who have not take up residence in German, that is if you are living in Germany for less than 6 months, you may drive a car with a valid foreign driving license (DL). This foreign DL cannot be a provisional or a learner license and you should be above the minimum driving age in German for that class of vehicles. In addition, an International driving permit (IDP) or a translation of the foreign DL is required if the DL is not in German language and/or the DL doesn’t conform to the provisions of Annex 6 of the Convention on Road Traffic of 8 November 1968. Please note that the IDP or translation are not sufficient by themselves. They are only valid in conjunction with the original foreign driving license. Driving license from the following countries does not need a translation or an IDP: Andorra, Hong Kong, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Senegal and Switzerland (But if you are renting a car, confirm this with the car rental agency as they may still need you to provide one).
Unfortunately, for a non-EEA national living in Germany for more than 6 months (>= 185 days a year), your foreign driving license will no more be recognized in Germany. If you want to continue driving in Germany, you will have to acquire a German driving license. In the case if you are a U.S. citizens planning to stay less than a year, you may drive in Germany for up to 364 days with your US driver’s licenses (However, you must go to the Führerscheinstelle prior to expiration of the six-month period after arrival and notify them that you want to continue to drive with your US license until your departure (total stay should be less than or equal to 364 days in total). If you plan to stay longer, you will need to convert your US license to a German one as well.
If you are one of the lucky ones, you can get the German license without giving a theory and/or a practical test. The following table lists the countries (and states/territories of certain countries) that are exempted from theory and/or practical test for certain types of driving licenses (as of Sept. 2018).
|1||Exempted from theory and practical test||Andorra, Croatia, French Polynesia, Guernsey, Isle of, Man, Israel, Japan, Jersey, Monaco, Namibia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Some Australian states and territories (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia), Some Canadian states and territories (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Saskatchewan, Yukon), and Some states and outlying territories from the USA (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington State, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Puerto Rico)|
|2||Exempted from practical test||Some states and outlying territories from the USA (Connecticut, Indiana, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, District of Columbia)|
|3||Exempted from theory test||Driving licenses issued in the territory under the effective jurisdiction of the authorities in Taiwan|
A detailed list can be found here.
License holders from category 1 in the table above can simply submit an application for a German driver’s license directly to the Führerscheinstelle. The following documents may be needed:
- A residency registration (Anmeldebestätigung) from the Einwohnermeldeamt,
- The original license together with a German translation (translation can be done at ADAC for Eur 55 for non-members and Eur 45 for members),
- A statement by the applicant that the license is still valid,
- A recent photograph (35mm x 45 mm),
- Documentation of a recent eye test is also often required.
License holders from category 2 in the list should also approach the Führerscheinstelle to submit an application for a German license (same documents as above) and to be registered for the written test which costs approximately Eur 40. The test can be taken in English and includes a separate test of German license-related vocabulary.
Those nationalities (or states/territories) not mentioned in the above table will have to go through an elaborate process and pass a theoretical and a practical exam. The process of obtaining a class B (Klasse B) driving license is listed below. A cost breakdown is provided at the end of the post.
1. Register at a Fahrschule
Find a good driving school in your neighborhood (Fahrschule) and register there. (Before registering, make sure to ask for reviews of the driving school from family/friends or have a look online). The driving school should provide you a letter confirming your registration.
2. Theory lessons
Theory lessons are offered by the Fahrschule – minimum of 14 lessons (12 in Grundstoff and 2 in Zusatzstoff). You may skip the theory lessons offered by the Fahrschule as you only need to convert a foreign license to a German one. If you decide to skip theory lessons, you will have to learn the driving theory on your own.
You can find some study material in English, for example, Führerschein Klasse B/BE (Auto) ENGLISCH
or via websites like My Fuehrerschein or Fuehrerschein Bestehen or via some Android/Apple apps (search for “Führerschein” in Google Play Store or Apple App store). You may also be able to buy a training book or DVD from the driving school (but the English ones are usually overpriced and not recommended).
In the end, you should be able to answer questions from Question bank available in the above-mentioned books/sites/Apps. The question bank (fragebogen) consists of around 1000~1100 multiple choice questions. Some question includes a picture or a video as well.
3. First aid course (Erste Hilfe Kurse)
Attending a first aid course is mandatory for obtaining a driving license in Germany. First aid courses are offered by Deutsches Rotes Kreuz, MAUS, Malteser, ASB, etc. First aid course can be done in parallel with the theory classes. You can attend the course with some basic knowledge of the German language. In some bigger cities, courses are offered in English as well. A typical first aid course can be completed within a day (9 lectures of 45 minutes each + breaks ~ 7-8 hours). The lessons rely more on practical aspects rather than theory. Most institutes offer first aid course on a Saturdays as well; this is convenient for those working full time. After successful completion of the first aid course, you will be provided with a certificate, that you will need to register for the practical exam.
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4. Eye examination (Sehtest)
An eye examination is also mandatory and can be done in parallel with the theory classes. The eye test must be carried out by an officially recognized eye test center. These include Optometrists, ophthalmologists or the doctor of the health department if they have the necessary qualifications and examination equipment. Institutes like MAUS offer an eye test at the same center where they conduct the first aid course.
Note: If you pass an eye test without glasses, then you can also drive without them as well. If you passed the test with glasses then you will have to do the practical exam with glasses, and your license will have number 01 which means „driver uses eye help = glasses or lenses“.
5. Translation of driving license, if not in German (Übersetzung)
You will need to obtain a German language translation of the foreign driving license from a recognized institute, for example, ADAC. The cost for translating the driving license at ADAC are as follows:
|Translation to German||
|Translation of foreign driving license (Latin alphabets)||
|Translation of foreign driving license (non-Latin alphabets)||
6. Registering at Führerscheinstelle for license conversion (Umschreibung einer ausländischen Fahrerlaubnis)
Visit the Führerscheinstelle with the following documents to register for license conversion:
- Foreign driving license with translation
- Photocopy of the foreign DL
- Biometric Photo
- First Aid course certificate
- Eye test results
- Letter confirming registration at a driving school
After successful registration at the Führerscheinstelle, you should receive a letter from them within 4-6 weeks confirming your registration and asking you to pay the fees for the theory and practical exam.
7. Appointment for the theory exam
Once you have received the letter from Führerscheinstelle mentioned in point 6 and paid the fees for the theory exam mentioned in that letter, you can request your driving school to book an appointment for theory exam on your behalf. They may charge you Eur 40~80 to book an appointment.
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8. Taking the theory exam
On the day of the theory exam, either a driving school teacher will drive you to the exam center or you will have to reach there on your own. If you have to reach there on your own, make sure to arrive 15 minutes before the allotted time. During the exam, you will be assigned a computer. You can take the theory test in 12 different languages: German, English, French, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Croatian, Spanish, Turkish and Arabic (only in some federal states). Make sure to inform the examiner the language you want to take the exam in. The theory test is made up of 30 mostly multiple-choice questions. There may be several correct answers to one question. Questions can be text only or with images/videos. If you receive more than ten minus points, you will fail the test. The result of the exam is valid up to 1 year from the date of the exam. If you don’t pass the practical test within 12 months of giving the theory exam, you will have to repeat the theory exam once again. On the day of the exam do not forget to carry:
- Passport and Aufenthaltstitel
- Appointment letter (if provided by the driving school)
- Training certificate issued by the driving school
9. Practical driving lessons
If you have a foreign driving license, you are not obliged to take any minimum number of driving lessons. I have a couple of friends who didn’t pass the practical exam in the first attempt. So my recommendation is to take a few lessons to get used to the German way of driving before taking the driving exam; esp. If you come from a country where driving rules are not followed strictly, you may need to take quite a lot of lesson till you can drive well enough to pass a theory test. In addition, if you are used to driving on the left side, you may need even more lessons.
I strongly suggest to follow the advice of the driving school instructor and not take the practical exam lightly. The driving examiners are very strict and even missing a couple of “Schulterblick” can cost you the driving license (depending on the mood of the examiner). An advantage of taking more lessons is that you will be able to get used to German vocabulary that the examiner may use during the course of the exam. Most examiners will refrain from using English during the practical exam.
Usually, one driving lesson is 45 minutes long. Most instructors tend to take double lessons at a time, that is, 90 min at a stretch. Make sure to not only take driving lessons in the city, but also on Autobahn and countryside streets, and at least one-night driving lessons. They may cost a little bit more, however, they are an advantage in the long run (by preventing a second attempt at the practical exam). Also, practice parking, emergency braking (Gefahrenbremsung) and three-point turning (Wenden in drei Zügen).
10. Practical exam
Once you feel you have taken enough lessons and/or your driving instructor is convinced that you can pass the exam, pay the practical exam fee and request your instructor to schedule an appoint for the exam. The driving school may charge an additional fee of Eur 80~160 for the practical exam.
On the day of the practical exam:
Carry your passport with you (it may be checked by the examiner). As soon as you enter the car, make sure to wear the seatbelt and make the initial adjustments (seat position, mirrors, etc.). Your driving instructor will be sitting next to you (but he will not give you any instructions today. He is only there to act during emergencies). During the exam you will have to drive the route requested by the examiner (this doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow the driving rules; if the examiner tells you to enter a “no entry”, you can ignore him; it’s a test to see if you are aware of the driving rules). You may also be asked to do one or more of the following:
- Parallel and/or box parking (Make sure to check all the mirrors at appropriate times. The examiners really love it when you check the mirrors correctly).
- Emergency braking – when at 30 Km/h (Usually, you would be in an empty street at this time. Brake as fast as possible without the car turning off: brake + clutch).
- Making a three-point turn (Make sure to check all the mirrors at appropriate times).
- Drive on Landesstraße (Don’t exceed the speed limit. But, do not drive much slower than the speed limit when the driving conditions allow it).
- Drive on Autobahn (Enter the autobahn at a decent speed. Drive 120-130 Km/h if the traffic condition and speed limits allow for it).
Hint: Don’t forget “Schulterblick”, “rechts vor links” and checking mirrors where appropriate.
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The practical exam will last around 45 minutes. At the end of the exam, you will get the result and a feedback from the examiner (usually a list of mistakes). If you did well enough, you should receive a certificate stating that you have passed the exam.
10. Collecting your license
If you have successfully passed the exam, take the certificate issued by the examiner to the Führerscheinstelle. They will take your foreign driving license and issue you a German driving license.
Note: The foreign driving license will be kept by the Führerscheinstelle. Once you get the German DL, you can get an International driving permit (IDP) to drive in your home country. If you plan to leave Germany permanently to you live in your home country, then you can exchange your german DL with the earlier one.
The whole process took me around 5 months. But, it can be done in 3-4 months if you are consistent and work hard. In the end, I paid around ~ Eur 1200 (including learning materials). The cost breakdown for converting a foreign DL to a German one is mentioned at the end of this post. If you found this post interesting, read my post about The cost of owning a car in Germany. Subscribe below to get notified about my next post on car insurance.
SEE ALSO: 7 Myths about studying in Germany
Cost Breakdown (cost can vary a lot depending on the locality):
|1||Driving School registration||
~ 80 – 150€
|2||Theory lessons (Optional)||
|3||First aid course||
|5||Translation of foreign DL||
|7||Theory exam fee||
~30-50€ per lesson
|9||Practical exam fee||
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