When I shifted to Germany with my family, one of the many things that needs to be converted are the driver's licenses for my wife and I. Initially, I suspect that it would have been a simple swap over. However, given that there are many, many different differences between the Australian driving laws and German driving laws, the reality is that I had to go through many tests before obtaining the German license.
To initiate the conversion process, I had to register at my local town hall that I want to convert my license. This is where I struck my first problem. My local town hall does not have a representative of the department that handles driver's license, and the department is located at the district town hall, which is about 35mins away. This caused some delays as all the documents had to be send to the district town hall to be processed.
I was under the impression that the original documents that I have shown to the local town hall is good enough for the district town hall as I assumed that both town halls has the same authorities . This is my second mistake. The I kept receiving letters back from the district town hall requesting for my originals to be shown. This caused several trips to the district town hall.
The type of documentation that was requested does not appear to make sense. One of the documents that they requested was some documentary evidence that I lived in Australia for 185 days or longer. At the time, they were after a certificate from an Australian authority that I lived in Australia for 185 days, and guess what, there is not such thing in Australia. Unlike some parts of the world, there is no need to register your place of residence at the town hall. The closest documentation that I could provide are my utility bills over a 185 day period with my Australian address on it. They seem to be happy with that.
As part of the conversion process, I need to complete a first aid emergency course (conducted only in German, of which I can hardly understand), and to pass an eye test. I also need to select a driving school for some driving lessons and assistance with the driving test. The driving tests are part theoretical and practical. The theoretical tests can be done in English or German but the practical test must be done in German. I am actually glad that I went through the process of studying for the theoretical tests as it introduced me to the many different road rules here in Germany, especially the 'priority' rules.
I almost completed the whole conversion process when I received news that Germany and Australia have agree to do a simple swap of the driving licenses. This website has more information.
The Australian driver's license is rather strange as the authority of issuing the driver's license is at the state level, not at the federal level. However, German's license is issued at a federal level. A simple swap would have to be on an Australian state vs German basis. As I was holding a full driver's license from Victoria, I am eligible to convert my license to a full German license. Yippee!!!
As a lesson learned from one of my earlier mistakes, I went to the district town hall instead of my local town hall, armed with a print out of the website, to change my license over. After paying them some more money, I got a provisional license. It is provisional as the actual license is being prepared. As I was saying thanks to the officer that served me, I saw a driver's license with my photo on it. I asked if I could have that license instead. The officer told me that if I completed through the whole process of passing the tests, I would have got this license. However, as I am now doing a simple swap, I will be getting a different license. I don't know what the differences are, or if there will be any restrictions.
Anyway, I am now a happy driver on the German roads!