Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Converting an Australian driver's license to a German driver's license.

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!


Dave said...

How are you enjoying the Autobahn? - little bit different from the 110km freeways in Australia hey (although I thin NT roads are still unrestricted).

tehnyit said...

The first time I drove on the autobahn is a bit, it was a bit of a blast. It certainly makes a difference from driving on the 110km/h roads in Australia. Imagine driving from Melbourne to Sydney in 6 hours instead of the 10 or so hours needed.

Anonymous said...

Since you mentioned 'swap' and convert' I'm a bit confused. Do they take the Australian licence away after you get your German licence. Or do you get to keep you Australian one?

tehnyit said...

Sorry for the confusion, I had to give my Australian driver's license to the German authorities. However, I have heard that you can get an replacement for it from Australia. I believe that the Victoria ones can be done online.
Getting the replacement is one of many on my todo list, although I am not sure how successful I will as the German authorities told me it will be returning my Australian driver's license to Australia.

Pedro said...

Fantastic Post! Exactly what I was looking for! :D
Its so hard to find relevant and correct information on the procedures on getting licenses swapped over, it's annoying that they make it more complicated than what it should be. I'm also from Victoria and I'm moving to Frankfurt Germany this Thursday! Wuahoo! Currently I'm in Portugal and its complicated to get it swapped over here. I'm living in the north of Portugal near Porto and I would have had to drive 4 hours to the Australian Embassy in Lisbon to show them my license and get written approval that its a valid Australian License after they get in contact with VIC roads, will also need to get an eye test and pay for some other useless thing I don't know what for. So glad to hear Germany is a simple swap.
I just had a few questions.
1. Do you need an International Driving Permit to Drive in Germany? I've heard its not necessary. Cause I didn't bring one. You don't need it here in Portugal.
2. Can I buy a car in Germany with an Australian License? Or do I need a German one or it doesn't matter?
3. Any important advice on what I may need to know for when I move there?
I'm so excited!

tehnyit said...

Hey Pedro, glad you like the post.
1) I don't really know if you need an IDP to legally drive in Germany, but we got one just keeps things less complicated.
2) We purchased our car before we had a German license. I believe that the criteria are you have a registered German address, and able to purchase a car insruance for yourself.
3)Important advice? All the things that I have learned could fill a book. Things are so different here to Australia. Give me an email (tehn.yit.chin@gmail.com) if you have specific questions and I will try to help out.

Pedro said...

Thanks tehnyit, I will try register my residency as soon as possible, Ill be staying in Offenbach close to Frankfurt. Thankfully I have an uncle there who says he will be able to help me with that. I'm hoping that all goes well and I don't encounter any dramas with that. Im 25 so I dont think the insurance will be too much of an issue, just hope it wont be too expensive. Hopefully smooth sailing from the get go.

Regards, Pedro

Anonymous said...

Hi Every one.
Does anybody knows that after swapping driving licence to German one, the insurance class will be counted as for a German beginner? The beginner class is pain in the neck which 240% of the normal tariff!

tehnyit said...

From the German authorities' perspective, the driver's license and the insurance for your car are considered as two different matters.

I would recommend that you gather as much as your driving history as you can and attempt to prove to your insurer that you are not a beginner driver. I think it is important to show how many accidents that were caused by you (hopefully none) and the types of accidents. The least accident, the bigger discount they are likely to give you.

Some insurer may be sympathetic to your situation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. This is exactly what I needed. I was lost trying to work this out! x

Lauren said...

This post made my day thank you! I have been living in Germany since September and I am pretty sure that I am currently driving illegally in Germany on my Australian licence. I will make sure I get the German boyfriend to accompany me to the Rathaus to swap my licence over. I have been previously told that I will need to undertake many hours of expensive driving lessons in order to get a licence. Reading this was such a relief!

igoblin2 said...

Hello there,

I've found your blog when I needed to convert mine to the German license. And now my German one is finally ready for pick up after 2 months. Anyway, just wondering what happens to the Australian license? Do I get to keep it? Or do I just simply get a new one when I'm back in Victoria? ----Missed the comments, just asking, did you get a replacement from VicRoads?

tehnyit said...

Hey igoblin2,
I don't believe that you get to keep the Australian license. In fact, I handed mine over when I went to see the German authorities to do the swap. They gave me an official bit of paper to use for the first couple of weeks, and then I received the actual license in the mail. I haven't got a replacement Victorian license yet. Been too tied up with too many other things. Good luck!

Rachel Anne said...

Thanks for such an excellent post!
Just wanted to clarify, you CAN drive on your Aussie licence here in Germany for 6 months, after which you must get a German licence unless you are only staying a maximum of another 6 months (so 1 year altogether) in which case you can extend your Aussie licence another 6 months.

I'll be trying to get my German licence next week so hopefully it all goes smoothly!

tehnyit said...

Rachel, thanks for stopping by and the information about the extension. Good to know, and good luck to getting the German license.

Anonymous said...

hey dude, i have a prob with my WA license i'm a swedish guy which live in WA 5 years and using WA driver's license, after i get back 2 sweden, swedish traffic system not allow exchange my licence to the local, so i'm thinking exchange my licence to germany license, is that possible to exchange it? even i'm not australian citizen.

tehnyit said...

Hey Anonymous-dude, I don't think that swapping the WA license will be the problem. It could be a problem of proving that you live in Germany.

Before the straight swap rule came in, I have read of people doing a swap from a Aust. license to a UK license, and then to a German license.

Anonymous said...

hi,i'm the Anonymous man lol, u r right, i'm concern about that i cant proving i'm live in Germany. but since i'm holding swedish passport, i think it's possible move to germany freely, still not quite sure. are they gonna check ur visa or residence paper when exchange the license?

tehnyit said...

Hey Anonymous-man, when I swapped mine over, I brought along my passport in-case. Lucky I did as they used it verify my identity. They may also check I have a valid visa.
I also had to show my residential registration that I did at my local town hall.

My license was came in the post. Maybe this is how they check that you are living in Germany.