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  • Hari Krishnan

German Driving License: Process, Fees, Timeline and Tips

Updated: Jan 2

If you're an expat in Germany, getting a German driving license is essential for exploring the country on your own. This article will help you understand the process, costs, timeline, and important tips for obtaining your German license, whether you're a newcomer or need to convert your existing one.


process to translate foreign driving license in germany


If you are an expat living in Germany and want to drive a car, you may need to get a German driving license (Führerschein). Depending on where your original license was issued, the process can be easy or complicated. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about getting a driving license in Germany, including:

  • Who can drive in Germany without converting their foreign license

  • How to exchange your foreign license for a German one

  • How to apply for a new German license from scratch

  • How much it costs and how long it takes

  • Some tips and tricks to pass the exams

  • Conclusion

  • Frequently asked questions


Driving in Germany with a foreign license

If you have a valid driving license from another country, you can use it to drive in Germany for up to six months (with a valid International Driving Permit) after you register your address. However, after that period, you will need to get a German license to continue driving legally.


The rules for converting your foreign license vary depending on where it was issued. There are three main categories of countries:

  • EU/EEA countries: If your license was issued by an EU/EEA country, you can use it in Germany until it expires. You do not need to exchange it for a German one, unless you want to renew it or change your personal details. You can only renew your license in the country where it was issued.

  • Countries with a reciprocal agreement: If your license was issued by one of the countries that have a reciprocal agreement with Germany, you can exchange it for a German one without taking any exams. You just need to fill out an application form, provide some documents, and pay a fee. The list of countries with a reciprocal agreement can be found here.

  • Countries without a reciprocal agreement: If your license was issued by a country that does not have a reciprocal agreement with Germany (the countries that are not listed here), you will need to take both a theory and a practical exam to get a German license. You may also need to take some driving lessons at a registered driving school.



Exchanging your foreign license for a German one

If you belong to the second or third category of countries, you will need to exchange your foreign license for a German one within six months of your arrival. The process is different depending on whether you need to take exams or not.


Exchanging your foreign license with reciprocity

If you come from a country with a reciprocal agreement, you can exchange your foreign license for a German one by following these steps:

  1. Have your license and other relevant documents translated into German by a certified translator. You will need your passport, your residence permit, your registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung), and your foreign license. You may also need a certificate of fitness (Ärztliches Zeugnis) and a certificate of eyesight (Sehtestbescheinigung) if your license does not have a photo or an expiration date.

  2. Complete any additional requirements that may apply, such as an eye test, or a first aid course.

  3. Get an appointment at your local driving license office (this is online in most of the major cities in Germany) and submit the application form

  4. Pay the fee for the license exchange, which ranges from 35 to 45 euros depending on the state. You can pay by cash or card at the office.

  5. Wait for your German license to arrive by post. This can take from three to six weeks.


Exchanging your foreign license without reciprocity

If you come from a country without a reciprocal agreement, you will need to take both a theory and a practical exam to get a German license. You will also need to sign up with a driving school (Fahrschule) and take some driving lessons. The steps are as follows:


  1. Have your license and other relevant documents translated into German by a certified translator. You will need your

    1. Passport

    2. Residence permit

    3. Registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung)

    4. Foreign license.

    5. Certificate of fitness (Ärztliches Zeugnis)

    6. Certificate of eyesight (Sehtestbescheinigung) if your license does not have a photo or an expiration date.

  2. Complete any additional requirements that may apply, such as an eye test, or a first aid course.

  3. Sign up with a driving school and take some driving lessons (Even if you have experience as a driver, the process of obtaining a driver's license in Germany mandates that you enroll in a driving school.). You can find a driving school near you here. You may also need to take some extra lessons depending on your skill level and the instructor’s recommendation.

  4. Register for the theory exam at your local driving license authority (This is an online process in most of the major German cities). You will need to pay a fee of about 23 euros. You will also need to buy or borrow some study materials, such as a textbook and an online platform with practice questions.

  5. Study for the theory exam, which consists of around 100 multiple-choice questions. You will need to score at least 90% to pass. You can take the exam in different languages, including English. The exam is computer-based and lasts about 45 minutes.

  6. Take the theory exam at a testing center. For the theory exam, you will need to bring your

    1. Passport

    2. Residence permit

    3. Registration certificate

    4. Foreign license.

    5. You will also need to show proof of payment and registration.


You will get the result immediately after the exam. If you pass, you will receive a certificate of eligibility (Prüfungsbescheinigung), which allows you to take the practical exam. If you fail, you will need to wait at least two weeks before you can retake the exam. You can retake the exam as many times as you need, but you will have to pay the fee each time.



  1. Register for the practical exam at the driving school. You will need to pay a fee of about 300 euros (depends on the location and the driving school). You will also need to book a date and time for the exam, which depends on the availability of the examiner and the car. You can only take the practical exam in German.

  2. Take the practical exam with the examiner, and the instructor. Generally, you only need to bring your passport. However, if your fahrschule ask you to bring any additional documents, like your residence permit, your registration certificate, your foreign license, your certificate of eligibility, and your certificate of eyesight, you need to bring them too.


The exam lasts about 45 minutes and covers different driving situations. You will need to demonstrate your ability to drive safely and follow the traffic rules. That typically include driving in the city / town, autobahn, emergency breaking, right before left, etc. You will get the result immediately after the exam. If you pass, you will receive a letter from the examiner. If you fail, you will need to wait at least two weeks before you can retake the exam. You can retake the exam as many times as you need, but you will have to pay the fee each time. 9. If you pass, you need to get an appointment at the local driving authority to collect your new German driving license. You need to bring the letter you received from the examiner to collect the license.

Sometimes, you may be required to surrender your foreign driving license when receiving the German license, though this practice does not appear to be very common.



How much does it cost and how long does it take to get a driving license in Germany?

The cost and duration of getting a driving license in Germany depend on several factors, such as:

  • The type of license you want to get (e.g., car, motorcycle, truck, etc.)

  • The number of driving lessons and exams you need to take

  • The state where you live and apply for the license


As a general estimate, you can expect to pay between 100 and 200 euros if you come from a country with a reciprocal agreement, and between 1200 and 2000 euros if you come from a country without a reciprocal agreement. Please note that this cost only applies if you manage to pass on the first try. And, as you attend more classes and face additional exams, the cost goes up. The process can take from a few weeks to a few months, depending on your availability and the waiting times for the exams.



Some tips and tricks to get a driving license in Germany

Getting a driving license in Germany can be challenging, especially if you have to take the practical and theoretical tests. Here are some tips and tricks that can help you prepare and pass the exams:

  • Practice as much as you can with a driving instructor or a friend who has a German license. The more you drive, the more confident and comfortable you will be.

  • Learn the common road signs and their meanings. There are over 600 road signs in Germany, and you need to know them all for the theoretical test. You can use online resources like fahrschule.de or Führerschein-bestehen.de to practice and test your knowledge. You can also download apps like iFahrschulTheorie or Führerschein 2023 to learn on the go.

  • Focus on your car control skills. You need to master the basics of driving, such as steering, braking, accelerating, changing gears, parking, and reversing. You also need to know how to perform some special maneuvers, such as parallel parking, hill start, emergency stop, and turning around. You can watch videos like this one or this one to see how they are done.

  • Think ahead, but don’t think too far ahead. You need to be aware of your surroundings and anticipate what other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and animals might do. You also need to plan your route and follow the directions of your examiner. However, you should not worry about what might happen in the future or what mistakes you might make. Just focus on the present and drive safely and smoothly.

  • Set realistic goals and take your time. It’s normal to feel nervous or anxious before and during the exams. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or expect to pass on the first try. Remember that you can always retake the exams if you fail. Also, don’t rush or speed through the exams. Take your time and follow the rules. If you are unsure about something, ask your examiner or instructor for clarification.


Conclusion

Getting a driving license in Germany as an expat can be a rewarding and useful experience. However, it can also be a complex and challenging process, depending on your situation and needs. You need to know the requirements, the costs, the timeline, and the steps to apply for the practical and theoretical exams. You also need to prepare well and practice your driving skills and knowledge. By following the tips and tricks in this article, you can increase your chances of passing the exams and getting your German driving license. We hope you found this article helpful and informative. If you have any questions or feedback, please let us know in the comments section below. Thank you for reading and happy driving!


Some frequently asked questions

What are the basic requirements for getting a German driving license as an expat?

You'll typically need to be a resident, pass a vision and health test, and attend a driving school to learn the German traffic rules and regulations.

How do I choose a suitable driving school in Germany?

What are the steps involved in the application process for a German driving license?

How long does it typically take to get a German driving license as an expat?

Are there any exceptions or special considerations for expats from certain countries?

What should expats know about the road rules and regulations in Germany?

How much does it cost to obtain a German driving license as an expat?

What tips can you offer to expats to make the process of getting a German driving license smoother?



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