Converting a Canadian driving licence to a German one

Converting a Canadian driving licence to a German one

​Here is how Canadians living in Germany can trade their Canadian permit for a German driving licence without any additional classes.

Who can drive in Germany?

If you are a Canadian citizen with a Canadian driver's license, you can legally drive in Germany for the first 6 months after you have taken up residence there1,2. After that period, you will need a valid German driving license.

You will need an International Driving Permit, since your current licence is not in German1. In Quebec, you can obtain one from any CAA Québec Travel centre or vehicle registration centre. Other provinces have similar arrangements. You can also get an international driver's license at the Canadian embassy.

After living in Germany for 6 months, you need to trade your Canadian driving licence for a German one. This is how you do it.

German driving license categories

In Canada, driving license vary from province to province. In Germany, they are the same across the country. Here are the classes you need to be familiar with, as of May 20181,2:

  • Klasse A: Motorcycles
    • Klasse A unrestricted: Includes A1, A2 and AM. Available from age 24.
    • Klasse A1: Motorcycles of up to 125 cc and 11 kW (~15 HP). Available from age 16.
    • Klasse A2: Motorcycles of up to 35 kW (~46 HP). Available from age 18.
    • Klasse AM: Motorcycles of up to 50 cc and 4 kW (~5 HP), with a speed limit of 45 km/h. Available from age 16.
    • Mofa: Mopeds up to 50 cc with a speed limit of 25 km/h. Available from age 15.
  • Klasse B: Motor vehicles excluding motorcycles, up to 3.5 tons, plus trailers up to 750kg.
  • Klasse C: Motor vehicles exceeding 3.5 tons, plus trailers up to 750kg.
    • Klasse CE: Motor vehicles exceeding 3.5 tons, plus trailers exceeding 750kg.

Converting a Canadian permit to a German one

After 6 months in Germany, you must convert your Canadian license to a German one to drive legally in Germany.

It's important that you received your original Canadian driving license before moving to Germany. You cannot move to Germany, get a Canadian driver's license, then change it for a German one. I renewed my Canadian driver's license a year after moving to Germany. Since the date on the renewed Canadian license was after the date I moved to Germany, I had to prove that I had a Canadian driver's license before the move.

Fortunately, you will not need to take any extra classes to get a German driver license. This official document explains the requirements for each province, and for other countries. Here is a copy in case it disappears. However, if you want to trade a motorcycle licence, you will need to start from scratch. We wrote a guide on getting a motorcycle licence in Germany.

First aid classes and vision test

In order to get a German driving licence, you need to take a first aid class and pass a vision test1. I did both in the same afternoon at Ersthelfer.tv. The theory was available in English, but the demonstrations were given in German. Fahrschule Oscar also offers both of these services in English1.

If you can, try to pass the test without wearing your glasses. Otherwise, you will always need to wear your glasses to drive, even if you see well without them. I have made that mistake.

The Bürgeramt appointment

As highlighted in the document, you will need to book an appointment at your local Bürgeramt for a license transfer (Fahrerlaubnis Umschreibung). In Berlin, the nearest appointment can be up to a month later, so make sure you have all the required documents, including cash for the fees before going to your appointment. You can allegedly get an earlier appointment by visiting the booking page between 8 and 9 AM1.

Here are the documents you must bring to the Bürgeramt1:

  • Your Canadian driving licence
  • A certified translation of your driving licence. You can obtain a certified translation from Lingoking for 46€ or from ADAC for 55€. International Driving Permits are also accepted.
  • A passport picture. You can get new passport pictures for less than 10€.
  • Eyesight test.
  • First aid class certificate.

The appointment itself only takes a few minutes, and will cost you about 35 euros1. The Bürgeramt will send your documents to the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde, which will verify them with the Canadian embassy.

A few weeks months later, you will get a letter telling you to pick up your license from the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde. The pickup process is straightforward: you show up, take a number, wait your turn, show them your passport and receive your license. You do not need an appointment, but expect to spend 30 to 60 minutes in the waiting room1. My visit took an hour in total.

"6 to 8 weeks"

In Berlin, the prescribed 6 week wait time to exchange a driver's license is flat out wrong. Various sources report a 9 to 12 weeks wait, and some claim it took over 4 months!1,2,3 I began the process in February 2017, received an appointment on March 7 and picked my driving license on June 13. It took 14 weeks for my license to be processed. In smaller cities, the process only takes 2 to 6 weeks1.

An enterprising Canadian got his license faster by having the Canadian embassy tell the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde to hurry up1. You can also allegedly ask for a temporary license while your license is processed1.

There is also the possibility that your license in ready, but that they forgot to tell you to come pick it up1,2. If you do not receive any news after 8 weeks, call to inquire about your license.

In any case, arm yourself with patience. In Berlin, things take time.