This guide shows you how to convert your driving licence to a German driving licence. It's how I exchanged my Canadian driver licence in 2016.

Who can drive in Germany?

You can drive in Germany with a foreign driving licence.

  • If you have a EU or EEA driving licence
    Your licence is valid in Germany until it expires1. You don't need an International Driving Permit1.
  • If you have a licence from Andorra, Hong Kong, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Senegal or Switzerland
    Your licence is valid in Germany. It's valid for 6 months after you move to Germany1. You don't need a translation or an International Driving Permit1.
  • If you have a driving licence from any other country
    Your licence is valid in Germany. It's valid for 6 months after you move to Germany1. If it's not in German, you must also have a translation or an International Driving Permit1.

After your foreign driver licence becomes invalid, you must convert it to a German driver licence, or you must stop driving in Germany.

Driving licence translations

Driving licence translations must come from a certified translator, government office or recognised automobile association (AAA, CAA, ADAC...).

You can get an International Driving Permit from a vehicle registration office or an automobile association in your country. Sometimes, you can also get it from your country's embassy or consulate. In some cases, you can apply by mail from Germany. In other cases you must apply in person in your home country.

  • Americans can get an International Driving Permit from the AAA or AATA1. You can apply by mail.
  • Canadians can get an International Driving Permit from a CAA Travel Centre1, 2, a vehicle registration office (SAAQ), or a Canadian embassy or consulate1.
  • British people can get an International Driving Permit at the Post Office.

Who can convert their driving licence?

List of countries and requirements - Federal Ministry of Transportation

How to convert your licence to a German one

You must have received your original driver license before you moved to Germany. You can't move to Germany, get a foreign driver license, then change it for a German one. You also can't get a driver licence in another European Union country while you live in Germany.

I renewed my Canadian driver license 1 year after I moved to Germany. The date on my renewed licence was after the date I moved to Germany. I had to prove that I had a Canadian licence before moving to Germany. I had photocopies of my old licence, and a certificate from my driving school.

1. Register your address

You must register your address (Anmeldung), because you need a registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung) to convert your driving licence.

How to register your address in Berlin ➞

How to get a registration certificate ➞

You do not need to take driving classes to get your German driver license1. This page explains the requirements for each province, and for other countries. However, if you want to trade a motorcycle licence, you need to start from scratch. I wrote a guide on getting a motorcycle licence in Germany.

2. Take first aid classes and an eye test

You might need a first aid certificate and an eye test to convert your driving licence. The rules are different for every country.

Required documents for each country - Federal Ministry of Transportation

3. Take driving lessons

You might need to take driving lessons. Sometimes you must only take theory classes, and sometimes you must also take driving lessons with a car. The rules are different for each country.

Requirements for each country - Federal Ministry of Transportation

English-speaking driving schools in Berlin ➞

If you are Canadian or American, you should take driving lessons, even if they are not required. The driving rules are very different in Europe, and you are not prepared to drive here.

How to drive in Germany - Route to Germany

4. Get a Bürgeramt appointment

Book an appointment at the Bürgeramt for a driving license transfer (Umschreibung einer ausländischen Fahrerlaubnis). In Berlin, it's hard to find an appointment. The nearest appointment could be in a month.

How to get a Bürgeramt appointment in Berlin ➞

5. Go to your appointment

Go to your appointment, and bring all the required documents:

  • Foreign driving licence
    It must still be valid. You must bring the original licence, not just a copy. During the appointment, you give your driving licence and never get it back.
  • Photocopy of your driving licence
  • Passport or personal ID
  • Certified translation of your driving licence
    If your driving licence is not in English or German, you need a certified translation of it. You can get one from Lingoking for 46€ or from ADAC for 55€. International Driving Permits are also accepted.
  • A passport photo. You can get new passport pictures for around 6€.
  • An EC card or cash to pay the fees (36.30€). Visa and MasterCard are sometimes accepted1.
  • Anmeldebestätigung to prove that you live in Berlin. It's not always required.

The appointment itself only takes a few minutes, and it costs 36.30€1. The Bürgeramt will send your documents to the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde, and they will verify them with your country's embassy.

During your appointment, you should ask for a temporary license while you wait for your German driving license1.

6. Wait

This can take a long time. In Berlin, you must wait around 6 weeks to exchange a driver's license. Some people wait much longer1, 2, 3, 4, 5. In 2016, it took me 14 weeks. In smaller cities, it takes 2 to 6 weeks1.

Current processing times in Berlin - This is the time it takes before they start working on your application. It will take a few more weeks after that.

One Canadian got his license faster when the Canadian embassy told the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde to hurry up1. You can also ask for a temporary license while you wait for your German driving license1.

7. Pick up your German driving licence

In a few weeks, you will get a letter. It will tell you to get your new driver license from the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde. Go there, take a number, wait your turn, show them your passport and get your license. It's very easy, but you might wait 30 to 60 minutes1.

Sometimes, your licence is ready, but they don't tell you to pick it up1, 2. If you do not get any news after 8 weeks, call the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde, and ask about your license.

Coronavirus update (January 2022): You might need an appointment to pick up your driving licence, even if the letter says you don't. Look at recent reviews on Google Maps before you go. You can get it by writing an email to Post.Fahrerlaubnis@labo.berlin.de.

What's next?

Now that you have a German driving licence, you can buy a car and use car sharing services.

If this is the first time you drive in Europe, you should read Route to Germany's guide to driving in Germany.