An expat guide to driving licenses in Germany


Updated on Oct 08 • 4 minute read

Do you want to commute by car? Maybe go on the Autobahn for a spin? Then you need to make sure your driver's license is valid in Germany.

But how do driving licenses in Germany work? Can you drive using the license from your home country? I’m sure you have questions like these. So, fasten your seatbelt and let’s see how you can leave Germany’s public transport behind and get behind the wheel yourself!

If you already have a license

There’s quite a chance that you’ve already acquired a license in your home country. But which driving licenses are valid in Germany? For how long? Let’s find out.

Driving in Germany with a foreign license

If you have a foreign driving license, you’re allowed to drive in Germany for as long as 10 years. In your case? Well, it depends on its origin and type.

In general, a drivers license for a regular car (B) is valid for quite some time. If you have a more advanced license (e.g. for a bus or a truck) , there might be additional requirements.

If your license has been issued in any EU/EEA country, you generally get to use it until its expiration date. If it’s from a country outside the EU/EEA, you can continue to use your license for up to 6 months after you register. Additionally, it’s also likely that you would have to get your license translated by the ADAC automobile club. Please note that this can take up to 3 weeks, so if possible, do it before you arrive.

Driving with your foreign car in Germany

Much like your license, if you’re staying for a period of more than 12 months, you'll need to register your car in Germany. Your vehicle will also need to pass the German vehicle safety inspection. Make sure you also pay your vehicle tax and that you’re covered by suitable car insurance valid in Germany.

German driving habits

In general, Germans behave on the road as they do everywhere else: sticking to the rules. This makes it so that Germans aren’t exactly considered courteous drivers, but luckily it does make them very predictable! For example: a German driver won’t give you right-of-way unless the rules say you are entitled to it.

Exchanging your foreign drivers’ license

Before going to exchange your foreign driving license, there are a number of general requirements you need to meet:

  • You need a valid residence permit.
  • Your foreign driver’s license needs to be valid at the time of exchange
  • You weren't a resident of Germany at the time getting your foreign license

Exchanging an EU license

To change your EU driving licence to a German license, you need to make an appointment at the local German driving licensing office. You can directly exchange your license there. As most European driving requirements are the same, you won't need to do any additional tests before getting you German license.

Exchanging a US license

If driving in Germany with a US license, the requirements vary depending on the state you're from. Only some states have an exchange agreement with Germany. So, make sure to check the requirements per American state here. In the ‘worst’ case scenario, you’ll have to take some theoretical and driving classes, and pass the tests.

Other countries with drivers’ license exchange agreements

Other countries also have exchange agreements with Germany, such as Japan, Switzerland, Canada and South Korea. Once again, you can check if your country is eligible with the German Government. So, if you’re on the list, you’ll be able to exchange your license with minimal effort.

Types of German driving licenses

If you have a non-standard driving license, (e.g. for a truck or a bus), there are additional requirements. For example, to exchange a license in the German categories C or D (large commercial vehicles and buses) you need to provide proof that your health and eyesight are in order, as well as proof of completing a first-aid course. Keep in mind that the validity of these licenses is different than a regular license. For example, a license to operate a bus is only valid for 5 years until it has to be renewed.

Required documents

If you’re ready to exchange your license, bring the following documents to your appointment:

  • Valid identification (ID or passport)
  • A recent, biometric passport photo
  • Your certificate of registration in Germany
  • Your valid, original foreign driver's licence
  • A translation of your foreign driver's licence (if necessary)
  • If not printed on your license, proof of how long you’ve been a holder of said license.

If everything is in order, your German license will be ready to be picked up in 2-4 weeks.

Getting your license in Germany as a foreigner

If you're an expat who wants to get their driving license in Germany, you can! You’ll have to save up some cash, though. A full driving course in Germany could cost you up to €2,000, down to around €500 if you’ve had a license before.

Here’s a quick overview of the process to get you driving license in Germany as a new driver

  • Pass an eye test: you need to be sure your eyes are in a good shape before driving! Requirements for this are more strict for the special licenses.
  • Take a first aid class: This day-long Erste Hilfe Kurse is required for all applicants. To be honest, it’s good to know these things in any case!
  • Take lessons at a driving school: As a new driver, you need to take lessons at the Fahrschule. The legal requirements are 14 theoretical and at least 12 practical Sonderfahrten, where you earn to drive with a certified instructor.
  • Pass your exams! Once you’re ready, your driving school will sign you up for your theory test. Prepare well, because you need to pass this before you can take your practical test and the margin for error is quite strict. Thankfully, the German theoretical driving test is available in English. If you pass, you have 12 months to take the practical test, which lasts up to 75 minutes. You’ll drive around with your instructor by your side and an examiner in the back seat, to evaluate your driving skills.
  • Did you pass? Congratulations! It's time to put those skills to use. But don't forget that as a new driver, you’re on probation for at least 2 years.

So, now that you know how to get the wheels turning to exchange or get your license in Germany, we hope to see you on the famous Autobahn soon!

Please reach out to if you have any suggestions or inquiries about the content on this page.

Related Articles

Find your home in Germany

Find accommodation in cities across Germany. Search for your accommodation now!

Start my Search