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How to swap your British driving licence for a German one

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How to swap your British driving licence for a German one
A German driving licence. Photo: DPA
16:43 CET+01:00
Exchanging your British driving licence for a German one has become a pressing issue as Brexit looms. Here’s what you need to know about the process.

If you’re a British person living in Germany, you are no doubt trying to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU. 

Although nobody knows what will happen after March 29th, there are some practical steps you can take, such as exchanging your driving licence for a German one. That’s because in the event of a no-deal, your licence could become invalid.

Campaign groups, including British in Germany, have been urging Brits who are interested in exchanging their licence to do it as soon as possible.

The process for exchanging your licence is different for driving licences that have been issued by non-EU countries. You can read our detailed article on getting a German driving licence.

We’ve gathered together some information on what you should know if you’re thinking of exchanging your licence, but you should also check out this federal government website.

SEE ALSO: Brexit planning: What you need to know about Germany's plans for a no-deal

The current situation

Before March 29th 2019, your driving licence is valid in the EU. If you're 18 years of age or older and you have a valid licence which was issued from a member state in the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA), you may drive vehicles in Germany of the category that's indicated on your licence without restrictions.

Officials say that with a UK licence you can drive for both work and leisure purposes throughout the EU without other documents. In EU countries, such as Germany, you can exchange licences issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) or the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland, for a driving licence from your new home country.

You do not need to re-sit your driving test. The cost of exchanging your driving licence is around €35 but it varies across the country. You would not need to have the licence translated.

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about getting a German driving licence

Event of a deal

If a Brexit deal is struck between the UK and the EU before March 29th, your UK driving licence will remain valid up until the end of the transition period that is agreed. Agreements on the recognition of licences between the UK and the EU in future will be part of the negotiations held during the transition period.

The Brexit mural by Banksy in Dover, UK. Photo: DPA

Event of a no-deal

If there is no withdrawal agreement (a no-deal), then the UK will become a so-called 'third country' after the UK’s exit date on March 29th.

That mean's your driving licence could become invalid. However, British in Germany says this isn't likely to happen. It is expected that German authorities will find a solution, such as introducing a special regulation to allow a six-month transition period starting from March 29th, the group posted on their website. This would give Brits more time to change their licence if they wanted to. 

SEE ALSO: Brexit planning: What you'll need to do if there's a no-deal

What you can do

You can apply to swap your British driving licence for your German one. There are other reasons for doing this besides Brexit. If you're planning to stay in Germany long-term it might be a good idea to have a Germany-issued licence (Führerschein). 

The good news is that it's not a difficult task. Kathleen Parker, of consultancy service Red Tape Translation, told The Local: “It’s quite a straightforward process.”

Start by looking up the information on what documents you need on the local government website of the city you live in. In Berlin you need to book an appointment online at your Bürgeramt and attend a meeting.

According to the official government website, if your foreign driving licence is "about to expire or is no longer valid, you will receive a German licence of the same category upon request".

A typical requirement is that you have to be a resident in the city where you’re applying.

The documents needed to exchange your licence include:

  • your passport/ID

  • a certificate of registration of residency (Anmeldung) 

  • a current photo that must fit the size and style required

  • your UK driving licence 

If your driving licence is in English it will not need to be translated. After you’ve paid, you’ll receive a Quittung (receipt). Parker recommends storing that document in a safe place.

“Hold onto the receipt when you make the payment, in case you have to follow up the query," she told The Local.

On your local government website you should also find information on what to do if you’ve lost your UK driving licence or if it has been stolen and you want a German one. In this case, local government officials will want as much information as possible about the British licence (categories of licence, place of issue, date of issue, etc).

Photo: DPA

If you have a copy of the licence or a confirmation of receiving it, you can submit that in your application too.

When transferring truck or bus driving licences (C and D categories on the licence) the process is not as simple.

The kind of documents you need to provide in this case include certificates of physical and mental fitness, as well as medical examinations of vision.

When the German driving licence is issued, the foreign driving licence will be retained and sent back to the authority that issued it.

Possible long waiting times

Authorities warn that the process can take several weeks so if it’s something you’re thinking of doing, it’s best to apply sooner rather than later.

Parker said she had noticed that in Berlin there were currently longer waiting times.

“I’ve been hearing a lot from clients lately that it is taking a long time to get a response," she said. “Some people have been contacting me after a couple of months and saying: 'I applied for my licence to be swapped over and I still haven’t heard anything.'"

Parker said she had received several inquiries from British people preparing for Brexit, many of them looking to apply for dual citizenship. She has also noticed an increase in Brits looking for information on swapping their driving licences for German ones.

“That’s a bit of a theme at the moment,” she said.

For more information check out this European Union website. Another handy resource is this government fact sheet.

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