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Brexit: How to swap your British driving licence for a German one

Brexit: How to swap your British driving licence for a German one
A German driving licence. Photo: DPA
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. 

Now Brexit is set to finally happen on January 31st, there are some practical steps you can take, such as exchanging your driving licence for a German one.

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.

READ ALSO: Can Brits still move to Germany after Brexit day?

The current situation

Before Brexit, 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 do not need to have the licence translated.

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

Event of a Withdrawal Agreement

According to authorities, if you are a resident in Germany, you must exchange your UK licence for a German one within six months of moving to Germany. So Brits already legally resident in Germany on February 1st, the day after Brexit, can use their British passport for six months from that date but it will then no longer become valid.

So to drive in Germany after that, you'll need a German licence.

You do not have to sit another test to get a German licence. Follow the procedures below and talk to your local authority if you have any questions.

If you change it, you can still use your German licence in the UK for short visits or exchange it for a UK licence without taking a test if you return to live in the UK.

According to the government, if your UK driving licence is lost, stolen or expires, you will not be able to renew it with the UK Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) while you are resident in Germany.

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

It is not clear yet what will happen after the transition period. However the UK government issued guidance this week saying Brits should change their licence before the end of the transition period (currently December 31st, 2020).

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). 

READ ALSO: Brexit: What do Brits in Germany need to think about before January 31st?

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.

However, a spokesman from the Berlin local government told The Local there are currently no waiting lists. He said a total of 453 people with British driving licences had applied to change their licence into a German one in the last 12 months.

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

This article was first published in February 2019 and updated in January 2020.


Member comments

  1. For anyone that has had corrective laser eye surgery, go get an opticians report and take it with you when you apply for your German licence. Of course I forgot that it was on my British licence and was never updated. The official also told me that it had not been indicated to them that British licenses would become invalid after brexit. Best to get it done as a precaution.

  2. My brother swapped his UK licence for a German one. Took about 2 weeks. They told him the UK driving licence is a Valid European Card and will be treated as such even after Brexit. Here in France i may have to wait a year to get my licence changed and or retake my licence. Go figure.

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