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

With the Brexit transition period coming to an end in three months, it's a good time to change your driving licence from British to German.

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

The UK government confirmed earlier this year that Brits can drive with their UK driving licence in Germany and other EU countries only until the end of the transition period. After December 31st, the rules for third country nationals will likely apply.

The British Embassy said at the moment negotiations are ongoing on what will happen regarding British driving licence rules in the EU after this date.

But they said: “If you are resident in Germany you should exchange your UK driving licence for a German one within six months of moving to Germany, and before the end of the transition period.”

An International Driving Permit is not a suitable alternative to exchanging your licence, authorities say.

Campaign groups, including British in Germany, have also 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: How long will Brits be able to stay in Germany after Brexit without becoming a resident?

The current situation

Before the end of the transition period, 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 Germany. You do not need to have the licence translated.

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

What else should I know?

According to authorities, if you live full time in Germany, you must exchange your UK licence for a German one within six months of moving to Germany. 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

What will happen after December 31st?

It is not clear yet what will happen after the transition period – it's still being negotiated. However the UK government issued guidance saying Brits should change their licence before the end of the transition period (December 31st, 2020).

After the transition period, The UK will become a 'third country' to Germany, not an EU one.

Keep in mind that nationals of some third countries are required to take a test (theory and/or practical) before they can exchange their driving licences for a German one. So there's a strong possibility that Brits would have to take a test before being able to get a German licence after the transition period.

We don't know for sure yet, though.

What you can do before December 31st

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 in a previous interview. “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 (administrative office) and attend a meeting.

READ ALSO: Q&A – What does Brexit mean for my rights as a Brit living in Germany?

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 disruption due to the pandemic

Due to the pandemic, there may be longer times than usual for processing applications or it is more difficult to book appointments at government offices. So if it’s something you’re thinking of doing, it’s best to apply sooner rather than later.

In 2019, Parker, of Red Tape Translation, told The Local that in Berlin she had come across longer waiting times.

Readers of The Local also reported long waits in some cities.

“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,'” said Parker at the time.

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.

A version of this article was first published in February 2019 but we've updated it.

Member comments

  1. As an Australian I have experienced first hand the German bureaucracy and there inability to correctlyinterpret data even when translated. In Australia our licenses are renewed typically every 5 years and they put the issue date and expiry date 5 years later. Unfortunately the German Authorities decide to interpret the issue date as the date when you first got your license. So if you have a relative new renewal issue date they want to issue you a German probationary license. This recently happened when we went to change my wife’s license who has been driving for 20 plus years. Despite showing the translation that she was an open driver they would not budge on there interpretation. So in the end we refused to surrender her open Australian licensed and told them where to jam there German probationary one. I would love to see a Germans face if the boot was on the other foot and we issued them a set of Probationary Plates, in Australia after they we used to driving on the Autobahns here.

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BREXIT

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

Many Brits may be considering spending time in Germany or even moving for work or to study. Here's a look at the rules.

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but it’s been a turbulent few years with Covid-related restrictions, which mean many people may not have travelled abroad since then. Here’s what you should know about the rules for travelling and moving to Germany post-Brexit. 

Can I visit Germany from the UK on holiday?

Absolutely. But you do have to stick to certain rules on how long you can stay in Germany (and other EU countries) without a visa.

“British citizens do not require a visa for the Schengen Member States, if the duration of their stay does not exceed 90 days within any 180-day period,” says the German Missions consular service in the UK. 

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule from our sister site, The Local France, HERE, along with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out your allowance.

READ ALSO: Passport scans and €7 fees: What will change for EU travel in 2022 and 2023

Note that if you were living in Germany before January 1st 2021, different rules apply. People in this scenario should have received a residence permit – known as the Aufenthaltstitel-GB – from the German authorities, which proves their right to remain in Germany with the same rights as they had before Brexit. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?

Can I move to Germany from the UK after the Brexit transition period?

Yes. But if you are coming to Germany to live and work, you will need to apply for the right documents, like other so-called ‘third country nationals’. All foreigners from outside the EU who want to to stay in Germany for more than three months have to get a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). 

As we touched on above, citizens from some countries (including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland) are allowed entry into Germany without a visa and can apply for a residence permit while in the country. You can contact the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) in your area to find out how to get a residence permit.

You’ll need various official documents, such as a valid passport, proof of health insurance and proof that you can support yourself. You usually receive your residence permit as a sticker in your passport.

Passengers wait at Hamburg airport.

Passengers at Hamburg airport. Brits coming to Germany have more things to consider after Brexit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Germany has a well-documented skilled worker shortage at the moment so there are work permit options to consider that may suit your circumstances. 

For the work visa for qualified professionals, for instance, your qualifications have to be either recognised in Germany or comparable to those from a German higher education facility. 

You may also be able to get an EU Blue Card. This residence permit is aimed at attracting and enabling highly qualified third-country nationals to live in the EU. 

It comes with benefits, including the right to to request and bring family members to the country, and shortcuts for applying for permanent residency. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

When applying for a Blue Card in Germany this year, you have to earn a minimum gross salary (before tax) of €56,400 – down from €56,800 in 2021. 

In so-called shortage occupations (Mangelberufe), where there is a high number of unfilled positions, the minimum gross salary is €43,992 – down from €44,304 in 2021.

Shortage occupations include employees in the sectors of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering and medicine.

If you want to come to Germany from the UK to study then you also need to apply for a visa. For this you may need proof of acceptance to the university or higher education institution of your choice and possibly proof of your German language skills.

Check out the useful government website Make it in Germany for more detailed information, as well as the German Missions in the UK site, which has lots of info on travel after Brexit, and on visas.  

What else should I know?

The German government plans to reform the immigration system, although it’s not clear at this stage when this will happen. 

It will move to a points-based system, inspired by countries like Canada, where foreigners will have to score above a certain threshold of points to get a residence or work permit.

This scoring system will be set by the government, but it will include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account.

Keep an eye on The Local’s home page for updates on the changes to immigration laws. 

Have you moved to Germany – or are thinking about moving – after the Brexit transition period and want to share your experiences? Please get in touch by emailing [email protected] 

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