SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

DRIVING

Reader question: Do I need to swap my UK licence for a German one?

Now the Brexit transition period is over, many Brits in Germany are wondering if they can still use their UK licence or if they should change it - and what other rules apply. Here's the latest on the situation.

Reader question: Do I need to swap my UK licence for a German one?
A German driving licence and car key. Photo: DPA

Reader question: I live in Germany but I still have my UK driving licence. Do I have to change it if I’m going to drive in Germany. If so, do I need to take a new test?

What’s the latest?

To the relief of many Brits, Germany recently confirmed that it will enter into a reciprocal agreement to allow UK driving-licence holders to swap their licence for a German one – without taking a new test.

While it may sound obvious, since the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st 2020, UK licences have no been longer treated as EU licences, which means they’re only valid for driving in the EU for a limited period of time.

In the past, drivers were entitled to use their UK licence in their EU country of residence until it expired, but now Brits will have a maximum of six months to swap their licence after taking up residence in Germany. 

There had been fears that Brits would be asked to redo their practical or theory test in Germany in order to get their hands on a new German licence. Thanks to a forthcoming agreement between the UK and Germany, however, the process should be much simpler than that. 

The pending deal with Germany is one of several reciprocal agreements on driving licences that have been signed between the UK and EU nations in recent weeks – although some nations, such as France, have run into teething problems when ratifying them. 

Though things appear to be running more smoothly in Germany, many Brits remain confused about the new rules, and in particular how long they are allowed to use their existing licence before exchanging it.

READ ALSO: End of the Brexit transition period: What do Brits in Germany need to do now?

So, what exactly are the post-Brexit rules for Brits who want to drive in Germany, and how long do they have to get a German licence?

How long is a UK licence valid in Germany?

Brits who live in Germany – or those who spend more than 185 days of the year here – can use their UK licence for up to six months.

How you define this ‘six months’, however, has been a consistent cause of confusion, since it’s unclear whether the clock starts at the start-date of residency, or at the end-date of the transition period (when UK licences ceased to count as EU licences).

According to the Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), it’s best to contact your local licensing authority if you’re unclear about which one of these applies to you.

“Under driver licensing law, a person is deemed to have taken up residence in Germany if they live here for at least 185 days a year,” the BMVI website explains. “The question as to when this period commences in any given case, especially in the case of Brexit, should be settled with the local driver licensing authority.”

According to the UK Government’s Living in Germany advice, those who haven’t swapped their licence before the end of the transition period have until June 30th 2021.

“If you were living in Germany before January 1st 2021, you can use your UK photocard licence to drive in Germany until June 30th 2021, provided that it remains valid in the UK,” the site says.

But unfortunately it appears you won’t be able to swap it if your licence isn’t valid.

“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,” says the UK government.

Citizens’ rights group British in Germany has been recommending that people switch their licence “as soon as possible” to ensure you don’t run into problems later on.

For non-residents, the situation is much simpler: if you’re only staying in Germany for a short period of time, you can continue to use your UK licence as normal.

READ ALSO: Brexit – What changes in Germany from January 2021

How to switch to a German driving licence

To swap your UK licence for a German one, you’ll need to contact your local driver licensing authority (Fahrerlaubnisbehörde) and arrange an appointment for the exchange of a non-EU licence.

Though you won’t have to take another driving test, for some categories of driving licence you may be asked to take a sight test and/or complete a first aid training session.

In most cases, you will also be asked to prove your identity and residence in Germany by bringing along your certificate of registration and some valid ID, in addition to a set of passport photos.

Keep in mind some of the deadlines and advice has now changed but our story on the process of changing your UK driving licence for a German one may be helpful.

Your UK driving licence has to be valid for this process. As we said above, the UK government says it cannot be renewed while you’re resident in Germany. Check with authorities in the UK to see if a solution can be found.

Returning to the UK with a German licence

Giving up your UK licence may seem a little scary, but rest assured, you’ll be able to swap it back if you do decide to return to the UK after living in Germany. 

For holidays and other short visits, you’ll still be able to use your German licence, much like visitors to EU countries from the UK will be entitled to use their UK licence on a short-term basis. 

Meanwhile, if you move to another EU country, you can continue to use your German licence until it expires.

Member comments

  1. To be fair, this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. The fact that your UK driving licence would have to be replaced by a German one has been on The UK’s to do list for UK citizens living in the EU for a long time. I replaced mine in January. The odd thing is that you have to give up your UK licence which they send back to the DVLA.

  2. I agree, this should not come as an unexpected surprise to the British. They may wish to look at the regulations that the UK Govt. puts on the driving licence’s of other foreign nationals who have longer-time residence status within their own country- and many of those have been in pace way before Brexit was even an issue or a fledgling idea in someone’s head.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

DRIVING

REVEALED: The key traffic violations and fines to know about in Germany

Every country has its own unique way of keeping drivers in check, and Germany is no exception. Here are the main traffic violations foreigners should know about - and the penalties for breaking the rules.

REVEALED: The key traffic violations and fines to know about in Germany

When many people think of Germany’s road rules, the first thing that comes to mind is the famous speed-limit free section of the Autobahn. Though speeds of 130km or less are recommended, speed junkies generally don’t have anything to fear when they step on the accelerator – although reckless driving, like speeding in rainy or icy conditions, can be penalised by the police.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot more to driving in Germany than getting an adrenaline rush on the motorway. In fact, there are numerous strict rules to follow – and many of the penalties for breaking them have been tightened up in recent years.

Since 2014, authorities have used what’s colloquially known as the “Points in Flensburg” system, which refers to the location of the Federal Motor Transport Authority. Drivers can accrue up to eight points on their licence for various misdemeanours, at which point their licence is revoked. 

While it’s possible to get another driving licence if this happens, it’s not a particularly straightforward process: a suspended driver first has to wait for a certain amount of time, and will then be subject to a psychological and medical assessment. 

Of course, the best way to avoid getting points on your licence – or facing hefty fines – is to have a good grasp of how drivers should behave. Here’s an overview of some of the main rules and penalties you should know if you plan to spend some time driving in Germany. 

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

Speeding fines

Generally, there are two types of speed limit you’ll need to observe in Germany: in built-up areas, drivers should observe speed limits of up to 50km per hour, and in non-residential zones, drivers can generally drive up to 100km per hour. 

As mentioned, the Autobahn does have some sections where speed limits don’t apply, but a maximum speed of 130km per hour is recommended. People who want to drive particularly fast generally drive on the far-left lane, where the minimum speed is 60km per hour.

However, even here, drivers are expected to have their car in a road-safe condition and adapt their behaviour to weather conditions, since police can still use their discretion to penalise drivers they feel aren’t being careful enough. 

Cars drive on the A73 in Bavaria in the rain

Cars drive on the A73 in Bavaria in the pouring rain. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Löb

The fines for exceeding the limit range from €30 for going up to 10km per hour over the limit to €680 for going 70km per hour or more over the speed limit. Authorities will also penalise drivers with points on their licence and driving suspensions for more severe violations. 

For example, drivers that travel more than 21km over the speed limit can expect to get an €80-90 fine and a point on their licence, and if they’re caught going this fast in a residential area, they’ll also face a one month suspension of their license. The same applies for people going 26km per hour or more over the limit in a non-residential area.

People going more than 41km over the speed limit, meanwhile, will get a €200 fine, at least two points on their licence and a suspension of either one or two months, depending on whether they were driving in a residential zone or not.

Travelling more than 70km per hour over the limit will land you a €680 fine, a three-month suspension and two points on your licence. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s tougher driving fines

Driving under the influence

The consequences for driving under the influence of alcohol depend on a number of factors, including how much you’ve drunk, how old you are, and whether it’s your first offence. 

In general, drivers must have no more than 0.5 percent alcohol in their blood to get behind the wheel. People caught with a blood alcohol content of between 0.5 and 1.09 percent face a fine of €500 and a one-month driving ban. For second offences, this goes up to €1,000 and a three-month driving ban, while third offences are punished with a €1,500 and a three-month driving ban. In every case of being caught over the limit, drivers get two points on their licence. 

These rules get stricter for anyone under the age of 21 or who has had their licence for less than two years. In these cases, no alcohol whatsoever is permitted before driving and people who break that rule will get a €250 fine and a point on their licence.

People with a blood alcohol level of 1.1 percent of higher are considered completely unfit to be driving and will face criminal proceedings that could result in hefty fines and even prison time. They’ll also get three points on their licence and a lengthy driving suspension.

All of this assumes that there are no accidents or reckless driving involved. If you are deemed to be driving dangerously while drunk, you’ll likely have to go to court and face a much harsher penalty. 

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

Parking violations

Parking violations are generally handled by the Ordnungsamt on a local or regional level, but they generally vary from small fines of around €10 for parking without a permit or ticket to fines of around €70 for more serious violations like blocking emergency vehicles or parking on the Autobahn. 

To stay on the right side of the law, look out for blue and white signs with a ‘P’ that indicate that parking is permitted – though you may still need to buy a ticket. 

A 'Park and Ride' sign in Potsdam, Brandenburg.

A ‘Park and Ride’ sign in Potsdam, Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Kalaene

Running a red light 

Though running red lights isn’t entirely uncommon, drivers who do it should expect tough penalties from the authorities if caught. The most lenient of these is a €90 fine, but if drivers run a light that has been red for at least a second and cause damage, this will increase to €360, two points on the licence and a one month driving ban. 

Railroad and pedestrian crossings

Not giving way to pedestrians at a pedestrian crossing can lead to a fine of €80 and a point on the licence. For violations at railroad crossings, the penalties are much steeper: you can expect a €240 fine, one point and a one-month suspension for running a warning light and a €700 fine, two points and a three-month suspension for crossing when the gate is closed.

Hit and run

Understandably, hit and run incidents are taken incredibly seriously in Germany. Leaving the scene of an accident before the police arrive can land you three points on your licence, while causing an accident and fleeing the scene is likely to result in a fine, licence suspension and even time behind bars. 

Tailgating 

Tailgating penalties vary dramatically depending on the speed at which you’re driving. At high speeds, driving too close to the car in front can result in fines of up to €400. If you’re travelling slower than 80km per hour, a much more modest €25 fine is the norm. 

Turning, intersections and lane changes 

Especially when driving in cities, it’s important to signal properly, be careful and attentive when turning and observe the proper system of right-of-way, which generally follows a “right before left” principle.

People who don’t indicate when turning or changing lanes will only face a proverbial slap on the wrist with a fine of just €10. However, failing to observe the proper right of way rules will likely land you a much steeper fine of €85 – so make sure you’re clued up about these.  

Early morning traffic in Göttingen, Lower Saxony

Early morning traffic in Göttingen, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Swen Pförtner

Overtaking on the wrong side – or unsafely

In German cities, you should always overtake on the left – and not doing so could result in a fine of €30. If you try to pass another car without observing road signs or lane markings, you’ll likely be suspended from driving for at least a month, as well as getting two points on your licence and a €300 fine. 

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a driving licence in Germany?

Mobile phone and seatbelt violations

Of course, traffic violations are not just about how you drive your car, but what you do when you’re in it. Talking on or otherwise using your mobile phone while driving will result in a fine of at least €100 – but this could be much higher if you end up causing an accident.

Failing to put on your seatbelt or fasten it properly will land you a €30 fine from the authorities, while failing to put seatbelts on children in the car results in a fine of €70.

Driving in a defective vehicle 

Keeping vehicles in a road-safe is vital for any driver in Germany – and there can be steep fines for those who don’t. Unsafe deficiencies in a vehicle can see drivers slapped with a €90 fine, while driving with inadequate tires gets you a €60 fine and driving with the licence plate obscured gets a €65 fine. 

SHOW COMMENTS