Getting a German Driver's License • The German Way & More – The German Way

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A step-by-step guide
Okay, in Part One you learned whether you have reciprocity or not, and you’re ready to get the ball rolling to apply for your new German driver’s license (Führerschein). Where do you go? What documents do you need to have with you? Read on…
If you’re lucky, this license will only cost you 40 euros plus the cost of a photo, possibly a translation, and a few hours of your time. PHOTO: KBA (www.kba.de)
The following information applies to almost anyone applying for a German driver’s license, no matter from which non-EU country. (EU citizens with a license from their home country don’t need to get a German one.) Whether you come from Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, the USA, or any other Drittstaat, the procedure is the same, with only minor variations, depending on your country’s license agreements with Germany. But you do have a few options.
Option 1. Fahrschule
If your German is minimal, even if you have a full waiver of testing (but especially if you need to take either the practical road test or the theoretical written test), going through a local Fahrschule (driving school) that has experience working with foreigners may be the best approach for you. For a fee they can take you through the bureaucracy involved in getting your license. They can also help you find a first-aid course (required). If you have tests to pass, a driving school is the only way to go. Even Germans have to do that! (In Germany, your parents don’t teach you to drive; an official, certified Fahrschule does.) If you use a driving school, you have to choose one before you submit your application for a driver’s license.
Option 2. Do It Yourself
If you don’t have any tests required, you don’t need a Fahrschule. Using the information below, you can to go to the Bürgeramt and submit your own application. If your German is weak, you may want to bring along a German friend. Sometimes the clerks speak English, but not always. We’re in Germany, remember? Continues below…
The guidelines below have been gathered from several sources. The license requirements in Cologne may be different from those in Munich or Berlin. Small towns may do things a bit differently than in big cities, etc. Always ask about the requirements at your local Führerscheinstelle! Most also have online information.
NOTE: Although you can take the theoretical test in English, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re thus home free. As we point out below, there is a high rate of failure for the written test. Learn more below.
Where to apply, what to bring with you
Umschreibung einer ausländischen Fahrerlaubnis (Conversion of a Foreign Driver’s License)
Where? In most cases you will go to the driver’s license office (Führerscheinstelle) at the nearest Bürgeramt (district city hall) or Rathaus (city hall). You can find the nearest one by doing a web search for your city and “Führerscheinstelle.”
What? Bring the following documents/items with you:
Time: Allow three to six weeks before you actually receive your license! The Munich office sends your original license to the BKA (German FBI) to test that it is authentic! That can add 2-3 weeks. Most offices ask you to surrender your original license, but often you can talk them out of it.
If you need a certified German translation of your home country license (required by some offices), consider using our Lingoking partner for a certified translation that will be accepted by any German authority.
*Not required by some offices; inquire locally.
NOTE: These requirements may vary from office to office and city to city. In most cases, you will be applying for a ‘B’ class license (normal car, trailer under 750kg).

Other EU Countries and Conditions
As we mentioned before, Austria and Belgium make it much easier to convert your US driver’s license. It will be nice if Germany ever follows suit, but for now, see the above guidelines.
See our link to the official German Driver’s License Handbook below.
It’s usually easier for expats to get an Austrian driver’s license than a German one.
If you need to take the written (theoretical) test on traffic laws, there is a book (Fahren Lernen Lehrbuch) with all the possible questions and answers. (Note: There is a high rate of failure for this test! You need the book! If you don’t pass the test on your third attempt, you have to go back to Fahrschule.) Normally, you get the Lehrbuch from a driving school (for free if you’re taking lessons there). It normally sells for 25 euros or more, but can be found for much less on eBay and at Amazon.de. It is also available in English, and you can take the test in English. There are various sample tests online, but usually not in English. There is also an Anroid app for the test in English. Not sure about iOS.
Handbook and Sample Test Questions
The U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) offers a “Drivers Handbook and Examination Manual for Germany” that is available in PDF format (Nov. 2010 edition) in English. NOTE: The failure rate for would-be drivers taking the U.S. Army Europe exam for a license in Germany ranges from 25 to 45 percent, depending on base location. You need to study for the written exam!
Here’s a Practice Test with Study Guide and videos from the USAREUR website. It includes a Traffic Sign Chart.
More | License Reciprocity and Requirements
Related Pages
AT THE GERMAN WAY
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I have a USAREUR license issued in 2010, can I send that in, with my info, to receive an updated license?
The US military has its own rules and regulations concerning driving in Germany and Europe. I can’t answer your question, but maybe someone else will know. I suggest you contact the local authorities for the best answer.
I have been driving for over 20 years, but moved to Texas several months before relocating to Munich. How long must I have had my Texas license for before I can convert it to a German License without any issues?
I have been driving for 14 years in the US and have moved a number of times from New York to New Jersey to Pennsylvania. My most recent driver’s license is from Pennsylvania and can be traded for a German driver’s license. Is there a limit to how long I need to have the PA driver license before I can trade it in for the German license?
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