Getting a driver's license in Germany

Getting a driver’s license in Germany

Getting a driver’s license in Germany can be a tedious process. This is a very bureaucratic process between a bunch of different institutions and features a selection of standardized tests. Here are all the steps for all the main possible cases.

As a general rule, even if you have a driver’s license from another country, if you are a resident of Germany for more than 6 months, you will need a German driver’s license.

For most of the cases, if you come from a country that has a preliminary agreement with Germany to simply transfer a driver’s license, the process would be fairly straightforward. You should just book an appointment (termin) with your local driver’s license office (Führerscheinstelle) or Bürgeramt to submit your documents. For the rest of the people please follow the following guidelines

Application guidelines for the German Driver’s license

Before we start, here are a couple of notes, that are not necessarily related to the process, but to the license itself.

  • We are assuming that you are applying for a driver’s license category B. This process is also true for new learners and not just transferees of the license.
  • First and foremost, keep in mind that you are not comfortable driving a manual transmission car, in Germany, you have the possibility to choose between being tested in an automatic or manual. Keep in mind though that if you choose automatic, you are not allowed to drive manual cars.
  • Second, some countries combine their motorcycle and car licenses together in one document. Germany as a general rule allows you to have only one license at a time – which means once you get the german license you would need to hand over your old license. This will mean that you will lose the motorcycle license. I know – it’s weird, but it is what it is.
  • Third, you may have a language barrier if you do not understand german, but only during the practical test. The theoretical test is given in a selection of languages where English is one of them.

Step 1: Pick a driving school (Fahrschule)

I believe that this may be the most important part as the Fahrschule is your key point of contact for a lot of things. Research it and even visit a couple before you sign up.

They will inform you about the costs, the process and the local changes. As you are aware Germany is a federal state – so what works in Frankfurt, may not be 100% true in Berlin. Also experience has shown that smaller cities handle some parts differently.

The Fahrschule will give you an application form ready to be provided to the driver’s license office (Führerscheinstelle)

Step 2: Translate your license

You will need a certified german translation of your current drivers license by a court sworn translator. There are plenty of ways to do this and there are plenty of sworn translator out there. I have used as they literally just wanted a digital copy of the drivers license.

Step 3: First aid certification (Erste Hilfe Kurs)

The first aid certification is a standardized class that you need to take. It will take a full day and at the end of it, you will be provided with the certification. You will need to book a class in advance and attend personally. I would recommend getting this thing done first.

One of the key issues that you will face here is that the class will be in German. Sometimes, some instructors will stop and explain stuff in English for you – but you will have to bear with full German for a whole day. No worries – you do not have a test at the end.

Step 4: A recent eye test (Sehtest)

The Sehtest is also a standardized test. Sometimes the same company that provides the Erste Hilfe Kurs gives a Sehtest. Alternatively, any eye clinic can provide you this. It is not covered by your insurance so expect to pay cash.

In case you fail the Sehtest, do not be despaired. You will need to do a special extended test, that can only be done in an eye clinic, by an eye doctor so that they can determine fi you are eligible for a driver’s license or not.

Step 5: Get some photos taken (Lichtbild)

You will need to get the 35x45mm biometric photos taken. As with the Sehtest, sometimes, the same company that provides the Erste Hilfe Kurs, gives you this with a discount. Ask!

Step 6: A city registration confirmation (Anmeldung) or (Meldebescheinigung)

You would need a 6 months old city registration confirmation. If you Anmeldung is less than 6 months old, then it’s fine. Alternatively, you will need to visit the Bürgeramt and get a Meldebescheinigung.

Step 7: Submit your documents to the Drivers license office (Führerscheinstelle)

As always, for every german office, you will need an appointment. If you already have a drivers license you will need a conversion appointment (Umschreibung einer ausländischen Fahrerlaubnis)

Once you do the termin with them, they will provide you a list of documents. which is literally all the documents generated from the previous 6 steps. Additionally, you will need to have your passport, residence card, old driver’s license, and some cash for the application fee.

As a rule, the Führerscheinstelle will keep your original license. More often than not, you can ask to keep it. If you keep it, you will need to deliver the license to them once you get the German license.

Their process should take 4-6 weeks and knowing german bureaucracy you should plan for 6 weeks. Add corona to the loop and it can take much more. Brace yourself.

Feedback of this application will be provided to the driving school which in turn will contact you

Step 8: Take the theory test

Most of the driving schools would want you to pass a sample test before they book you. If you pass that then they will book a day for the theory test

The theory test, even though it’s in English, has the tendency to be on the hard side. So you must study. On most occasions, the driving school will give you software that has a lot of tests. Take it and study as you won’t be able to pass it alternatively.

Step 9: Take the practical exam

Now this can be a bit complicated to get a driver’s license in Germany. Once you pass the theory test, you will need to conduct two lessons in city driving with the instructor so they can evaluate your driving skills. Based on that the instructor will tell you if you are ready for the practical test. Obviously, if you are not, you will need extra classes.

If you are, then the test will be most probably in German. Be calm and follow all the instructions. You will go through a generalised predefined route. Make sure to check your mirrors, your shoulders and the traffic signs and you will be fine.

If you pass the practical exam, the TÚV rep will hand you your license on the spot.

How much does it cost to get a german drivers license

Here is a breakdown of fees that I have incurred in the process of transferring a license from a country that Germany has no agreement with:

  1. First aid class + Pictures + Eye Test = 65 EUR
  2. Special Eye Test (because I failed my Eye test) = 90 EUR
  3. Meldebescheinigung = 9 EUR
  4. Driving school fee = 200 EUR
  5. Theory Exam = 150 EUR (you pay this every time if you fail)
  6. Required 2x Driving lessons = 150 EUR
  7. Practical Exam = 250 EUR (you pay this every time if you fail)

Total = 914 EUR

As you can see getting a drivers license in germany takes time and effort. Brace yourself.


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