If you are going to live in a foreign country for a long enough time period, it's always helpful to have a driving license for that country in case you need to drive. As a licensed US driver, you may drive for 6 months in Germany as a visitor. You may then extend this time period for another six months. This guide explains what you need to do to get a Germany driver's license if you have a valid (non-expired) US one already for that time after the 12 month period. Sometimes you can make an even exchange with Germany, other times you must study and take a test and make additional steps in order to be granted a German license. Below are the steps to follow either way so that you can proceed to having your own Germany license and driving throughout the country for as long as you would like.
Things You Will Needa valid and unexpired US license
a US passport with your German residency or work permit in it
a certified translation of your US license, such as from ADAC (like the US AAA organization)
a passport sized photo
the required fees
Step 1After you've been in Germany for six months, register your license with the German authorities so that you can continue to drive for another six months there.
Step 2Check the list to find out the requirements to exchange your US license for a German one. The requirements will depend on which state issued your license, and whether or not your state has a reciprocity agreement with Germany. A good list to check is found here: http://www.amcham.de/location-germany/drivers-license.html#new
On this site you will see if you are exempt from the written (theoretical) test and perhaps the car (practical) test as well.
Even if your state is not on the exemption list, there is still hope if you are living in Hamburg, Hesse, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein or Saarland. These states have their own requirements for dealing with American licenses, so you'll want to check with your local government there as to what you need to do.
Step 4If you are exempt in both the theoretical and the practical due to your state license, or if your German state is one of the above five which doesn't require these tests, the next steps are then easy. You need to submit your US license to the local German authorities along with your US passport which includes your work/residency permit, a certified copy of your US license into German, the required fees, and a passport sized photo. They will check that your state really does have this reciprocity agreement and if all is in order, they will issue a German license (good for life!) to you. Skip to the Closing statement.
Step 5Â‚Â‚ If your US state does not have this reciprocity agreement, all is not lost. It just means that you either need to take the theoretical or practical tests or both. Fortunately, you are permitted to take the theoretical (written) test in English and study books exist also in English to help you learn the required rules. For the practical test, while it may be expensive to do this in Germany, many schools offer a 'modified' version of this training for those of you who have years of driving experience already. If you require the theoretical and/or practical test, you'll need to provide proof of your practical training to the German authorities before you can take the practical test(s). Once you pass, you can then celebrate having a driver's license which is good for the rest of your life, without needing to renew it. Getting a German driver's license is not difficult, you only need to follow the rules which have been established by the German government. Once you have this license, it is good for the rest of your life, assuming that you keep it in good order and without too many points. Having this license allows you to drive on the famous Autobahn highways and provides you a personal freedom to travel about the country.
Tips & WarningsStudy the requirements carefully and take care of the above steps before your first 12 months in Germany have been completed.