The process for issuing or converting a driving license has different processes depending on where you live in Germany. However, expats moved to Germany can still use their existing driving license for a limited period of time, depending on where it was issued.
If you are planning to move to Germany for a longer period, you can use the driving license issued in your country for the first 6 months provided you have an IDP (International Driving Permit).
During this period, you may consider converting your driving license for a German driving license (Führerschein).
Using a foreign issued driving license in Germany
The validity of your foreign issued driving license in Germany depends on the country it was issued; whether it is an EU / EEA member state or a third country.
Driving license issued by an EU / EEA member country
In general, the driving license issued by an EU / EEA country is valid in Germany until it’s actual expiry. However, there are some exceptions for driving licenses of a few categories.
Read this article published by the Federal Ministry of Transport to know about the exempted categories in detail
Driving license issued by non-EU / EEA country
If you have a driving license issued by a non EU / EEA country, you can still use it in Germany for up to six months from the date of registration.
You might get special consideration to keep using it until 12 months if you can prove that your stay is more than 6 months but less than 12 months. You may contact the local driving licensing authority for more information on that.
You may still have to carry a translation of your driving license even if it is in English. ADAC, Europe’s largest driving club can help you with the translation process.
Converting a driving license in Germany
There are certain conditions you must meet in order to be eligible to convert a foerign issued driving license. Few common ones are :
You must hold a valid residence permit.
Your current driving license must be issued by an EU / EEA country, or a country with an agreement with Germany on driving license conversion (Andorra, Australia, Canada, Croatia, French Polynesia, Israel, Japan, Namibia, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and Switzerland, Japan, Monaco, U.S.A.).
Your driver's license is valid at the time of application.
You were not a resident of Germany (defined as spending 185 out of 365 days in Germany) at the time you obtained the license.
The US driving license requirements could vary depending on the state. You might have to take a test depending on the state the driving license is issued. Read more
If your country is not listed above, you will have to take either a theoretical exam or a practical exam or both to get a German license. Check this list of countries and requirements listed by muenchen.de to see if you need to take the theory or a practical exam.
To convert your foreign driving license to a German driving license, you need to reach out to the local driving licensing authority. Since the offices are quite busy and not easy to walk in, get an appointment either online or by calling them and check the exact requirements for converting.
The driving institute near your area could also help you with this on a small fee.
Passport or Aufenthaltstitel
Biometric passport photo (not older than 6 months)
Your original foreign driving license (The license must be valid at the time of applying)
Driving license translation (if required)
Proof of completion of a first aid training course (optional)
Eye test certificate (optional)
Fitness certificate (applicable to category C / D)
In general, you cannot hold two driving licenses issued by different member states in the EU / EEA. Therefore, you might have to surrender your existing foriegin driving license when you get the German one.
Even though the driving license and road safety laws are set at the national level, different states have implemented it differently. Therefore, it's always better to keep checking the local regulations if you are driving around in Germany.