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I'm temporarily living and working in Germany. I'm an EU-citizen (Poland).

If I get my driving licence in Germany, would I have to revalidate it in Poland after leaving Germany? As far as I know, driving licence in EU is given for a certain period and must be extended afterwards, so what would happen if I have a German driving licence, but have nothing to do with Germany after the term of validity of my driving licence expires?

9

In the EU, the basic rules are actually pretty simple: Your country of residence is responsible for every license-related formalities (renewal when the license expires, replacement in case of theft, etc.) and must in any case recognize a license issued by another EU country. Additionally, you cannot (in principle) hold licenses from several EU countries or choose to pass the exam elsewhere than where you live.

So if you live in Germany and don't have a license yet, you have to get a German license and will be able to exchange it for a Polish one when you return to Poland. There will obviously be some paperwork (photo & old license & fee) but no new exam or “revalidation”.

Until recently, the duration of validity depended on the country. For example, France or Germany had lifelong licenses, while the Netherlands only issued 10-year licenses. As the local license had limited validity, the Netherlands was allowed to demand that EU citizens exchange their license for a local one if it was older than the local validity period (i.e. you could use your German license after moving to the Netherlands for ten years after the date it was issued but not longer, even though it would still be valid in Germany). There was also a one year “grace period” so that you could in any case use your old license for at least one year after moving, even if it was older than allowed in your new country of residence.

All of this is set to change (slowly) as a new directive mandates the introduction of limited duration licenses with a similar format everywhere in the EU. There is however a transition period so that people who currently have lifelong licenses do not have to exchange them before 2033. All EU citizens will then have to renew their licenses regularly. You will simply do that wherever you live at the time (which might be your country of origin, the country you got your license from or possibly yet another one).

Useful link: FAQ on europa.eu

4

You can exchange your German license for a Polish one. From infolink.wroclaw.pl:

In order to obtain Polish driver's licence on the basis of exchange, the foreign licence must be handed over.

  • Written application for exchanging a driver's licence issued by a country participating in Convention on Road Traffic
  • Proof of paying the fee for the exchange of a driver's licence issued by a country participating in Convention on Road Traffic
  • one photograph, dimentions 3,5x4,5 cm, without headgear or dark glasses, The photograph should show a left semi-profile with the left ear visible; the face should be evenly illuminated
  • Photocopy of driver's licence
  • Translation of the driver's licence prepared by a sworn translator
  • foreign applicant should present his Residence Card to the desk officer

Important:

  • A person can have only one valid driver's licence
  • If a foreign driver's licence contains any information about it's validity limitations, limitations due to holder's medical condition etc., they must be transfered into the new document
  • In case of driver's licences issued in accordance with EU's standards their translation to Polish isn't required
2

I am not completely sure if this would apply to you, since I am not an EU citizen.

My experience was this: I was required to surrender my US drivers license in order to receive a German one.

I was informed that it would be held by them for a period of 2 years, after which it would be returned to the American authority which issued it. During those two years, I could trade my German to get the original back.

That is, as far as I know how it works on the side of the German bureaucracy. I would try to contact someone at the office in your district (Kreis) or at the "Bürgerbüro" in your local city hall. Since you will have to deal with one of their officers anyway, they will be able to inform you best of the actual requirements.

But what about EU residents?

After examining several pages and actually reading what the relevant section of the German law has to say, it seems that my experience is indicative of how all foreign drivers licenses are handled by the German government (sources follow).

The city of Cologne has their rules for EU drivers licenses posted online(in German). My experience was almost identical. The releveant snippets are:

Bei Aushändigung des deutschen Kartenführerscheines müssen Sie Ihren ausländischen Führerschein abgeben.

Translation: upon recieving your German drivers license, you will be required to surrender your foreign drivers license.

According to Fahrerlaubnisverordnung § 31

Der auf Grund des Absatzes 1 und 2 ausgestellte Führerschein ist nur gegen Abgabe des ausländischen Führerscheins auszuhändigen. Die Fahrerlaubnisbehörde sendet ihn über das Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt an die Stelle zurück, die ihn ausgestellt hat, wenn mit dem betreffenden Staat eine entsprechende Vereinbarung besteht. In den anderen Fällen nimmt sie den Führerschein in Verwahrung. Er darf nur gegen Abgabe des auf seiner Grundlage ausgestellten inländischen Führerscheins wieder ausgehändigt werden. In begründeten Fällen kann die Fahrerlaubnisbehörde davon absehen, den ausländischen Führerschein in Verwahrung zu nehmen oder ihn an die ausländische Stelle zurückzuschicken. Verwahrte Führerscheine können nach 3 Jahren vernichtet werden.

Which basically says: You must give up your foreign license to recieve a German one. If the German government has a treaty with the issuing authority, they will send it back to them. In other cases, they will retain possession of it. It will only be returned upon returning the German one. In certain special(read: properly documented) cases, they will make an exception to these rules. After 3 years in their posession, they reserve the right to destroy it if it is still in their possession.

So I apparently either remembered the 2 years thing wrong, or was misinformed.

  • 2
    Well, it would be an answer to another question. If it's not already asked, maybe you should ask it? Driving licence for US citizens is a separate topic and I think it deserves its own question. – user41 Mar 18 '14 at 20:17
  • @Łukasz웃Lツ should I leave this answer intact? – Tim Seguine Mar 18 '14 at 20:19
  • I have mixed feelings. It's very useful, however, it doesn't answer the question as formulated (EU citizen making driving licence in other EU country) so I think it should be reorganized. – user41 Mar 18 '14 at 20:20
  • @TimSeguine IMO your post doesn't answer the question so it should be deleted – Dirty-flow Mar 18 '14 at 20:22
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    @TimSeguine The question is about what happens when the OP returns to Poland. He does not need to get his original license back (he might not even have one as I understand the question), he can get a brand new one in exchange for the German license (that's where EU law is relevant). Also note that your sources do not suggest that exchanging an EU driver license is required because it is not. – Gala Mar 19 '14 at 5:32

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