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I'm an EU national who has lived in UK for more that 5 years (enough to be a resident, but not a citizen). I have moved to Germany a month ago and started a new job. A couple of months before moving to Germany I tried to pass my practical driving test and failed and had no time to take it again. In principle I could still go back to UK for a couple of days and retake the test and (if passed) have the licence posted to my old address, from where my friend could send it to me.

My question are:

  • Is this legal according to German law?
  • Would it be possible for me to exchange this driving licence to a German one after some time?

If I wanted to drive in Germany I would need to exchange a foreign licence to German one, which would include sending them my German registration form which clearly states that at the time my driving licence was issued I was already registered in Germany for a month. If I wanted to take a German driving test I would need to go through the theory and driving lessons again, which would be much more costly and difficult, therefore I do not want to do this.

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If you are a resident in Germany, you have to pass the exam in Germany. UK licenses are valid in Germany, even if you are a resident but you can only acquire one while residing in the UK. The rule is very clear and stems from article 7 of directive 2006/126/EC.

Where things get a little more complex is that in principle, the UK should not issue a license in your situation. So it might seem at first that it would be the UK's responsibility to check that you fulfill the residency requirement and that the German authorities would have to accept any UK licence on its face. But that's not the case!

Even if you do manage to get a UK license while residing in Germany, Germany can in fact still enforce the residency rule itself. There is a provision for that in German law (that's what the text quoted in your comment to another answer is about and it's directly translated from the relevant statute).

Your driving licence does not entitle you to drive or ride a motor vehicle in the Federal Republic of Germany if you, according to the EU or EEA driving licence or incontestable information supplied by the issuing EU Member State or state party to the European Economic Area, had your normal residence in the Federal Republic of Germany at the time the licence was issued.

You will also find language to that effect on countless official websites (as a random example here is one from the city of Bochum).

And it's not a mere theoretical issue, Germany really does care (mostly for German citizens seeking to circumvent driving bans, though) and the issue has been fought in court to the bitter end. Even if the text of the directive might have seemed a little unclear, the German interpretation has been validated by the EU Court of Justice so it's difficult to argue that German law infringes the directive and that argument won't help you in front of a German court.

I am not a lawyer and I don't know all the nuances of the applicable law but I would think that if you work and live in Germany and are registered at a municipality, you would be deemed a resident and could get some difficulties, especially when trying to renew your license in ten years from now. On the other hand, exchanging your license is not really necessary, at least not before the first one expires.

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Germany doesn't really care whether you get your driving licence in the UK or any other country. The UK does though, as you can only take the driving test in the UK if you are a resident. As you are not a resident anymore, according to UK law you will not be able to take the driving test and get the licence.

As for Germany, they shouldn't really care when and where you've got the licence if it's a legal form of licence, and this is enforced by DIRECTIVE 2006/126/EC, member states should not limit the rules set out in these directives. Based on it an EU/EEA issued licence which was not exchanged from a country outside of the EU/EEA is perfectly valid in Germany.

On the other hand as you have shown they do try to limit the law. This is because the same directive tells you that you can not take your driving licence in another country, as you would be breaking both UK and EU laws (potentially making your licence invalid, as you have gotten it illegally in the first place). If you still try and succeed though, then I don't think anyone would care though, as the licence itself is valid, meaning you can use it in Germany, and you do not need to exchange it for a German one until it's still valid.

Nearing it's validity's end (10 years for cars, 5 for larger vehicles) you should exchange it to a German one though, so you'll be able to extend it's validity (as you can only extend a UK driver licence's validity if you are a resident in the UK)

Bottom line: you should take your test in Germany.

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    But it seems that I would be driving without a valid licence? : london.diplo.de/contentblob/3787584/Daten/1863666/… 'Cases in which your foreign driving licence does not entitle you to drive: Your driving licence does not entitle you to drive or ride a motor vehicle in the Federal Republic of Germany if you, according to the EU or EEA driving licence or incontestable information supplied by the issuing EU Member State or state party to the European Economic Area, had your normal residence in the Federal Republic of Germany at the time the licence was issued – confused 11 Oct 28 '14 at 12:39
  • @confused11 According to DIRECTIVE 2006/126/EC Germany cannot limit your rights on that part. On the other hand the exact same directive also specifies that only the country of normal residence can issue you a driving licence, so if you'd got your licence in the UK that licence would be an illegally obtained licence according to EU laws. The German interpretation just tries to enforce this illegality from a different viewpoint. – SztupY Oct 28 '14 at 12:56
  • Just saying: These directives tell countries what laws they should have, but they don't override the laws that the countries actually do have. There's also a difference where EU foreigners can have protection from EU laws, while EU natives don't (for example a Briton in Germany or a German in Britain might have better rights than a German and a Briton in their own country). So I'm quite sure that a German living in Germany can't get a driving license on holiday in the UK. – gnasher729 Oct 28 '14 at 15:44
  • @gnasher729: but in case the laws are conflicting you can go to court and win. In this case however you might win against the German law in EU court, but you probably would also need to forfeit your UK driving licence as you've got it in error – SztupY Oct 28 '14 at 16:15
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    Plus the fact remains that, rightly or wrongly, Germany does care, a lot. – Gala Oct 28 '14 at 21:01

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