6

At first I thought it should be! But I've heard this is only applicable if you are on holidays. Once you move your residency to another EU country (e.g. Austrian citizen moves to live in Portugal), you have to go each year to the competent authorities and register your drivers license there, which seems to be quite expensive as well.

Does anyone have experience on that matter?

  • I think the problem is the difference in between living in an EU country and traveling into a EU country. europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/vehicles/driving/validity/… doesn't give a conclusive answer – Vickel Mar 19 '14 at 22:33
  • That page is about “living in another EU country” (big title at the beginning), not traveling. – Gala Mar 20 '14 at 5:30
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Yes, your EU driver's license is generally valid in other EU countries, even if you become a resident. There a few exceptions/caveats:

  • It's only true if you passed the exam in an EU country to begin with. If you obtained your EU license in exchange for a non-EU license, then it might not be recognized by other EU countries. They will know about these types of exchanges based on the information codes (section 12), which are visible on the license. For example 70.0123456789.NL means that your license was originally from the Netherlands.
  • If the local license has a limited duration (“administrative validity”), you might need to exchange your foreign license after some time (I already discussed this in If I obtain a driver's licence in Germany as a non-German EU-citizen, would I have to revalidate it after leaving Germany?). Even in this case, you can always use it for a few months (not sure what the exact duration currently is, it used to be one year I think) after moving.
  • All this is valid for a category B license for regular private cars. There are still some small differences with the categories (tractors, motorcycles, etc.) and I don't know all the details. I know people who have lost or gained a category by exchanging their license.
  • You can drive with your license but not necessarily use it for other purposes. For example, in the Netherlands, you can use a local driver's license as ID at your bank but a bank employee once told me they wouldn't accept a foreign license for that. Since they are not a public administration or anything, I assume they are within their rights to do this.

In any case, if you need to get a local license (because your original license is expiring, it was lost or stolen, etc.), it's not that expensive and doesn't need to be done each year. There might be some paperwork and a few annoying formalities but in my experience for a regular B license, it will cost you around 50-100 € for a ten-year or fifteen-year license.

The EU provides some information about that on europa.eu

  • A staff member of the Austrian embassy in Lisbon told me, that my license is valid, but must be "depositado" which means recognized once a year by local authorithies, which costs about 6-8 hours sitting and waiting as at the moment cannot be done online. A Uk citizen friend of mine was told the same by the traffic cops that it was necessary to do so. I feel hard to believe it. – Vickel Mar 19 '14 at 19:41
  • I have never had my license checked by the police in 10+ years of living in various parts of Europe so I can't comment on how they would react (I wouldn't necessarily trust them to know the rules, either). I did an exchange once, it was pretty painless but I also had to convince the clerk to accept it because she was adamant I wouldn't get a license with the documents I submitted (I did). – Gala Mar 19 '14 at 19:47
  • I have never heard of this once-a-year validation thing. If your license is old and Portugal has limits on the validity of their own licenses then it might be necessary to exchange it. But then you would get a regular local license and you don't need to do anything more than the locals. – Gala Mar 19 '14 at 19:55
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    As for categories, for example in some countries being and adult and having B license for at least 2 years automatically grants A1 (motorbikes up to 125cc). – vartec Mar 20 '14 at 10:43
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    @RuiFRibeiro I don't know which countries you are talking about or which exact document you mean but to be very specific, I am not talking about international driving permits, I am talking solely about driving licenses issued in the European Union and used in another EU country. In that case, there is no blanket requirement to exchange the license after one year. Anybody who tells you otherwise is not suddenly enforcing a rule but being overzealous and breaking the law. As I explained, such an EU license is fully valid in another EU country and it has nothing to do with "turning a blind eye". – Gala Feb 12 '18 at 18:54
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Hard to generalize.

I know that some country don't provide renewal for expats, that is, if you are domiciled or resident in a foreign country you will have to convert your patent to the foreign country. That's the case for Italy.

I also know that the process is automated and fast (< 1 month) in Ireland&U.K.

If you check your embassy/consulate web site you should have all the info regarding the documentation renewal process, including the driving license.

  • It's not hard to generalize, there are very clear EU rules about that. – Gala Mar 19 '14 at 19:36
  • true, but older driving license (pre plastic card) might not be accepted/recognised and still be valid. – Lorenzo Boccaccia Mar 19 '14 at 19:39
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    I don't think so, there is a directive to phase them out but they are still valid until 2033 if I understood correctly. What might happen is that in a country where regular licenses have a limited validity (e.g. 10 years), older licenses still valid in their country of origin are not recognized anymore. – Gala Mar 19 '14 at 19:41

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