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American Driver’s License
 
U.S. Citizen Services in Germany

A priority issue for American citizens resident in Germany is the reciprocal recognition of driver's licenses from the two countries The process of establishing reciprocity continues to be slow, since many informal agreements require individual tailoring to meet the requirements of each U.S. state.

As of January 1, 1999, U.S. driver's license holders must be in possession of a German license six months after entering the country, if they wish to continue driving.

U.S. citizens planning to stay less than a year, however, may legally drive in Germany for up to 364 days in Germany on their U.S. driver's licenses. However, they must go to their local driver's registration office (Führerscheinstelle) prior to expiration of the six-month period after arrival and notify that office that they want to continue to drive on their U.S. license until their departure (up to 364 days, as stated above). Note that an official translation of the U.S. driver's license must be brought to the Führerscheinstelle, as well as proof that you are leaving Germany before a year has passed. Proof could be in the form of a return ticket to the U.S., a work contract with an expiration date before a year, etc.

A U.S. license holder requiring a German license must contact a local German driving school which will provide information on the necessary paperwork and register the applicant for testing. Applicants do not need to take theoretical or behind-the-wheel lessons. However, driving schools recommend that applicants take one or two driving lessons in order to become acquainted with the skills to be tested. Total costs (without driving lessons) may average as much as EUR 425 for license holders from states with no reciprocal agreement with Germany.

The U. S. Embassy, supported by the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, continues to actively press all U.S. states to reach an agreement on the reciprocal recognition of driver's licenses with Germany, essentially a waiver of testing requirements.

Reciprocal Agreements

The German Ministry of Transport in conjunction with the German Länder has approved exemptions to the practical (road) and theoretical (written) tests for license holders from:

  • ALABAMA
  • ARIZONA
  • ARKANSAS
  • COLORADO
  • DELAWARE
  • IDAHO
  • ILLINOIS
  • IOWA
  • KANSAS
  • KENTUCKY
  • LOUISIANA
  • MASSACHUSETTS
  • MARYLAND
  • MICHIGAN
  • NEW MEXICO
  • OHIO
  • OKLAHOMA
  • PENNSYLVANIA
  • SOUTH CAROLINA
  • SOUTH DAKOTA
  • TEXAS
  • UTAH
  • VIRGINIA
  • WEST VIRGINIA
  • WASHINGTON STATE
  • WISCONSIN
  • WYOMING
  • PUERTO RICO

License holders from these states can submit an application for a German driver's license directly to their local Stadtverwaltung (Führerscheinstelle). An applicant will usually be asked to present the following documents:

  • an official identification document such as a passport
  • a residency registration certificate from the Einwohnermeldeamt
  • the original U.S. license together with a German translation
  • a statement by the applicant that the license is still valid
  • a recent photograph (35mm x 45 mm)
  • Documentation of a recent eye test is also often required.

Partial reciprocity agreements (exemption from the road test) have been approved for:

  • CONNECTICUT
  • FLORIDA
  • INDIANA
  • MINNESOTA
  • MISSISSIPPI
  • MISSOURI
  • NEBRASKA 
  • NORTH CAROLINA
  • OREGON
  • TENNESSEE
  • DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

License holders from these states should also approach their local Stadtverwaltung (Führerscheinstelle) to submit an application for a German license and to be registered for the written test. The test can be taken in English, costs approximately EUR 40, and includes a separate test of German license-related vocabulary.

Every effort has been made to make this information sheet factual and useful. It will be republished periodically as facts and conditions change. However, final authority on driving in Germany rests with the German Ministry of Transport