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Trading a Canadian driver license for a German one

This article is another addition to the "moving to Germany" series. I am a Canadian who has been living in Germany for the past two years, and this is how I converted my Canadian driver license to a German driver license.

Who can drive in Germany?

If you are a Canadian citizen in possession of a Canadian driver's license, you can legally drive in Germany for the first 6 months after you have taken up residence there. [1, 2] After that period, you will need a valid German driving license.

You will need an International Driving Permit, since your current license is not in German [1]. In Quebec, you can obtain one at any CAA Québec Travel centre or vehicle registration centre. Other provinces have similar arrangements. You can also get an international driver's license at the Canadian embassy.

Photo credit: My Sicilian Home

Photo credit: My Sicilian Home

German driving license categories

In Canada, driving license vary from province to province. In Germany, they are the same across the country. Here are the classes you need to be familiar with, as of May 2017 [1, 2]:

  • Klasse A: Motorcycles
    • Klasse A unrestricted: Includes A1, A2 and AM. Available from age 24.
    • Klasse A1: Motorcycles of up to 125 cc and 11 kW (~15 HP). Available from age 16.
    • Klasse A2: Motorcycles of up to 35 kW (~46 HP). Available from age 18.
    • Klasse AM: Motorcycles of up to 50 cc and 4 kW (~5 HP), with a speed limit of 45 km/h. Available from age 16.
    • Mofa: Mopeds up to 50 cc with a speed limit of 25 km/h. Available from age 15.
  • Klasse B: Motor vehicles excluding motorcycles, up to 3.5 tons, plus trailers up to 750kg.
  • Klasse C: Motor vehicles exceeding 3.5 tons, plus trailers up to 750kg.
    • Klasse CE: Motor vehicles exceeding 3.5 tons, plus trailers exceeding 750kg.

Converting a Canadian permit to a German one

After 6 months in Germany, you will need to convert your Canadian license to a German one to be allowed to drive there.

It's important that you received your original Canadian driving license before moving to Germany. You cannot move to Germany, then get a Canadian driver's license, then change it for a German one. I renewed my Canadian driver's license a year after moving to Germany. Since the issue date on the renewed license was after I had moved to Germany, I had to prove that I had a driver's license in Canada prior to moving.

Fortunately, you will not need to take any extra classes to get a German driver license. This official document explains the requirements better than any other source, so I will direct you to it. Here is a copy in case it disappears.

As highlighted in the document, you will need to book an appointment at your local Bürgeramt for a license transfer (Fahrerlaubnis Umschreibung). Here is the appointment booking page for Berlin. In Berlin, the nearest appointment is around a month later, so make sure you have all the required documents, including cash for the fees before going to your appointment. You can allegedly get an earlier appointment by visiting the booking page between 8 and 9 AM [1].

The appointment itself only takes a few minutes, and will cost you about 35 euros [1]. The Bürgeramt will send your documents to the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde, which will verify them with the Canadian embassy.

A few weeks months later, you will get a letter telling you to pick up your license from the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde. The pickup process is straightforward: you show up, take a number, wait your turn, show them your passport and receive your license. You do not need an appointment, but you will need to endure a 30 to 60 minute wait [1]. My visit took an hour in total.

"6 to 8 weeks"

In Berlin, the prescribed 6 week wait time to exchange a driver's license is flat out wrong. Various sources report a 9 to 12 weeks wait, and some claim it took over 4 months! [1, 2, 3] I began the process in February, received an appointment on March 7 and picked my driving license on June 13. It took 14 weeks for my license to be processed. In smaller cities, the process only takes 2 to 6 weeks [1].

An enterprising Canadian got his license faster by having the Canadian embassy tell the Fahrerlaubnisbehörde to hurry up [1]. You can also allegedly ask for a temporary license while your license is processed [1].

There is also the possibility that your license in ready, but that they forgot to tell you to come pick it up [1, 2]. If you do not receive any news after 8 weeks, call to inquire about your license.

In any case, arm yourself with patience. In Berlin, things take time.

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