Life can be hectic. Do you find yourself rushing between appointments and hurrying to get your kids to school on time? If so, you may not be able to rely on public transport and you may need to drive. As a rule, you will need a Dutch driver’s license for this! Read on to find out whether you could use your foreign driver’s license in the Netherlands, whether you could exchange it for a Dutch one, or whether you need to apply for a new Dutch driver’s license straight away.

Side Note

Generally, you are required to have a Dutch driver’s license if you are a resident of the Netherlands, and you wish to operate a motor vehicle here. You are a considered to be a Dutch resident if you spend at least 185 days per calendar year in the Netherlands.

There is another matter to take into consideration before you take to the Dutch roads. We have created an article to help you answer the question: Should you keep your car?

USING A FOREIGN DRIVER'S LICENSE IN THE NETHERLANDS

Side Note

If you hold a driver’s license from one of the countries listed below, you are allowed to drive in the Netherlands for a period of 10 years after issuance. If your driver’s license is valid for a period of less than 10 years, you may use it to drive in the Netherlands until it expires.

The countries are as follows: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, (the Greek part of) Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland).

If you have a license that was issued in any other country, you are allowed to drive for a period of 6 months.

You might not have to get yourself a Dutch driver’s license straight away. You can use your foreign driver’s license in the Netherlands, if:

  • You have a driver’s license that was issued from one of the countries in the box above, before January 19, 2013. As the side note says, this is the case for ten years after it was issued. If it expires earlier, you can use it until its expiration date. After this, the issuing authorities in your country of origin can provide you with a statement, saying that they have no objection to your your exchanging it for a Dutch driver’s license. If you can secure this statement, you can exchange your foreign driver’s license for a Dutch one
  • Your license is over nine years old and you have registered with a Dutch municipality. You can use you license in the Netherlands for two years after the date you registered
  • Your license was issued after January 19, 2013. If this is the case for you, you can use it in the Netherlands for 15 years, provided that it is still valid. After this period, you will have to exchange it for a Dutch license. You can also opt to exchange it for a Dutch license straight away, if you wish
  • You have a driver’s license that was issued in a country that is not listed in the box above. You may only use this type of license for a period of six months in the Netherlands. The six month period begins from the date that you register at your municipality. During this time, you must take a driving test in the Netherlands, to acquire a Dutch driver’s license

Tip

You must be at least 18 years of age to drive a car in the Netherlands. However, there is one exception. 17-year-olds who already have a driver’s license can drive accompanied by an adult. The adult must have been officially registered as their ‘accompanier’, or ‘begeleider’  in Dutch. The young driver shall be issued a special license called a begeleiderspas, along with his or her Dutch driver’s license. The begeleiderspas is the ‘accompanier’s document’, and it will bear the names of the young driver’s approved ‘accompaniers’. Both the 17 year old driver and his or her accompanier must carry both of these documents with them, whenever they drive.

Driver's License Verification

Many different types of driver’s licenses, from many different countries, are submitted for exchange in the Netherlands. Therefore, the validity and authenticity of every document has to be verified. How might this affect you?

  • The Department of Road Transport may ask to have the validity and significance of certain information checked by the Consulate or Embassy of the country that issued the foreign driver’s license
  • You may be required to have the content of your foreign driver’s license translated by an approved interpreter/translator. For Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese licenses, this is obligatory

EXCHANGING A FOREIGN DRIVER’S LICENSE

Under what circumstances can you simply exchange your foreign driver’s license for a Dutch driver’s license?

  • If you had a Dutch driver’s license, which was valid after June 30, 1985, and now have a foreign driver’s license. In this situation, the exchange can usually take place no matter which country issued your foreign driver’s license
  • If you live in the Netherlands and possess valid residential status. If this applies to you, you may trade in a valid driver’s license, issued by the countries listed in the side info box above, for a Dutch driver’s license
  • You may also trade in a license which was issued in: Aruba, Monaco, the Isle of Man, Netherlands Antilles, and the State of Jersey for a Dutch driver’s license
  • You cannot exchange an ‘international driver’s license’ for a Dutch driver’s license. This is because international driver’s licenses are merely considered to be a translation of a national driver’s license
  • You must have resided in the foreign country that issued your license for at least 185 days during the year that the license was issued to you.

Why not look into exchanging your foreign driving license in more detail?

Tip

If you are benefiting from the 30% tax ruling, you and the other member(s) of your family can simply exchange your license(s), no matter where you are from. Just ask for an exchange form for your foreign driver’s license at your local municipal office.

The Procedure

How do you exchange your foreign driver’s license for a Dutch one? Here are the steps you need to take:

  • You must go to your local municipal office
  • If you are from outside of the EU and the EEA, you are required to request and pay for a health form called the eigen verklaring. Once this has been completed, you must mail it to the the Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheid, or ‘CBR’. This translates as: the ‘Central Road Aptitude Bureau’. Based on the information you provide on this form, the CBR will decide whether or not to issue you with a Certificate of Fitness. If you are granted one, they will inform the license registry and notify you when they have done so.
  • Once you have received this notice, you must go back to your local municipal office. Here, you must request your Dutch driver’s license.

In order to receive your driver’s license you must bring the following items with you, and submit them to the municipality:

  • One recent color passport photograph. Previously, the rules stipulated that you had to bring two photographs. So, it is best to contact your municipality before you visit, to clarify what they require
  • Your original, valid foreign driver’s license. As we mentioned above, licenses from the EU or the EEA that have expired may be exchanged. For this to be done, you must submit a copy of the statement issued by the relevant authority abroad, explaining that they hold no objection to your exchanging the license
  • A residence permit, if you are a non-EU/EEA citizen
  • Proof of registration with an institute of education, if you are a student in the Netherlands
  • Proof of identity
  • The certificate of fitness mentioned above, which states that you are physically and mentally capable of driving. Again, this applies only to citizens from outside of the EU or EEA
  • The exchange form, which must have been partially filled in by you, and partially by a civil servant from the municipal office
  • A copy of a statement issued by the Tax Office in Heerlen, proving that you or the other member(s) of your family are benefiting from the 30% tax-ruling. This of course only applies to those who are benefitting from it

What will happen next?

  • As soon as the municipal fees have been paid, the municipal office will issue you a certified copy and proof of receipt
  • Then, your entire application will be sent to the RDW, along with your original driver’s license and papers
  • The RDW will evaluate your request
  • If your request is granted they will send you a notice, stating that you can pick up your Dutch driver’s license at the municipal offices
  • If you wish to keep your original license, you must provide some form of proof that you will need it

You cannot exchange your driver’s license if you do not live in the Netherlands.

The Return of Your Original Driver’s License

So, what happens to your original driver’s license?

The original license will be returned to your embassy, or to the country who issued it to you. Depending on the legislation of the country that issued you with the driver’s license, you may be able to have it returned to you

OBTAINING YOUR LICENSE

Taking the Dutch driver’s exam

If your driver’s license cannot be traded in, you will have to take a driving theory test and a road test at the CBR. Here are the basic facts about taking your driver’s exam in the Netherlands:

  • You can take the driving theory test in English
  • The test takes one hour, and consists of 65 multiple choice questions
  • 40 of these questions test your knowledge of the Dutch traffic rules
  • You are allowed a maximum of 5 mistakes on these questions
  • 25 of of the questions test your recognition of, and response to, dangerous situations in traffic
  • You are allowed a maximum of 12 mistakes on these questions

So when can you start working towards obtaining a Dutch driver’s license?

  • When you reach the age of 16, you can take your theoretical driving exam
  • When you reach the age of 16-and-a-half, you can start taking driving lessons
  • When you are 17 years old, you can take your driving test in the Netherlands
  • If you pass your driving test before you reach the age of 18, you will be allowed to drive with your ‘accompanier’. You can find information about having a driving accompanier in the tip box above.

Useful links

Both of these sites can help you arrange your driving lessons in the Netherlands. You can also use them to book your driving theory test in English:

https://www.rdw.nl/information-in-english/information-in-english/information-in-english

dutchdriverslicense.com

Once you have sorted out your driver’s license, why not learn more about driving in the Netherlands?

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