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 license for this! This page will explain how you can apply for a Dutch driver’s license. Under certain conditions, you might be able to use your foreign license in NL, or simple exchange it for a Dutch one. Read on to find out which rules apply to you.
Residency in NL
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 an article to help you answer the question: Should you keep your car?
A FOREIGN LICENSE in NL
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.
Nation, and Driver’s License Validation
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.
Date of Issuance
- If you have a driver’s license that was issued from one of the countries in the box above, before January 19, 2013, you can use your foreign license in the Netherlands
- As we mentioned earlier, 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
Temporary use of a Foreign License in NL
There are a few more situations in which you can temporarily, use your foreign driver’s license in NL. This is legal if:
- You have registered with a Dutch municipality and your license is over nine years old. You can use your 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
Legal Driving Age in NL
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
- Along with his or her Dutch driver’s license, the young driver shall be issued a special license, called a begeleiderspas
- 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 license, 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. The Consulate or Embassy of the country that issued the foreign driver’s license will be called upon to make these assessments
- 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
There are a number of circumstances under which you simply exchange your foreign driver’s license for a Dutch one:
- 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
- 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 above, for a Dutch driver’s license
- Your license was issued in: Aruba, Monaco, the Isle of Man, Netherlands Antilles, and the State of Jersey for a Dutch driver’s license: this can be traded in for a Dutch equivalent
- For at least 185 days of the year that your license was issued to you, you have resided in the foreign country that issued your license
International Driver’s Licenses
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.
Why not look into exchanging your foreign driving license in more detail?
The Dutch 30% Ruling
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.
You cannot exchange your driver’s license if you do not live in the Netherlands.
Exchanging your License: Step by Step
Here are the steps you need to take, in order to exchange your foreign driver’s license for a Dutch one:
From outside of the EU and the EEA
If you are from outside of the EU and the EEA:
- Visit your local municipal office
- You are required to request and pay for a health form called the eigen verklaring
- Complete said for, and 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, go back to your local municipal office
- Bring all the documents, that are listed in the paragraph below, with you
- Request your Dutch driver’s license
At the Municipality
In order to receive your driver’s license you must visit your local municipal office and bring the following items with you. They must be submitted to the municipality for inspection:
EU or EEA Expats
- 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
- Proof of registration with an institute of education, if you are a student in the Netherlands
- Proof of identity
- 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
Non-EU/ EEA Expats
Expats from outside of the EU and the EEA must bring all the above documentation, as well as their:
- Original, valid foreign driver’s license
- Residence permit, if you are a non-EU/EEA citizen
- Certificate of fitness, stating that they are physically and mentally capable of driving
Evaluation on your Application
- 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
Your Original License
- If you wish to keep your original license, you must provide the municipality with some form of proof that you will need it
- If you do not request to keep it, your old license will be returned to your embassy, or to the country from whence it came
- 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 from there
Applying for a Dutch License
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 a few facts about the driver’s exam in the Netherlands:
The Dutch Driving Theory Test
- 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
- In Holland, you can take your theoretical driving exam when you reach the age of 16
The Practical Dutch Driving Test
- When you reach the age of 16-and-a-half, you can start taking driving lessons in NL
- When you are 17 years old, you can take your driving test
- 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
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