Converting a US driver's license to a German one

182 posts in this topic

On 29/08/2018, 14:47:07, endsee said:

I would like to keep my US license so with that in mind, I would like to order a replacement for my USA license online but wondering when the best time to do it would be. 

What you like and what you are legally allowed to do are two separate issues... Alas, what you are thinking of doing seems logical, but is illegal. 

 

On 29/08/2018, 16:04:25, endsee said:

Maybe my best option would be to order a replacement after I received my German one. But in that case, will the German office inform the US license office that I replaced my US one with the German one? Does anyone have experience with this? 

 

It is illegal to do this, as you may not own two valid driver's licenses at the same time (even if one is sitting in an office vault in Flensburg). Why would you need two identical concurrent IDs? What are you, some kind of terrorist? Collaborating with Mossad? Selling it to the bloody REDS?! Why else would you need two? Should the authorities find out, you may end up flagged on a terrorism/spy/troublemaker/evil henchmen watchlist. 

 

But in practice, I have known a few have done this. A lot depends on your issuing state, and what their regulations are. I knew an acquaintance who was from Wisconsin but had studied her BA an another state (I think NC). She theoretically had licenses for both, and gave her latest NC license to the Germans. Went back to Wisconsin for holidays and told them there that she lost her Wisconsin license (which was sorta true, she no longer had a physical version of it for years, but it was her home state and in their records, sooo...)

 

And no, the German authorities will not be bothered contacting any American offices. Not their job, not their language. German and US local state authorities cooperating? Can pigs suddenly fly? Is it dree Sno-Cone day in hell?

 

Again, it is against the law. Proceed at your own risk. In theory, you can always ask to swap it back for the American one when you need that one, so from their POV it is not necessary. 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no reason to retain your US license.  The German license is accepted everywhere in the US and if you move back you can easily obtain another one.

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
30 minutes ago, alderhill said:

Why would you need two identical concurrent IDs? What are you, some kind of terrorist? Collaborating with Mossad? Selling it to the bloody REDS?! Why else would you need two? Should the authorities find out, you may end up flagged on a terrorism/spy/troublemaker/evil henchmen watchlist. 

 

@alderhill To answer the first question; because if you travel frequently between Germany and the US and spend any time in the US, having only a German driver's license is a pain.  Why?  Because:

 

- It is rather difficult to rent a car in the US with a foreign license

- In many places that you can buy alcohol, having a foreign license isn't accepted without a passport as ID

- In banks and other financial institutions, a foreign license isn't normally accepted with also carrying a passport

- If you're young enough, you can't get into a club without a US driver's licence

- I could go on here on the hassles but will stop ...

 

To answer the rest, it's a simple matter of making life easy during trips home and (hopefully) not for any nefarious purposes.  I agree that it's illegal but, as you say, it's on the lower probability end of being checked.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Quote

@alderhill To answer the first question; because if you travel frequently between Germany and the US and spend any time in the US, having only a German driver's license is a pain.  Why?  Because:

 

- It is rather difficult to rent a car in the US with a foreign license

How do foreign tourists ever rent cars??

 

Quote

- In many places that you can buy alcohol, having a foreign license isn't accepted without a passport as ID

- In banks and other financial institutions, a foreign license isn't normally accepted with also carrying a passport

 

But, if you have two licenses (a German and an American), then you will also have a passport, so it should be no big deal to show that, even if Zebediah's Kentuckee Likker Shack has never seen one. 

 

Quote

- If you're young enough, you can't get into a club without a US driver's licence

Any government issued photo IDs must be accepted, but in practice not all bouncers are very worldly or understand the 'spirit of the law'... Anyway, it's a slim possibility. I've been ID'd at liquor stores, bars and for nightclub entry in the US in my mid-20s (last time I was state side). My Canadian passport got some confused looks, but it all worked out.

 

It's not as if I personally don't understand, but it is what the law says. Theoretically, you can swap the licenses back again, but you have to ask for it. The German license should be swappable too, back in your 'home' jurisdiction. 

 

For anyone reading, just so you know that it is NOT allowed, even if it seems logical and is technically possible. I'm not sure what the worst case is if they find out (probably at least cancel your German license and make you pay), and I'm not if they can destroy foreign government property (technically what your home driver's license is). Perhaps they mail it to the embassy.

 

46 minutes ago, Buzznut3000 said:

There is no reason to retain your US license.  The German license is accepted everywhere in the US and if you move back you can easily obtain another one.

 This.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, 2B_orNot2B said:

 

Ah, so you have not yet even made an appliction to exhange your US DL yet then.

 

Sorry, but I took it from your previous post where you said...

 

 

... that you had already made an initial application.

 

In that case you might try asking for an 'Antragsformular  zum Umschreibung einer ausländischen Fahrerlaubnis aus einem Nicht-EU/EWR-Land '

 

If there is such an animal then it appears not to be available to download or fill in online as an interactive PDF form.

 

2B

 

My appointment is made and I have all the documents ready to bring to the office to start the process. I was told that there would be a form to fill out when providing them with my drivers license + copy + photo etc. but I guess not. 

 

Thank you for your help anyway!

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, alderhill said:

How do foreign tourists ever  rent cars??

In combination with their passports at the time of pickup as an additional form of ID.

 

28 minutes ago, alderhill said:

But, if you have two licenses (a German and an American), then you will also have a passport, so it should be no big deal to show that, even if Zebediah's Kentuckee Likker Shack has never seen one.

It is far, far from normal for Americans to carry their passports with them - even when they have a German license.  Not so much a matter of who has seen them, but it's just not normally done.

 

32 minutes ago, alderhill said:
1 hour ago, Buzznut3000 said:

There is no reason to retain your US license.  The German license is accepted everywhere in the US and if you move back you can easily obtain another one.

 This.

Never said it wasn't accepted but as a single document, Zebediah's Kentuckee Likker Shack isn't going to give you a dram if you don't have a good 'ol US one.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I simply don't see the problem with presenting your passport for age verification.  Who cares if it's "normally done" or not?  It works

 

and I have never once had a problem renting a car with just my German DL and credit card.  Never asked for my passport, not once.

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Carrying a passport everywhere is ridiculous. You’re just asking to lose it or have it stolen the more you carry it. But when you get ID’d regularly and unexpectedly (like in the US) it means you need to have it on you whenever you go anywhere. Have a small card that you can keep in your wallet, which you’ll likely want to carry anyway, and which is much easier and cheaper to replace, is a far more sensible solution than carrying a passport that will get strange looks from most people who ask for ID. 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Keep in mind that the people this applies to are Americans and many of them visit family and friends in small towns. This is not happening in tourist places like Times Square. An American walks into a store to buy some beer, the cashier asks for ID, and then the American—in America—pulls out a passport? That’s super weird. Honestly it would raise all sorts of flags if I were the one checking ID and I was shown a passport. You just don’t see American passports in the US outside of airports.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was just looking at this as my wife needs at some point to convert her license from Illinois. It looks like here in Berlin, foreign licenses in English don't need to be translated, but the one slightly unclear requirement is proof of first aid training. Anyone know where the relevant training can be obtained?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, willowhands said:

I exchanged my Illinois license and did not need to take the first aid course.  

 

The information is listed here (in German):

 

https://www.berlin.de/labo/_assets/kraftfahrzeugwesen/merkblatt_zu_auslaendischen_fahrerlaubnissen_ausserhalb_eu.pdf

Interesting. The information about English language licenses not needing to be translated doesn't appear there. It's shown here though. Did you need a translation of yours?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, willowhands said:

I did get it translated but I think when I handed in my application they barely glanced at it. 

 

How was the overall process when exchanging your license? 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Ellsass said:

Keep in mind that the people this applies to are Americans and many of them visit family and friends in small towns. This is not happening in tourist places like Times Square. An American walks into a store to buy some beer, the cashier asks for ID, and then the American—in America—pulls out a passport? That’s super weird. Honestly it would raise all sorts of flags if I were the one checking ID and I was shown a passport. You just don’t see American passports in the US outside of airports.

 

I *am* American. I didn't have a driver's license until I was 25.  So guess what I used instead?   my passport!  All over the country, in small towns and large.  It was always accepted and no one ever cared one whit, though I guess if the mere possibility of getting "strange looks" ruins your day, by all means hide that passport away.  How on earth do you survive in Germany if getting a strange look here or there is so uncomfortable? 

 

Also, the idea that it's "easy" to replace a duplicate US driver's license when you don't live in the US anymore is interesting.  Are you spending vacation days at the DMV to get the new one?  I can only presume your family who lives at your falsified US address (falsified as *you* don't live there) will mail the new DL to you in Germany, right?   I also guess you won't be going out or doing anything that requires ID for the remainder of your trip after you lose your license, as you are so averse to using your passport because it's "too weird".

 

come on.  these are really flimsy reasons.  they are.

 

 

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, endsee said:

How was the overall process when exchanging your license? 

If I remember correctly, the overall process was really easy:  Book an appointment online, fill out the form and give it to them with your license, wait about a month until they contact you, go back in and pick up the German license (ask politely for your old one back and get told no).

 

26 minutes ago, lisa13 said:

Also, the idea that it's "easy" to replace a duplicate US driver's license when you don't live in the US anymore is interesting.  Are you spending vacation days at the DMV to get the new one?

I totally agree that it's illegal so I have no issue at all with you there.  The timing of getting a replacement license I guess varies a lot by state though ... in New York, New Jersey and Louisiana (the only places I know of people with very recent experience), people just went to the local DMV, waited around 1/2 hour, paid about $50, got a new photo taken and were handed a new license before they got out the door. 

 

Minimal impact on the rest of their trip except for feeling a bit better about not carrying a passport and needing to get an emergency one issued if they lost it - along with the hassle of dealing with Beamters to get a new Aufenthaltstitel pasted in to the new one.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, willyg said:

I was just looking at this as my wife needs at some point to convert her license from Illinois. It looks like here in Berlin, foreign licenses in English don't need to be translated

 

Don't leave that 'at some point' too long... If you ARE going to swap it for a German license, note that you must do it within six months of registering here or you should not be surprised when you have to do a German license from null (or be at the mercy of Behörden).

 

Typically, languages of the EU do not need to be translated, nor licenses that use Roman script. You'll notice that Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria have additional Roman script on their licenses, and AFAIK use English as a second language too. EU licenses all follow a template anyway. (Head scratcher: post-Brexit, will every single Brit now need new licenses to remove those EU stars?)

 

FWIW, even an international driver's license is really just a translation of the license and has no other real worth, and it's not required unless some countries say it IS required (I recall multi-country racing rallies passing through parts of Africa or Central Asia...). If it's in Japanese, Mongolian, Arabic, Devanagari, etc, it will need to be translated. 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, alderhill said:

 

Don't leave that 'at some point' too long... If you ARE going to swap it for a German license, note that you must do it within six months of registering here or you should not be surprised when you have to do a German license from null (or be at the mercy of Behörden).

 

 

Licenses from the Anlage 11 list can be swapped at any time, as long as you can prove you had the license before you moved to Germany. There is no longer a time limit to exchange your license! 

 

Things were pretty easy in Berlin. And after I got my german license I went back a month or so later and got my Illinois license back without a problem. 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, willowhands said:

 

Licenses from the Anlage 11 list can be swapped at any time, as long as you can prove you had the license before you moved to Germany. There is no longer a time limit to exchange your license! 

 

Things were pretty easy in Berlin. And after I got my german license I went back a month or so later and got my Illinois license back without a problem. 

 

Whew, that's nice! Would have saved me ~1500€ some years back... 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now