As in any country, you need a valid driving license which allows you to drive a car (motorbike etc.) in the Netherlands. In the majority of foreign driving licenses the owner needs to take a theory and practical driving test for attaining  a valid (i.e. Dutch)  driving license. European driving licenses and some others, however, can mostly be exchanged.

ecl driving license groot

Next to issuing and validating documents which are necessary to drive a vehicle, The Netherlands Vehicle Authority (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer, RDW), also organizes driving license matters (for detailed information consult RDW).

Is your valid foreign driving license, valid in the Netherlands?

Driving with a valid foreign driving license is conditionally allowed; half a year, but not longer than 15 years, depending on your situation. After these periods, one has to obtain a Dutch driving license, either through exchanging the foreign licence or attaining (passing tests etc.) a Dutch one.

Four groups of (holders of a foreign) driving licence(s) can be distinguished:

  • EEA-countries, eligible for exchange
  • Specific “treaty”-countries, eligible for exchange
  • Holders of 30%-tax facility from any country, eligible for exchange.
  • Other, must attain Dutch driving licence, i.e. past tests.

 

EEA-countries

A license, issued in one of the countries of the European Economic Area (EEA, including Switzerland), is valid in the Netherlands for a maximum period of 15 years, from the date of issue of the foreign driving license. This applies to cars and motorbikes (more precise see RDW , p.5). For other vehicle categories the maximum period is 5 years. If it is older than 15 and 5 years respectively, you need to exchange the foreign driving license for a Dutch driving license.

“Treaty”-countries

A license, issued by countries with which the Netherlands has a specific treaty concerning driving licenses  (e.g. Japan and Israel), can be exchanged for a Dutch one. For instance US-issued driving licenses are not eligible for exchanging, due to the absence of such a treaty.

With such a license you may drive a car in the Netherlands for half a year (185 days), as of the date of registration in the Basic Register of Persons. After this period, you may only drive in the Netherlands with a(n exchanged) Dutch driving license.

Holders of 30%-tax facility

If the 30%-tax ruling applies to you, then your driving license – from any country – is eligible for exchange (and that of other family members) . Other requirements like the Certificate of Fitness etc. (see below) remain applicable. Like other non-EEA driving licences, after half a year they have to be exchanged for a Dutch one.

Other

If you have a driving license that was issued outside the EEA-region and Treaty-countries and are not holding a 30%-tax-ruling, you ultimately have to attain a Dutch driving licence. i.e. half a year after the date of registration in the Basic Register of Persons. After this period, you may only drive in the Netherlands with a(n attained) Dutch driving license.

Procedure of exchanging a valid foreign driving license for a Dutch driving licence

Foreign driving licenses issued in one of the countries of the EEA and the “treaty” countries and those owned by 30%-tax-facility holders can - and ultimately have to - be exchanged for a Dutch driving license.

Bear in mind, that a Dutch driving license acts as valid identity paper in the Netherlands. Furthermore,

note that international driving licenses are just legalized translations of a national license. They are not accepted for conversion purpose into a Dutch driving license.

For exchanging your foreign driving license for a Dutch driving license, you turn to the municipality where you are registered.

Step 1. 

Depending on the prevailing situation, the following documents should be at hand

Overview Documents Needed for Exchange

EEA-countries

Treaty countries

30%-tax facility

The original valid driving license

*

*

*

Identification document

*

*

*

Recent photograph

*

*

*

Certificate of Fitness; for EEA-applicants only in case of (driving) restrictions 

(*)

*

*

Permit

 

*

*

A copy of the 30%-tax-facility

 

 

*

Translation if driving license is composed in script unusual to the Netherlands

*

*

*

The original (valid) driving license must be handed in. It will be returned to the embassy or country of origin of the license. As of that moment you are not allowed to drive a motor vehicle until you will have received the Dutch driving license.

A passport or an identity card are accepted as identification document.

A recent colour passport-format photograph.

All applicants, except from the EEA-countries, have to prove being physically and/or mentally sufficiently healthy to drive a vehicle. In other words, you need a so-called Certificate of Fitness (Verklaring van Geschiktheid, VvG). This VvG can be obtained at the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driver Testing (Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen, CBR). This certificate (at CBR called: Health Certificate) can be obtained - against payment (some €35 in 2018) - by digitally filling in a document (with your DigiD);  in English is possible. In fact, this takes the form of “self-declaration”.

However, even for the EEA-driving licenses such a proof might be required; that is, if the validity period of your driving licence is shorter than the common validity period in the issuing country, and if your driving licence has annotations that are not recognized within the EU (except for lenses, glasses or an automatic vehicle).

In addition to the Certificate of Fitness/Health Certificate, a complementary medical examination is required in the case, for instance, of advanced age (+75) or medical restrictions. It is advisable then to, first, consult either CBR or your municipality in order to arrange concerning documents.

Note that under these circumstances, CBR might need more than a month issuing the (final) Health Certificate, which requires to start timely.

Applicants outside the EEA and Switzerland submit a permit: either a Residence or an Employment permit.

If applicable, provide a copy of the document that attests the 30% (tax) facility for incoming employees, issued by the Dutch tax authority.

If a driving license was composed in script unusual to the Netherlands (for example Japanese or Greek), a translation of the concerning driving license is needed, issued by a certified translator, the embassy or consulate.

Step 2.

Make an appointment with your municipality. At the office you will hand in the necessary documents, fill in and sign the form. The municipality will forward your application (and all documents provided) to RDW.

Step 3.

If and when RDW approves the application, you will be notified within 10 days when you can pick up your new driving license. Realize that the entire procedure may take 1 to 2 weeks, in which you are not allowed to drive, because of not having and thus not being able to show a driving license.

A Dutch driving license – generally speaking  – is valid 10 years. 

If more details are required, you might consult the RDW document : User manual ‘Application for the exchange of a foreign driving licence for a Dutch driving licence’ (3 E 0397)

Attaining a Dutch driving license

Finally, if it is not possible for you to exchange your foreign driving license for a Dutch one, you have to follow the standard procedure of attaining a driving licence in the Netherlands (manual or automatic). This includes a check of the applicant’s ability to drive (Certificate of fitness) and a theory and practical driving test at CBR.

First, lessons at a(n official) driving school should be taken. Instructors help you to decide when to go for a theory exam and subsequently for a practical driving exam, both at CBR. The theory exam can be taken in English. Mind, that the official application for the practical test is always done by the school.

After passing the practical exam, you apply for the official driving licence (the document) at your municipality.  

Submit:  

  • Identification document
  • For non-EEA citizens: the Residence or Working Permit
  • A recent colour passport-format photograph

The municipality will check at CBR, and hand out the driving license after 5 working days. Only after having collected your license you are allowed to drive.

Expired driving licence

In the case your foreign driving licence has (recently) expired, please turn to your municipality for further information about possibilities of exchange.