Have you ever considered driving in Germany, as a tourist or on a longer stay? Then you may have asked yourself whether your American driver’s license is valid in Germany. Generally, holders of U.S. driver’s licenses may drive in Germany with such a license for up to six months.
For those staying longer, it depends: in the U.S., the individual states have jurisdiction over driver’s license laws. So the question of mutual recognition of driver’s licenses depends on each individual U.S. state. For instance, some states such as Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have signed recognition agreements with Germany to ensure the efficient transfer of driver’s licenses without an additional examination. However, where such agreements do not exist, individuals seeking to obtain the relevant local driver’s license may be required to take a practical and/or theoretical exam, depending on the state in which they have acquired their American license.
One example of such a recognition agreement is the recently renewed Germany and Washington State Mutual Driver’s License Reciprocity Agreement. This agreement allows citizens of Washington State and Germany to exchange their national driver’s licenses for the other without taking the relevant driving test. The reciprocity agreement allows individuals holding Washington State driver’s licenses to directly submit their driver’s license application to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (Führerscheinstelle) in Germany in exchange for a German driver’s license. This generally requires an official identification document, a residency registration, a photograph, and a U.S driver’s license with an accompanying translation of the license into German.
To sum up, you may drive in Germany with your American license for up to six months. Afterwards, you need to obtain a German license (with or without taking a German exam, depending on where you acquired your U.S. driver’s license), unless a reciprocity agreement is in place.
By Isabell Schellhas, German Embassy