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How do I convert my driving licence?

Buying a camper van, hiring a car, driving a work's vehicle, renting a scooter for the day.....no matter what it is, if you intend to drive a vehicle while you are in New Zealand you will need to bring your original driver licence from back home.

If your stay in New Zealand is longer term – a year or more – your licence from back home will not be enough and you will need a New Zealand driver licence. Converting your overseas licence to a New Zealand version is relatively straightforward provided your home country licence is current or, if it isn't current, anything up to year outside its expiry date is acceptable.

Overseas Conversion Driver Licensing Agents

Dotted all around the North and South Islands are what are known as Overseas Conversion Driver Licensing Agents. Visiting one of these is your first step to converting your driver licence into a New Zealand one. These specially authorised sites are plentiful, with the greatest concentration found in Wellington – which has 4 – and in Auckland – which has 10. A full list of all the sites complete with addresses and telephone numbers can be found at https://www.nzta.govt.nz/driver-licences/new-residents-and-visitors/converting-to-nz-driver-licence/

Documentation You Will Need for Your Application

1. The application form – DL5. This 4-page document  (2 of the 4 pages are checklists and information only pages) can be downloaded and printed from http://nzta.govt.nz/ so you can complete it before arriving at your chosen agent site. Alternatively you can pick it up and complete it on arrival at your agent site. 

2. Proof of identity – for overseas visitors this is most typically your passport.

3. Your original overseas driver licence (which will need a translation if it is not in English).

4. Proof that your eyesight is of the required standard. This can be by way of an optician's or doctor's certificate issued within the last 60 days by a registered New Zealand professional or by taking a test at an AA Centre, AA Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agent or Rural Mobile Unit.

5. A medical certificate if you have a medical condition which is deemed to have a possible negative impact on your ability to drive safely such as diabetes, epilepsy, heart conditions and so forth.

6. Clear, quality photocopies of all the original documentation listed above.

Along with having your photo taken you will also be required to pay an application fee which varies depending on the type of licence you are converting to.

Credit: NZ Transport Agency
Credit: NZ Transport Agency

Will I need to take a Theory Test or a Practical Test?

The answer to that is no if you have held a full drivers licence for at least 2 years, require just a car or motorcycle licence conversion and you happen to be from one of the following countries - Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA.

If you are a newer driver or come from a country not listed above you may have to take a theory test, practical driving test or both – all of which attract additional fees. The NZ Transport Agency website - www.nzta.govt.nz – has full details of this process.

What Happens Next?

Following your visit to your chosen agent site and submission and acceptance of all your supporting documentation, your application will be forwarded to the NZ Transport Agency for processing. Typically you will receive your driver licence within 3 weeks of this date. Should your application be delayed, refused for any reason or further documentation is required you will receive a letter detailing what is required. 

Remember your overseas licence can only be used for the first 12 months of driving in New Zealand, after this you must apply for a conversion if you wish to continue driving in the country. So be sure to leave plenty of time before the 12 months is up to allow for the processing time and any possible hitches you might encounter.

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