The rules around driving in the Netherlands can be complicated, especially when it comes to licensing, with different agreements in place with different countries. Whether you’ll need a Dutch driving licence depends on the duration of your stay, and which country you hold your existing one.
Exchange your driving licence
Settle Service will analyse and advise on the specific situation, will provide clear instructions and coordinate and (if agreed) accompany the appointments for the exchange. We help you make sure that you drive legally in your new home country!
- The Dutch word for driving license is ‘rijbewijs’;
- The minimum age to learn to drive is 16, to do the exam the minimum age is 17.
- Until 18 years an adult with driving licence will have to accompany the young driver.
- An international driving license is only valid in combination with your (valid) foreign one;
- In case you will be driving with your foreign or Dutch driving licence outside the EU, you will need to buy an official international driving licence in many cases.
EU/EER driving license
If your driving licence is issued in an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland, the exact date of issue influences the steps you need to take:
- If your driving license was issued before January 19th 2013, you are allowed to drive in the Netherlands as long as it is valid, with a maximum of 10 years. If it’s older than 9 years, you are allowed to drive here for 2 years (from the date you registered at the Town Hall).
- If your driving license was issued after January 19th 2013, you are allowed to drive in the Netherlands as long as it is valid, with a maximum of 15 years.
- Once your license has expired, you are not allowed to drive a car in the Netherlands. You will first have to renew it in the country where it was issued;
- By law everyone is obliged to carry a valid driving license in the car at all times. Please note that a copy is not accepted. Note: the consequence of driving without a valid driving license can be a considerable fine. More importantly, damages caused in accidents will most likely not be covered by your insurance company.
Please find below the options when you have an older foreign driving license:
In case you are moving to the Netherlands for a fixed (short) period we recommend you renew your foreign driving license when necessary. This will prevent you having to perform the exchange process and you will keep your foreign one.
If you are moving to the Netherlands for a longer or indefinite period and you have an older foreign EU/EER driving license, we would advise you to exchange it for a Dutch driving licence within 2 years after your registration at the Dutch Town Hall.
In order to exchange your driving licence, your registration at the civil affairs department (‘burgerzaken’) of your local town hall needs to be completed. You will have to go to the Dutch Town Hall (department ‘Burgerzaken’) where you registered.
If your driving license is issued for more categories than just B, and you would like to include these in the exchange, please mention this to the Town Hall employee.
Please note that because of adding the categories the exchange process could take longer than six weeks since the authorities in your home country will have to verify the categories. We have seen it take several months, so please consider this.
If you do not want to include the extra categories, you will need to sign a declaration when filing for the exchange, which states that you (for now) are giving up the extra categories. When you sign this declaration and you do not add the categories to your Dutch driving licence later on it may be possible that you lose the extra categories in your home country. Please check this to prevent any problems later on.
You are allowed to drive in the Netherlands with a valid non-EU/EER driving license for 185 days (six months) after the first registration at the Dutch town hall. Before the six months have passed, you need to have exchanged it for a Dutch one. Otherwise you will be driving illegally, which may result in a considerable fine. In case of an accident your insurance company may not cover the damages.
- We strongly advise you not to drive a car during the exchange process, as you have handed in your foreign driving license and it is illegal to drive without a valid driving license at hand. The process may take up to six weeks. The consequences of driving without a valid driving license can be a considerable fine. More importantly, damages caused in accidents may not be covered by your insurance company;
- If you have a driving licence that was issued by a non-EU or non-EFTA country, at some check points in the Netherlands you may have to show an international permit in addition to your valid foreign driving licence. An international driving permit is a translation of your driving licence and this can be arranged at a recognized automobile association in your home country. The Dutch embassy in the country in which you live can give you more information about the situations in which an international driving permit is necessary and where you can apply for one in your home country. This must be arranged before your move to the Netherlands;
- By law every driver is required to have a valid driving licence with them in the car at all times. Please note: a copy is not officially accepted;
- If your licence has expired, you are not allowed to drive a car in the Netherlands and it is not possible to exchange it as it is no longer valid. You will first have to renew it in the country of issue or your embassy in the Netherlands;
- Please note: in order to rent a car, rental companies request that your driving licence is at least one year old (issue date). If you have just exchanged your foreign driving licence for a Dutch one, which means that the issue date of the new licence is less than one year, you may not be able to rent a car;
In order to complete the exchange, your registration at the civil affairs department of your local Dutch town hall needs to be completed and you need to be in possession of your residence permit (this may take up to a couple of months). In the meantime, you can prepare some of the documentation required for the exchange, as you will have to prove that you were a resident for at least 185 days in the year in the country where your driver licence was issued.
A theory and driving test are not necessary if one of the following conditions apply:
- You are entitled to the 30% tax ruling. Note that your partner and grown children living at the same address also get the benefit of the 30% ruling, so they do not have to take a driving or theory test either. OR;
- Your driving license is issued in the following countries for the specified categories:
- Andorra: B (passenger vehicle);
- Taiwan: B (passenger vehicle);
- South-Korea: B (passenger vehicle);
- Israel: B (passenger vehicle);
- Japan: IB (passenger vehicle and motorcycle of more than 400 cc);
- Singapore: Class 2 (motorcycle of more than 400 cc) or Class 3 (passenger vehicle);
- Canada (Quebec province only): B (passenger vehicle).
In all other cases, the driving test must be taken at the CBR (central bureau for driving proficiency proofs) in your region. Before you can take the driving test, you need to pass the theoretical exam.
If your driving licence is issued for additional categories besides just driving a car (B) and you would like to include these in the exchange, please mention this to the Town Hall employee. When adding other categories, the exchange process could take longer than six weeks. The authorities in your home country have to verify the categories (we have seen cases take several months, so please take this into account);
If you do not want to include the extra categories, you will have to sign a declaration when filing for the exchange. This states that you (temporarily) are giving up the extra categories. If you sign this declaration and you do not add the categories to your Dutch driving license later on, you might lose the extra categories in your home country. Please check to prevent any problems later on.
Exchange the extra categories
You will have to request and fill out the so-called “eigen verklaring” (medical fitness statement) for the extra categories at Town Hall and in some cases you will have to visit a medical specialist. The Town Hall employee will be able to answer any questions you may have about this.
After filing the exchange, the CBR will check if all medical terms are approved to be able to use the extra categories in the Netherlands. If there are any additional questions they will contact you (most likely by sending a letter).