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Driving licence

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The Community model driving licence
Mutual recognition
Vehicle categories
Issuing driving licences
Renewal of driving licences
Theft or loss of a driving licence
Withdrawal, cancellation and suspension of driving licences
Minimum ages
Situations relating to countries outside the EU
 
The Community model driving licence
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  • Do I have to exchange my old driving licence for a new Community model licence?

    No, the old national driving licences remain valid until they expire. However, it is compulsory to exchange them before they expire. The period of validity is indicated on your driving licence, but if the legislation of the Member State where you live sets a shorter period then that will apply. It is also possible to exchange your licence earlier by making a specific request. You will then be issued with a new Community model licence with categories corresponding to those indicated on the old model.

  • What are the effects of exchanging my driving licence for a Community model licence?

    Nothing changes, neither with regard to your rights nor with regard to mutual recognition, except in very special cases. However, holding a new Community model licence will make recognition of your rights and proceedings with administrative bodies in your country of residence easier.

  • Do I have to take my driving licence with me whenever I am driving?

    That depends on the national authorities in the Member States. However, when you travel to another country you are strongly recommended to take your licence with you since this is compulsory in most Member States.

  • Are national categories recorded on my licence valid in other countries?

    National categories appear on the driving licence, but are not yet harmonised by Community law. They must not be confused with the harmonised optional sub-categories (A1, B1, C1, C1+E, D1 and D1+E) which can be mutually recognised in the event of a change of country of normal residence.

    One example of a national category would be category T (tractor) which corresponds neither to a harmonised Community category nor to a sub-category. In this case, the Member State in which you wish to exchange your driving licence is under no obligation to recognise the national category and might not record it on your licence.

  • May I apply for a licence in the form of a plastic card?

    Member States may choose between the plastic card model and the paper model. Drivers wishing to exchange their licence cannot choose between the two Community models. They will be given the model chosen by their Member State of residence.

Mutual recognition
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  • I already have a driving licence issued by one Member State and I am taking up residence in another. Will my licence be recognised?

    Article 1(2) of Directive 91/439/EEC states that licences issued in another Member State must be recognised in the host Member State. Therefore, you are no longer under any obligation to exchange your driving licence if your normal residence is now in a Member State other than the one which issued it.

    However, if your licence was issued in exchange for a driving licence issued by a non-EU country, Member States are under no obligation to recognise it. Contact the relevant national authorities to find out whether your licence is recognised.

  • Will old driving licence models still be recognised?

    Yes, the old driving licence models have to be mutually recognised by the Member States. Although Directive 91/439/EEC established the principle of mutual recognition of licences, the periods of validity of driving licences are not harmonised by Community legislation. This means that a very large number of different models of driving licences (more than 110) are still valid and in use in the countries of the European Union and of the European Economic Area. Most of them bear no resemblance to the Community model.

  • I have changed my normal residence. Does my new Member State of residence have the right to apply more restrictive validity rules or medical examinations?

    Article 1(3) of Directive 91/439/EEC authorises Member States to apply the same periods of validity and the same frequency of medical examinations to holders of driving licences issued by another Member State who have taken up normal residence on their territory as to holders of their own national licences. The new period of validity applies with effect from the date when you take up residence. To find out the period of validity applicable, you are advised to consult the comparative view of periods of validity in part I, section B.1 of the Commission Interpretative Communication on Community driver licensing (published on 28 March 2002) and the local licensing authorities in your country of residence.

Vehicle categories
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  • I already have a driving licence issued by a Member State and would like to add another category to it. What should I do?

    You should submit your request to the relevant authorities of the state where you have your normal residence. Your original licence will be exchanged at the time the new category is added.

  • If I exchange my old driving licence for a new one, will I still be able to drive the same vehicles?

    If you exchange an old licence for a new one or a duplicate is issued (in the event of loss or deterioration), the categories validated on the new model are mostly identical to those on the old one. You are entitled to drive the same categories of vehicles as before.

  • I hold a category B driving licence (< 3500 kg). What type of trailer may I attach to the vehicle I am driving without having to obtain a category B+E licence?

    Your category B licence is all you need to drive:

    • motor vehicles with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) not exceeding 3500 kilograms and with not more than eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat; motor vehicles in this category may be combined with a trailer with a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 750 kilograms;
    • combinations of a tractor vehicle in category B and a trailer, provided the maximum authorised mass of the combination does not exceed 3 500 kilograms and the maximum authorised mass of the trailer does not exceed the unladen mass of the tractor vehicle.

    A B+E driving licence is required for all other combinations of a vehicle with a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 3 500 kilograms and a trailer.

    The table set out below gives examples of the kind of driving licence required in different cases:

    Category B vehicle

    Unladen massMAMMAM of the trailerMAM of the combinationDriving licence requiredComments
    1025 kg1450 kg850 kg2300 kgBUnladen mass of the towing vehicle > trailer MAM and MAM of combination < 3500 kg
    890 kg1375 kg925 kg2300 kgB+EUnladen mass of the towing vehicle < trailer MAM; trailer MAM > 750 kg
    1875 kg2955 kg745 kg3700 kgBTrailer MAM < 750 kg
    1875 kg2850 kg850 kg3700 kgB+ETrailer MAM > 750 kg and combination MAM > 3500 kg
  • May Member States impose more restrictive criteria for issuing certain categories of licence?

    For category A1, Directive 91/439/EEC stipulates that Member States may impose additional restrictive standards.

  • Is it permissible to drive a category B1 vehicle with a category A1 or A licence?

    Member States may allow this, but only on their own national territory.

  • Is it permissible to drive a category A1 vehicle with a category B licence?

    Member States may allow this, but only on their own national territory.

  • May I drive a heavy motorcycle without restrictions?

    Normally, two years’ prior experience are required to drive a heavy motorcycle. However, this requirement may be waived if the candidate is at least 21 years old, subject to passing a specific test of skills and behaviour (Member States are free to decide whether they wish to grant this kind of ‘direct access’).

Issuing driving licences
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  • I do not have a driving licence and wish to obtain one. What formalities do I have to complete?

    You have to meet several conditions:

    • You are required to have your normal residence in the Member State in which you apply.
    • You must pass theory and practical tests.
    • You must satisfy the medical (physical and mental fitness) standards.
    • You must meet the minimum age conditions for the category of vehicle concerned.
    • You cannot hold more than one driving licence issued by the same Member State, even if your licence has been suspended or withdrawn.
  • I am a student and am going to settle in another European Union country to continue my studies. I wish to obtain a driving licence. Where should I apply?

    Directive 91/439/EEC lays down an optional arrangement for students who go to study in another country. They can apply either to their country of normal residence or to their country of origin.

    Article 9 of Directive 91/439/EEC defines ‘normal residence’ as the place where a person usually lives, that is for at least 185 days in each calendar year, because of personal and occupational ties, or, in the case of persons with no occupational ties, because of personal ties, which show close links between the applicant and the place where he or she is living.

    Attendance at a university or school does not count as transfer of normal residence.

    However, Article 7(1)(b) of Directive 91/439/EEC stipulates that driving licences are issued subject to applicants either having their normal residence on the territory of the Member State issuing the licence or being in a position to produce evidence that they have been studying there for at least six months.

    In this case, students who wish to obtain a driving licence can apply either to the authorities of their state of origin or to those of their host country.

  • I wish to obtain a category B licence. What medical requirements do I have to satisfy?

    Annex III to Directive 91/439/EEC on driving licences sets the minimum standards of physical and mental fitness to be met by drivers.

    Applicants for a category B licence have to undergo a medical examination if it becomes apparent, either when the necessary formalities are being completed or during the tests which they are required to undergo before obtaining a licence, that they have one or more of the medical disabilities mentioned in the annex (such as hearing problems, cardio-vascular disease, sugar diabetes, neurological disease, etc.).

    See the section "PRINCIPLES - Prerogatives of the Member State of residence" for further details, particularly on the distinction between Group I and Group II.

  • I want to become a bus driver. What medical requirements do I have to satisfy?

    In this case applicants fall into Group 2 in the classification established by Directive 91/439/EEC. They must always undergo a medical examination before a driving licence is first issued and, thereafter, must undergo any periodic examinations ordered by the national legislation.

    See the section "PRINCIPLES - Prerogatives of the Member State of residence" for further details, particularly on the distinction between Group I and Group II.

  • How is the driving test conducted?

    The way in which the driving test is conducted is described in Annex II to Directive 91/439/EEC. The test is divided into two stages. The first tests the applicant’s theoretical knowledge. The second consists of a practical test to evaluate the applicant’s fitness to drive and behaviour in traffic.

  • Is it possible to have two driving licences issued by different Member States?

    Article 7(5) of Directive 91/439/EEC clearly stipulates that no-one may hold a driving licence from more than one Member State. This includes withdrawn licences.

Renewal of driving licences
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  • My licence is about to expire. Where do I have to apply for renewal?

    You have to renew your licence before it expires by applying to the authorities of the state in which you have your normal residence.

  • I am from the Netherlands and have a limited-duration category B driving licence. I am moving to France where category B licences are issued for an unlimited period. My Dutch licence is about to expire. What will be the period of validity of my new driving licence?

    In order to renew your driving licence, you have to apply to the authorities of the state where you have your normal residence. These will then issue you with a national driving licence with all its specific features.

    In this example, when your licence expires, you will have to apply to the French authorities. You will consequently obtain a French licence with unlimited validity.

  • Having established my normal residence in another Member State, can I renew my driving licence in my country of origin?

    No, in this case it is not possible to apply to the country of origin for renewal of your driving licence. You must apply to the authorities of your country of normal residence. It is not possible to choose between the two states for renewal of your licence.

  • Do I have to undergo a medical examination to renew my licence when it expires?

    When your driving licence expires and has to be renewed a medical certificate may be required. This requirement differs, depending on the Member State. You are therefore advised to contact the national authorities in your country of residence.

  • When renewing in another Member State, do I have to produce a translation of my driving licence?

    No, it is not necessary to provide a translation of your driving licence when it comes up for renewal in another Member State. Directive 91/439/EEC stipulates that the Member State effecting the exchange has to examine whether the licence submitted is still valid. It is therefore the host Member State’s responsibility. However, Member States are under an obligation to assist each other with application of the Directive and, where necessary, to exchange information.

  • When renewing, do I retain my acquired rights?

    As a general principle, acquired rights are retained when a licence is renewed.

    Commission Decision 2008/766/EC of 25 August 2008 on equivalences between categories of driving licences confirms this principle.

    However, national requirements still apply in certain fields, such as medical examinations. You are advised to consult the national authorities.

Theft or loss of a driving licence
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  • What do I have to do if I already hold a driving licence issued by a Member State, but I lose it or it is stolen?

    Article 8(5) of Directive 91/439/EEC covers this case: a replacement for a driving licence lost or stolen may be obtained from the competent authorities of the state in which the holder has his normal residence; those authorities provide the replacement on the basis of the information in their possession or, where appropriate, proof from the competent authorities of the Member State which issued the original licence.

    A distinction must be drawn between two different situations:

    • If you have established your normal residence in the state which issued the licence, you may ask for a duplicate of your original licence.
    • If you are resident in an EU or EEA Member State other than the state which issued the licence, you may not ask for a duplicate of your original licence. The Member State of normal residence issues a new licence on the basis of the information in its possession.
Withdrawal, cancellation and suspension of driving licences
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  • What do I have to do if my driving licence is withdrawn in my country of residence?

    If your country of normal residence is different from the issuing state, the effects of the penalty are identical. The administrative and criminal law of the country of residence are fully applicable. The document remains withdrawn (or, where appropriate, a restriction is recorded on it).

  • What do I have to do if my driving licence is withdrawn in a state other than my state of residence?

    In this case, the decision by the Member State applies only on its own territory. When the citizen leaves the country which imposed the penalty the authorities are under an obligation to return the licence.

Minimum ages
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  • Are there any derogations from the age limit of 18 years for driving a category B vehicle?

    Article 6(2) of Directive 91/439/EEC envisages this possibility. Member States may grant exemptions and issue driving licences from the age of 17 years.

  • Are category B licences issued to holders under 18 recognised by other Member States?

    Article 6(3) of Directive 91/439/EEC stipulates that Member States may refuse to recognise licences issued to drivers under 18 years of age as valid on their territory.

Situations relating to countries outside the EU
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  • What do I have to do if I have a driving licence issued by a country outside the European Union?

    Member States are under no obligation to recognise any such licence, even if it has already been recognised by one of them. Contact the national authorities to find out whether they recognise your licence.

  • What do I have to do if I hold an international driving licence?

    An international driving licence is no more than a document that translates your national driving licence into English. It can serve, for example, to facilitate roadside checks or exchanges of licences. You will also need a valid national driving licence from the state which issued the international licence.

    To find out whether you need an international licence, contact the authorities of the country you are planning to visit.

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