Driving tests

Can you drive in New Zealand using a foreign licence?

Driving in New Zealand is allowed if you meet all the following conditions below:

  • You arrived in New Zealand for not more than 12 months; you can drive for a maximum period of 12 months for each time you enter New Zealand
  • You own a driver’s licence or a driving permit from another country
  • Your foreign licence or driver permit is current and valid
  • You have not been given a suspension or disqualification in New Zealand
  • Your foreign licence is in English, otherwise, you must carry a translation from an approved translator
  • You have not yet been granted a New Zealand driver licence

You are required to apply for a New Zealand driver licence to be able to drive in New Zealand if your overseas licence or driver permit fail to meet the above requirements. It is strongly recommended that you familiarise yourself with the Road Code in New Zealand before you drive here and you can do that by taking our free mock theory tests. Click on Tourist Quiz to practice (pay particular attention to the signs and intersections categories).

Staying in New Zealand for more than a year?

If you will be staying in New Zealand for more than a year, you’ll need to convert your overseas driver licence to a New Zealand driver licence, provided that your overseas licence is current or is expired for not more than 12 months.

How can I convert my overseas licence to a New Zealand licence?

If your car or motorbike licence is from one of the following countries and either is current or has expired less than 12 months ago you don’t have to take a theory test:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America.

If you haven’t had your licence for at least two years then drivers from the countries listed above must take a theory test.

The process to convert the licence is:

  • Apply at an NZTA licensing agent
  • Fill out the application for conversion of an overseas driver licence form DL5 (open this form in a new window by clicking here)
  • Bring and present your foreign driver licence (must be translated by an approved translator if the licence is not in English)
  • Present both identity and address evidence (Bring photocopies as well as the originals)
  • Meet the eyesight standard requirements (or provide an eyesight or medical certificate)
  • Pay for the licence fee
  • Take and pass the licence theory and practical tests, if required.

Planning on driving in New Zealand as a profession?

If you are planning to earn money from driving and that career option needs a licence endorsement (for example as a taxi driver, tow truck driver, forklift driver or bus driver) you will have to convert your overseas licence into a New Zealand driver licence and get the driver licence endorsement. Endorsements can be obtained from training schools. For heavy vehicles such as large vans, trucks and buses, check out our heavy vehicles questions. You can drive a heavy vehicle of the equivalent class in New Zealand for up to 12 months without taking a New Zealand driving test, but employers usually prefer it if you get the NZ licence as soon as possible.

Getting a translation

Getting a translation of your driving licence is fairly straightforward. Many companies offer a while-you-wait or overnight service, which means you can make an appointment, go to the company’s premises and within an hour have your translation. Or you can post, courier or scan and email your documentation (usually both sides of your driving licence, plus the page in your passport that shows your photo).

If your name has specific non-English characters you may need to provide the English equivalents to your translator.

Prices vary from region to region, and in relation to how fast the service is, so shop around for the best deal for you.

Understanding NZ driving

Even if you are only coming to New Zealand temporarily, it is an excellent idea for you to learn the road signs and rules so that you don’t put yourself (or anyone else) in danger. Click in the menu above to quickly and easily learn about the NZ road code.

driver training courses

Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

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