Conversion of the austrian drivers license for citizens of third countries

Conversion of the austrian drivers license for citizens of third countries

When citizens of third countries move to Austria, they should be aware that their driving license will only be valid for the first 6 months after their arrival. For this reason, it is necessary to apply for an Austrian driving license after 5 months of residence in Austria. This application can be submitted in any region of Austria, at the offices of the Bezirkshauptmannschaft. %

To apply, it is necessary to make an appointment with the authorities, fill out a form and provide several documents attesting to the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Except for a few countries, third-country nationals must pass a driving test before applying for a conversion. A list of exceptions can be found on the website of the Austrian Ministry of the Interior (BMI).

It is highly recommended that expats apply for an international driver’s license in their home country before moving to Austria. This will not only facilitate the interpretation of the license data in case of a traffic control but will also allow the authorities to recognize the classification of the license for the conversion of the license. In the absence of this international license, the authorities will also accept a certified translation from any automobile club such as ÖAMTC or ADAC. The current price for this document is 18.50 Euros.

One of the internal processes of the authorities for the conversion of the license is the request of a criminal report to the police department, which in turn will ask the authorities of the country of origin for a confirmation of the validity of the original license. After this formality, and upon payment of 60.50 euros, the authorities will issue a provisional driving license, which will allow the applicant to drive within Austrian territory until the definitive license will be issued in the form of a card and sent by postal mail to the applicant’s home address.

The time required for police clearance has been significantly increased over the last year due to staff shortages. In Upper Austria, for example, this process currently takes between 5 and 8 months.

The problem arises when the license is retained for the duration of the investigation and the holder is not allowed to drive a vehicle under any circumstances. A provisional license cannot be issued either, as the authorities cannot certify that the third country license is valid.

This is causing many problems and dissatisfaction among expatriates in Upper Austria who must commute daily to their jobs in other locations, as public transportation does not always offer a good commuting option between home and work.

An alternative may be to apply in another regional community where there are more – or fewer – expats available. However, there are other factors that influence the waiting time, such as the holiday season, when many officers are on vacation and the process slows down.

What happens if you are caught driving without a license? Needless to say, driving without a valid license is considered a criminal offense. The fine for driving without a license can be up to 700 euros, according to police sources. As if this were not enough, insurance companies will not cover damages in case of an accident while driving without a valid license. Neither to oneself nor to a third party.

Some of my clients do not understand this situation as they HAVE a valid license and I do not really understand it either. But even the officials are powerless to help as they must act according to the law. Still, we all agree that in the age of globalization, labor nomads and international careers, this painful and inflexible procedure has become obsolete. The driving license conversion process needs to be revised or, at least, a special regulation needs to be adopted for professionals. There is little point in simplifying the residence permit for specialized professionals so that we can fill critical jobs if these expats are then unable to commute to their workplace for months at a time. It makes no sense!

If you would like to know more about the insurance situation, Alexander Weiss, Regional Director of Generali will kindly answer your questions:

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