New residents and visitors – driving in New Zealand
The information in this factsheet applies to licences for cars, motorcycles and heavy motor vehicles.
Can I drive in New Zealand?
Do you have a current and valid* overseas driver licence or international driving permit?
*A current and valid overseas driver licence means that your licence allows you to legally drive in your own country. If you are disqualified from driving or your licence is currently suspended, expired or revoked, then you are not allowed to drive in New Zealand.)
No – I don't have a current overseas driver licence or international driving permit
If you do not have a current and valid overseas driver licence, you cannot drive. You must apply for a New Zealand driver licence if you wish to drive here.
See factsheet 45 Learning to drive: How to get your licence for more information.
You can get factsheets from:
- the NZ Transport Agency driver licensing agents
- the resources and manuals section of our website (see quick link to factsheets)
- our driver licensing contact centre: 0800 822 422.
If your overseas driver licence has expired within the last 12 months, you may be able to convert it to a New Zealand licence. See factsheet 72 Overseas driver licence: converting to a New Zealand licence for more information.
Yes – I do have a current overseas driver licence or international driving permit
If you do have a current and valid overseas driver licence or international driving permit, you can drive using that for a maximum of 12 months from the date you arrived in New Zealand.
Note: If your overseas licence or permit isn't in English, you must carry an acceptable translation. See 'Other information you need to know' below for more information. Each time you visit New Zealand, you can drive for a further 12-month period on your overseas licence or international driving permit provided your overseas driver licence remains current and valid each time you visit.
What happens after one year?
If you wish to continue driving after one year, you must obtain a New Zealand driver licence. We recommend you apply early to make sure you have a new licence before the one year is up. Forms to use to apply for an overseas licence conversion are available from NZ Transport Agency driver licensing agents. These are selected branches of:
- Automobile Association (AA)
- Vehicle Inspection New Zealand (VINZ)
- Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ).
Note: While an overseas driver licence may be converted to a New Zealand licence, an International Driving Permit on its own cannot be converted to a New Zealand licence. You will also have to have your overseas licence.
Questions and answers
What happens if I don't get a New Zealand driver licence?
If you have been in New Zealand for more than one year and have not obtained a New Zealand driver licence you'll be considered unlicensed and you must not drive. You could be charged by the police if you are caught driving (see the section 'Action police can take') and you may have any insurance claims declined.
Can I drive to earn money?
If you want to earn a living from driving you will probably have to convert your overseas licence to a New Zealand driver licence first, and you may also need to get a driver licence endorsement. You will certainly need to do so if you want to deal with the public or carry dangerous goods. For example, before you can earn money carrying passengers, driving a tow truck or working as a driving instructor or testing officer, you must complete courses, pass exams and be cleared by a police check in New Zealand.
You can find our more on our website or by calling our contact centre at 0800 822 422.
What happens if my licence is suspended or I am disqualified while driving in New Zealand?
If you're using an overseas driver licence or international driving permit to drive in New Zealand and are then suspended or disqualified from driving by a New Zealand court, you can no longer use your overseas driver licence or permit to drive in New Zealand. If you want to drive in New Zealand (after your disqualification or suspension has ended), you will need to get a New Zealand driver licence.
What else do I need to know?
Carry your licence when you're driving
In New Zealand, you must have your driver licence or international driving permit with you at all times when you're driving. (If you are using an international driving permit, you will need to carry both the permit and your overseas driver licence.) If your overseas driver licence or permit is not in English, you must carry an acceptable English translation issued by:
- a that has been authorised by the NZTA (a full list of acceptable translation services is available on our website), or
- a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate, or
- the authority that issued your overseas driver licence (an international driving permit may be acceptable as a translation).
Action police can take
You can find out about action the police can take in factsheet 55 Driving offences and their penalties.. Action the police may take includes the following:
Roadside licence suspension
Roadside licence suspension means the police immediately seize and suspend a driver's licence at the roadside. In addition to any other charges, the driver is banned from driving for 28 days. This can happen if you:
- are caught driving at more than one-and-a-half times the legal alcohol limit
- refuse to supply a blood sample to be tested for excess blood alcohol
- are caught driving at more than 40km/h above a permanent speed limit (other than by speed cameras)
- are caught for a drink drive offence and you have had a previous drink drive conviction in the last four years.
For more information on roadside licence suspension, see factsheet 62 Suspension of your licence at the roadside.
Roadside vehicle impoundment
Roadside vehicle impoundment means the police can seize and impound a vehicle for 28 days. A fee has to be paid before the vehicle is released. This can happen if you:
- race other drivers or perform any other street-racer stunts (wheelies, unnecessary displays of speed, etc)
- are caught for a drink drive offence where you have two or more previous drink drive convictions in the last four years
- drive while disqualified
- drive while your licence is suspended or revoked
- are caught driving after having been forbidden to drive by police, and before obtaining a current licence (eg while you are unlicensed, or your licence has expired, or you are required to reinstate your licence after a licence suspension or disqualification the police have stopped you and forbidden you to drive).
For more information on roadside vehicle impoundment, see factsheet 63 Impoundment of your vehicle at the roadside.
Where you can find out more
If you've moved to New Zealand to live or here for a short stay, read the What's different about driving in New Zealand brochure. This gives advice on aspects of driving in New Zealand that you may be unfamiliar with. It's written in English and has sections translated into German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Gilbertese, Samoan, Tongan, Tuvaluan, Bislama, Solomon Islands, Thai and Arabic. Phone our driver licensing contact centre on 0800 822 422 to order a copy.
Also available on our website:
- factsheets on other aspects of driver licensing and road safety
- information for motorists
- The official New Zealand road code.
Drivers who are new to our roads, people learning to drive and people wanting to gain a new licence class must make use of the appropriate version of The official New Zealand road code. (There are different versions for cars, motorcycles and heavy vehicles.) The official New Zealand road code contains information you need to know to get a driver licence. It also has lots of information to help drivers be safe and courteous on the road.
You can get copies of The official New Zealand road code from bookstores, driver licensing agents and some public libraries.
Where you can find out more
- Email us: email@example.com
- Phone our driver licensing contact centre: 0800 822 422.
- Write to us: NZ Transport Agency, Private Bag 11777, Palmerston North 4442.
The information in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not the source of the law.