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Overseas travel by New Zealand driver licence holders (Factsheet 65)

Published: 12 2014

This factsheet provides information for New Zealand licence holders travelling or intending to travel overseas. It provides helpful advice on your entitlement to drive overseas; renewing or replacing your New Zealand driver licence while overseas and your entitlement to drive in New Zealand when you return if your New Zealand licence has expired while you were overseas.

Overseas travel by New Zealand driver licence holders

This factsheet provides information for New Zealand driver licence holders travelling or intending to travel overseas. It provides helpful advice on your entitlement to drive overseas, renewing or replacing your New Zealand driver licence while overseas, and your entitlement to drive in New Zealand when you return if your New Zealand licence has expired while you were overseas.

Overseas travel by New Zealand driver licence holders

Most countries in the world will allow you to drive legally on your current and valid New Zealand licence for a limited period of time. You cannot drive legally if your licence is not current.

If your licence has expired, been revoked or cancelled or if you are required to reinstate your licence at the end of a demerit suspension or court disqualification you are not entitled to drive using your New Zealand licence until a new licence has been issued. See Factsheet 55, Offences and Penalties for further information about reinstating your licence.

What if I still have an older-style licence?

All New Zealand driver licence holders should have upgraded to photo driver licences, but if you've been living overseas, you may not have had the opportunity to do so.

Everyone needs to apply for a new photo driver licence in person. This is because the photo is taken on a secure digital camera linked to the driver licensing computer. All the NZ Transport Agency agents authorised to upgrade driver licences are based in New Zealand.

What should I do when I come home?

If you come back to New Zealand with an old style licence (eg booklet or paper driver licence (commonly known as a lifetime licence), your New Zealand licence will be expired and you will need to upgrade to a current photographic driver licence before you can use it to drive.

You must carry your driver licence with you whenever you're driving. The police can ask to see it – if you still only have an old style licence, you could be charged with driving without a current licence.

What if my photo licence expires when I'm overseas?

Driver licences can only be renewed in New Zealand. If your licence expires while you're overseas, you may find it difficult – if not impossible – to drive legally in another country. For example, you may not be able to convert to an overseas driver licence or rent a car.

If you only have an expired New Zealand driver licence (booklet, paper or photographic) you cannot use it to drive in New Zealand. However, if you also hold a current and valid overseas driver licence you may be able to drive on your overseas driver licence for up to 12 months from your last date of entry.

If your New Zealand licence has been expired for more than five years, you will have to sit tests to renew it before you can use it to drive in New Zealand. However, you will not need to sit any tests if you can provide evidence of being legally entitled to drive either in NZ or overseas within the last five years (eg an overseas driver licence).

The Transport Agency can't provide evidence that you may still drive overseas using your expired New Zealand licence, as the law states that only holders of a current driver licence may drive on public roads.

In some cases you may be able to extend the validity of your New Zealand photographic driver licence if it expires while you are overseas. Your licence validity can be extended once, for a period of no more than 12 months from the original expiry date, provided that it has not already been expired for 12 months or more.

If you want to have your driver licence validity extended, you need to advise us in writing and apply for a replacement licence so that the new expiry date can be shown on your licence. You will need to fill in an Application for replacement driver licence and/or extension of licence validity form. You will need to print it, fill it in and send it, with documentation and payment, to the address on the form.

Avoiding problems

To avoid these problems, the Transport Agency strongly encourages you to renew your photo driver licence before you leave New Zealand, if it's due to expire while you're overseas. Usually, a renewed licence is valid for 10 years from the date of issue and costs $43.90.

Don't wait until the last minute to renew your licence. It takes two to three weeks for your new licence card to arrive in the mail, and you need to make sure you get it before you leave. Also, you may need time to get a medical or eyesight certificate for your application.

If you are an older driver, you can renew your licence up to six months before your 75th, 80th (etc) birthday. Your new licence will have an expiry date as if you had renewed on your birthday, eg if you renew your licence three months before your 80th birthday, then the new licence will expire on your 82nd birthday.

If you renew your licence more than six months before your 75th, 80th (etc) birthday, your licence will expire on your birthday, eg if you renew a licence seven months prior to your 82nd birthday, the new licence will expire on your 82nd birthday. You will need to take this into account if you want to drive overseas. (See factsheet 57, Older drivers: licence renewal, for more information.)

Replacing a lost driver licence

If you lose your driver licence overseas, you can apply for a replacement. This can take a few weeks to organise and receive as the application must be sent to the Transport Agency in New Zealand to be processed. The fees must be paid in New Zealand dollars, and the licence will be sent to a New Zealand address.

Fill in an Application for replacement driver licence and/or extension of licence validity form (DL2A). You will need to print it, fill it in and send it, with documentation and payment, to the address on the form. Alternatively, you can contact the Transport Agency (contact details are at the end of this factsheet).

Please note, your application must include certified copies of your evidence of identity. This means your photocopies must be signed by an official  to confirm they’re true and accurate copies of the original documents. An official is any lawyer, solicitor, notary public, court registrar, embassy official, justice of the peace or police officer. Please ensure the person certifying the documents clearly indicates in which capacity they are acting. Examples of acceptable forms of identification are listed on the application form.

You'll also need to provide payment of $38.20 which must be paid in New Zealand dollars. You can do this by either sending a cheque (payable in New Zealand dollars) with your completed application form or telephone the Transport Agency contact centre on +64 6 953 6200. Please make sure you have your credit card details handy when you call.

Please note, for security reasons payment by credit card can only be accepted by the contact centre.  Credit card details should not be sent by post.

Note: the Transport Agency takes no responsibility for the transmission or postage of credit card details or cheques.

Alternatively, you can have someone with power of attorney pick up a form at a driver licensing agent and apply for a replacement licence on your behalf. Photo driver licences will only be posted to a New Zealand address, so you'll need to make arrangements to have somebody send the replacement licence to you.

How can I confirm my licence status or how long I've had my licence?

Some overseas licensing authorities and rental car companies want to know how long you've had your driver licence. This information may not be shown on your photo driver licence, if it was issued before 16 January 2006. You can obtain this information by applying for a certificate of particulars.

Note: licences produced after 16 January 2006 will show the original date of issue (when you first qualified for the licence) and not the date when the card was produced.

You may also need a certificate of particulars to confirm the status of your driver licence. It outlines what classes of driver licence you hold, the issue date of the licence and whether your licence is current and so on.

Applying for a certificate of particulars

To apply for a certificate of particulars, contact the Transport Agency, using the contacts at the end of this factsheet.

There is a charge of NZ$11.10 for the certificate, which can be paid by either cheque or credit card. Please note, for security reasons payment by credit card can only be accepted by the contact centre. Credit card details should not be sent by post, fax, or email. If your request is via post, a cheque will need to be enclosed.

Provide as many details as you can to ensure the right driver licence record is found – eg driver licence number, your full name, date of birth and the address you think is on the licence. Make sure you remember to specify the postal address, fax number or email address that you want the certificate sent to.

The certificate will be emailed, faxed or mailed to you.

Note: the Transport Agency takes no responsibility for the transmission or postage of credit card details or cheques.

When you're travelling overseas

Getting an overseas driver licence

If you're planning on being overseas for an extended period, you should consider obtaining a driver licence from the country you're staying in. Many countries only allow holders of overseas licences to drive on those licences for a limited period of time. After this, people are generally required to convert to a driver licence from that country.

If you're staying in one country for some time, you should check with the driver licensing agency there to find out how long you may drive on your New Zealand licence and what you need to do to get a licence from that country.

International driving permits

The New Zealand Automobile Association (AA) advises that international driving permits (IDPs) are recommended for most countries – check the AA website for an up to date list.

Note: an IDP is not a driver licence. It is a translation of your driver licence and is only valid while the accompanying driver licence is current.

You can obtain an IDP from the AA. It will be valid for a maximum of one year from the date of issue.

  • Apply at an AA centre or agent: Applying for an IDP at an AA centre costs $20. Take your current New Zealand driver licence, a recent passport photo and the fee.
  • Apply by mail or online: You can post the necessary documentation and fee, or apply online on the AA website (you'll need a credit card). The AA website tells you what documentation you need to provide and how to go about it. The fee is $30 (a delivery fee may also apply – see the AA website for more information).

(These fees are subject to change and can be confirmed with the AA).

What if I return to New Zealand with an overseas licence?

The process for regaining a New Zealand driver licence can vary – it will depend on your circumstances. You can phone our driver licensing contact centre (0800 822 422) to discuss this.

Where can I find out more?

  • Email: info@nzta.govt.nz.
  • Call our contact centre on 0800 822 422 (within New Zealand) or +64 6 953 6200 (from overseas).
  • Write to: NZ Transport Agency, Private Bag 11777, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.
  • Fax +64 6 953 6267 (Attention: Driver licensing).
  • Read driver licensing information on this website.

About factsheets

The information in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not the source of the law.