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Overseas driver licences: converting to a New Zealand licence (Factsheet 72)

Published: 11 2013

This factsheet explains how to convert an overseas driver licence to a New Zealand driver licence. It outlines what is required and also lists which countries are exempt from sitting the theory and/or practical test.

This publication has been updated to reflect the two changes to the give way rules that came into effect on 25 March 2012. Go to www.giveway.govt.nz to get more information on the new rules.

Overseas driver licences: converting to a New Zealand licence

If you have a valid* overseas driver licence you can convert your licence to a New Zealand licence for the equivalent classes on your overseas licence.

*A valid overseas driver licence means that your licence must not be suspended, expired or revoked in the country of issue and must either be current or expired within the last 12 months.

What do I need to bring?

  • Your completed application form (DL5   Application for conversion of an overseas licence). These forms are available from any NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) driver licensing agent
  • your passport or other proof of your identity (see factsheet 20, Identification for driver licensing)
  • evidence of your current address (see factsheet 20)
  • your overseas driver licence. (see Note 1)

Note 1: If your overseas driver licence is not in English, you must provide an original translation from an approved source together with your physical driver licence at the agent counter. The approved sources are:

  • a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate, or
  • the authority that issued your overseas licence (an international driving permit may be acceptable as a translation), or
  • a translation service that has been authorised by the NZTA.

Note: An international driving permit – issued in accordance with a United Nations Convention on road traffic – may be acceptable as a translation.

A list of approved translation services is available on our website.

You will need to visit a NZTA driver licensing agent to do the conversion application. These are selected branches of:

The agent will process your application, check your identification, take your photograph** and a sample signature for your licence, check your eyesight and arrange an appointment for any theory or practical driving tests.

You will need to pay the appropriate fees with your application.

**When being photographed you must not wear sunglasses, a hat, any head coverings or anything else that might obscure your face or prevent the photograph from being a good likeness. The only exception is if the item is worn for religious or medical reasons and, if so, you must supply a signed statement confirming this. However, the photo must still show the face from forehead to chin and be a good likeness.

Eyesight requirements

You must prove that your eyesight meets the required standard when you are converting your overseas licence and each time you apply for a new licence class or endorsement or renew your licence. To do this, you can:

  • present a satisfactory eyesight certificate issued by a New Zealand-registered optometrist (this certificate must be no more than 60 days old)
  • present a satisfactory medical certificate issued by a New Zealand-registered medical practitioner (this certificate must be no more than 60 days old and must specifically cover eyesight)
  • pass an eyesight screening check at a driver licensing agent.

Note: the agents' eyesight screening machines eliminate the need for many drivers to be tested by an optometrist or medical practitioner. However, if you don't pass the screening check, then you must provide one of the certificates listed before your application can be completed and you can be issued with a New Zealand licence. Some drivers choose to provide a certificate instead of taking a screening check. If you have vision in only one eye, you must present an eyesight certificate from a doctor or optometrist.

How old do I have to be to get a New Zealand licence?

New Zealand drivers must have reached a minimum age before they can to hold a driver licence class. There are different minimum ages for learner, restricted and full licence classes. These are as follows:

Minimum licence class age
Class Age
Car  
Learner licence 16
Restricted licence 16½
Full licence (without an approved course certificate) 18
Full licence (with an approved course certificate) 17½
Motorcycle  
Learner licence 16
Restricted licence 16½
Full licence 18
Truck
Learner licence 18
Full licence 18

This means that if you are under 18 years of age, you can only convert your overseas licence to the equivalent age related New Zealand licence class.

If you successfully complete an approved advanced driving course course (Street Talk or Defensive Driving) and present the course certificate when you apply to convert your overseas licence, the minimum age for a full car licence class is reduced to 17½ years of age.

For further information about licence classes see factsheet 11, Driver licence classes.

Do I have to sit any tests?

All drivers must know the road rules, what the road signs mean and how to drive safely. You can find out more about this in The official New Zealand road code.

Some countries require similar driving skills and have similar licensing systems to New Zealand's. Depending on the country you have come from and the class of licence you are converting, you may not have to sit theory and/or practical tests. Other countries may have driver licensing systems that are very different from New Zealand's. People from these countries do have to sit both theory and practical tests.

Theory test

You do not have to sit the theory test if:

  • you have a licence from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hone 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, and
  • your licence is current (or has expired within the last 12 months), and
  • you are converting a car or a motorcycle licence only.

You do have to sit a theory test if:

  • you have a licence from a country not listed above, or
  • you are converting a heavy vehicle licence from any country.

What if I can't sit the theory test in English?

Theory tests are also available in the following languages:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese (simplified and traditional)
  • Korean
  • Samoan
  • Tongan
  • Hindi
  • Gujurati
  • Punjabi
  • Māori.

If one of these languages is appropriate, but you have trouble reading, then you may be able to use a reader.

If none of these languages are appropriate, then you may be able to use a translator.

The translator or reader must be over 18 years of age, and present a passport or New Zealand driver licence when translating the test.

Note: if you want to have the test translated into Fijian, you will need to apply to the NZ Transport Agency for permission. Call the driver licensing contact centre for further information.

Practical test

You do not have to sit the practical test if:

  • you have a licence from 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, and
  • your licence is current (or has expired within the last 12 months), and
  • you have held that licence for more than two years.

You may need to provide proof of the issue date of your overseas licence.

You do have to sit the practical test if:

  • you have a licence from a country not listed above, or
  • you have a licence from a country which is listed above but you have held that licence for less than two years, or
  • you have a licence from Hong Kong or South Korea and you are converting a heavy traffic licence.

What happens if I pass the theory test?

When you have passed the theory test requirements, you will be issued with a New Zealand driver licence.

If you have been issued with a New Zealand driver licence you will no longer be able to use your overseas driver licence for driving in New Zealand.

What is a supervisor condition?

If your New Zealand driver licence has been issued with any conditions, you must adhere to them. For example, if you are required to pass the practical test and have not yet done so, you will have a supervisor* condition. This means you must be accompanied by a supervisor at all times when you drive.

*A supervisor is a person who:

  • holds a current full New Zealand driver licence for the class of vehicle
  • has held their full New Zealand driver licence (or an equivalent overseas driver licence) for at least two years, and
  • does not have a supervisor condition on their New Zealand licence.

If you are converting a motorcycle licence you do not need to have a supervisor. You will be issued with a learner motorcycle licence and will need to comply with the learner conditions until you pass your practical test and are issued with a full licence.

That means you:

What happens if I fail the theory or practical test?

If you fail the theory test and have been in New Zealand for more than one year, you must not drive in New Zealand. You can apply to sit the test again.

If you fail the practical test, you must continue to be accompanied by a supervisor when you drive until you resit and pass the test.

What about motorcycles and heavy vehicles?

Different types of vehicle are grouped into 'classes'. There are different theory tests and practical tests for different classes:

  • Class 1 covers cars and other light-weight motor vehicles, such as vans and utilities.
  • Classes 2–5 cover different types of heavy vehicles, such as trucks.
  • Class 6 covers motorcycles.

Most people will sit the theory and practical tests for a Class 1 licence. If you had a motorcycle licence and wish to continue riding, you will need to sit different theory and practical tests for a Class 6 licence. If you drove trucks and want to do so here, or want to have both a car and a motorcycle licence, make sure you tell the driver licensing agent which licence classes you want to sit tests for (see factsheet 11, Driver licence classes for more information).

Can I convert to a New Zealand licence using only my international driving permit?

No. You must present your physical overseas driver licence at the driver licensing agent when you are applying to convert to a New Zealand licence, you cannot present your international driving permit on its own. The international driving permit may be acceptable as a translation if your overseas licence is not in English.

Where you can find out more

  • Email us: info@nzta.govt.nz
  • Phone our driver licensing contact centre: 0800 822 422.
  • Write to us: NZ Transport Agency, Private Bag 11777, Palmerston North 4442.

About factsheets

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