Exchanging a foreign licence: Who needs a Belgian driving licence?
Do you need a Belgian driving licence? This guide explains the rules for driving licences in Belgium, where to take the Belgian driving theory test in English, plus tips on the Belgian driving test.
Not everyone needs a Belgian driving licence to drive in Belgium. Depending on your nationality and how long you are in the country, you can typically use your foreign driving licence in Belgium for a certain period. Otherwise, it is an easy process to exchange your foreign licence for a Belgian driver's licence.
Certain nationalities, however, have to pass a Belgian driving test (including theory and practical tests) before they can receive their Belgian driving licence. This can make getting a Belgian driver's licence more costly and time-consuming, which you might weigh against Belgium's notoriously bad traffic jams and whether driving is best for your commuting requirements. It is possible to find centres that conduct the Belgian driving theory test in English (usually for a fee), and some centres may allow an interpreter on the practical driving test in Belgium.
This guide to Belgian driving licences explains who can use their driving licence in Belgium, who must exchange their foreign licence for a Belgian driver's licence, and what to do if you are required to take a Belgian driving test or practical driving test in Belgium. It also lists the driving centres where you can take the Belgian driving theory test in English.
Belgian driving licence updates 2017
- The Belgian government has announced changes to the conditions for qualifying for a Belgian driver's licence, which are expected to become operational by 1 October 2017. Changes include a nine-month driving requirement (instead of three months) for new drivers before they can take the official test, which will also cover more manoeuvres and GPS skills. Drivers who want to train learners privately, such as parents, will only be able after taking a course; either a three-course at a private driving school or a course from an independent instructor. As a result of the rules becoming stricter, driving centres have reported an increase in requests for Belgian licences.
- Starting in 2017, Brussels will impose a ban on translators in driving licence tests in an attempt to improve the consistency of interpretation. Instead pre-recorded and approved translations will be available for all questions in the most frequently spoken languages, such as English, German, Spanish, Polish, Turkish, Arab and Italian.
- As of March 2017, the Flemish Region announced that theoretical driving licence tests can only be taken in Dutch, or with the assistance of an interpreter for French, German and English only. Fees range from EUR 50–90 for the assistance of an interpreter depending on the test.
Is your driving licence in Belgium valid?
European Union countries have agreements in place with Belgium that recognise foreign EU licences and allow their citizens to drive in Belgium. Similiarly, non-EU drivers can also drive in Belgium using their foreign driver's licence, although in some cases an international driving permit may be requested, so check with your home country.
But non-EU drivers will typically need to exchange their foreign licence for a Belgian driving licence after six months or once registered as a Belgian resident. Read on to find out if you need to exchange your foreign driver's licence, and see more about the rules for driving and parking in Belgium.
EU driving licence in Belgium
Expats moving to Belgium from countries from within the European Union or European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein) are not required to exchange their driver’s licence. However it is recommended to register national licences with the driving licence department of the local town hall in case of loss or theft. If a licence from an EEA country is lost or stolen the replacement will be a Belgian driving licence for those who have taken up residency. It is also possible to exchange an EEA licence for a Belgian equivalent, if you wish, which can serve as a local form of identification.
EU licences are typically valid for 10 years, however, if you hold a driving licence for life (ie. one that has an unlimited validity period) issued by another EU country, you may be required to renew your licence two years after officially registering your place of residence in Belgium.
Non-EU driving licence in Belgium
Although third country nationals can use their foreign driver's licence in Belgium for short stays or up to six months – although sometimes an International Driving Permit (IDP) is also required – they typically will need a Belgian driver's licence if they plan to stay long-term or once they register as an official Belgian resident. For information on IDPs, ask the driving authorities in your home country or visit your local town hall office.
Reciprocal arrangements are in place with numerous non-EEA countries that permit a driver to easily exchange their driver’s licence for a Belgian equivalent, but the individual must be registered within a municipality first and show a Belgian residency permit. Non-EEA nationals can check the government website to see if there is agreement for their country: www.mobilit.fgov.be.
If your country has no such agreement with Belgium, there is a requirement to pass the Belgian driving examination comprising a theory and practical test. The Examination Centres (GOCA or SBAT) can arrange English versions of the theory exam, although it is recommended to book well in advance.
Non-EEA residents can typically get a one-year grace period if they need to pass a Belgian driving test. However, when driving in Belgium, the person must carry their licence at all times, together with the International Driving Permit (IDP), which contains a translation of the licence. An international driving licence has a lifetime of three years.
If you have already exchanged a foreign driver's licence for a driver's licence in another EU country, it will also be accepted as valid in Belgium.
How to get a Belgian driving licence
Further information on registering for an international driving licence, exchanging a licence or applying for a Belgian driving licence can be found by visiting the town hall (maison communale/stadhuis) of most towns. Contact your local commune office to kickstart procedures.
Processing times for Belgian driving licences can be from one or two weeks up to a couple of months, so at the point of exchanging licences you will typically be given a temporary issue licence.
The main categories of Belgian driver's licences include:
- Category AM: scooters/mopeds
- Category A1/A2: motorcycles
- Category B: cars
- Category C/D: trucks/buses and coaches
- Category G: agricultural vehicles
- Category A3: scooters/mopeds
- Category A: motorcycles
- Category B: cars
- Category G: agricultural vehicles
Taking the Belgian driving test
To get a Belgian driving licence, certain nationalities are required to pass both a theoretical exam and practical driving test at an official test centre, although driving lessons can be taken at any school of your choice. You can find all the local test centres in Belgium where you can take the test in French and Dutch.
You first need to pass the theory test, which can be taken from age 17. If you don’t speak French, Dutch or German, some driving schools in Belgium run theory classes in English (usually for a fee).
You should bring your ID and fee money to the exam, and you will also be requested to take an eye test if you pass. The basic theory test costs EUR 15, or EUR 50 if you require a translator, while the driving test costs around EUR 30–50+, depending on what you require. See a list of prices in French or Dutch.
If you pass you'll receive a test certificate (valid for up to three years), which you will need to take to your local commune and after about a week will be handed a provisional driver's licence (Permis de Conduire Provisoire, PCP/Voorlopig Rijbewijs, VRB); it will be valid for 18 or 36 months depending on your training (respectively, whether you opt for professional driving lessons or driving with a friend/family guide) and will cost a fee (EUR 30). You will be given a timeframe within which you must take the practical driving test.
If you then want to take the test in a language other than Dutch, French or German, you may be able to request the assistance of a translator (chosen by the test centre), however, there are sometimes restrictions. Brussels, for example, announced that translators will be banned in 2017 once pre-recorded and approved translations are available in the most frequently spoken languages, for example English, German, Spanish, Polish, Turkish, Arab and Italian. Flanders, on the other hand, allows translators but only in the languages of French, German and English.
Driving test centres around Belgium that offer interpreters sometimes organise a special day (for example, Schaerbeek) when speakers of the same language can be put together. If you require an interpreter, you must book a test at one of the below centres:
- Brussels: Schaerbeek, Anderlecht
- Walloon: Wandre, Couillet
- Flanders: Bree, Alken, Deurne, Sint-Denijs-Westrem.
Some complain that their success is dependent on the ability of the translator, so lots of study helps; you can find study books (translated into English) and online courses to help. To request to take the test in English, the waiting times vary but can be up to a month, so book early.
The practical driving test in Belgium
Before taking the practical driving test in Belgium, you must meet certain driving requirements. To practise driving, you have two options: you can either nominate a guide (who must meet certain conditions, such as a minimum of eight years of driving experience) to be in the car, or you can undertake 20 hours of driving lessons at a school.
The driving test is open to those older than 18 years and lasts about 40 minutes. You can request a translator, which means three extra people in the car including the driving instructor and examiner.
If you fail twice, you will be requested to undertake six hours of driving lessons until you can re-take the practical exam. You will be asked to bring certain documents, which can include proof of identity, your provisional driving licence, proof of the fee paid, vehicle registration documents and proof of insurance.
If you pass your driving test, you will need to revisit your local town hall to request your official Belgian driving licence; you will typically need to present two passport photos, an ID, your test certificate and money for the fee (about EUR 30).
Tips for driving in Belgium
- The minimum age for driving in Belgium is 18 years, so if you are 17 you will not be permitted to drive in Belgium, even if you can do so legally in your home country.
- If you are driving a vehicle that belongs to someone else you must carry a letter of authorisation from the owner giving you permission to drive.
- All cars in Belgium must carry a warning triangle to be used in case of a breakdown.
- Belgium has an unusual driving law that gives way to right-turning traffic, unless other signalled, which means a car can legally turn onto a highway from a side-road and expect to be let in.
- Read more about driving and parking in Belgium.
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