If you have a driver’s license from outside of the Netherlands, certain nationalities must exchange it for a Dutch driver’s license.
The rules for driving in the Netherlands are complex, especially for licensing, with different agreements in place with different countries. In this article, Expatica explains how driving licenses work as an expat in the Netherlands.
Driving licenses as a non-resident in the Netherlands
When moving to the Netherlands, there is no requirement for expats from EU or EFTA countries to exchange their driver’s license (rijbewijs). Current laws permit EU citizens to drive using their existing licenses.
EU licenses issued since January 2013 are valid from 15 years from their issue date; those issued before then are only valid for 10 years. Expats from Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland can also drive in the Netherlands using their current license for up to 10 years or when your license expires (whichever comes first).
Although EU nationals may not have a Dutch driver’s license, local laws still apply. This includes license expiry dates, necessary medical tests, points, fines, and penalties.
Driving licenses as a resident in the Netherlands
Drivers from some countries must exchange their licenses for a Dutch one when taking up residency in the Netherlands.
Any exchanges should occur within six months of the start of the residency, and also carry a translation of your license – either an international driving license or an International Driving Permit (IDP). More information can be found at www.rijbewijs.nl.
Licenses that can be exchanged:
- Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dutch Caribbean, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Isle of Man, Monaco, Netherlands Antilles, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.
- Specific licenses from Taiwan, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Andorra, South Korea, Quebec.
Exceptions to Dutch driving license rules
If you are a highly-skilled migrant with the 30% ruling, then you and your family can exchange your driving license for a Dutch equivalent. This applies regardless of which country you are from.
In 2016, the Dutch vehicle licensing service announced plans to introduce an app for mobile driving licenses in the new few years. This is yet to come to fruition, however.
How to exchange a foreign license in the Netherlands
To exchange a license, go to the local city hall (stadhuis) for proof of your residency (uittreksel bevolkingsregister). You must pay for this, but it serves as a proof of identity and address.
Once you apply for a license exchange, your local council forwards your application to the RDW for processing. The RDW doesn’t accept applications directly.
To apply for a license, you need:
- your original, valid foreign driver’s license
- a certificate of medical fitness
- a recent passport photograph
Replacing a lost or stolen license in the Netherlands
If you lose your driving license, the process for replacing it depends on where the license is from.
In the former case, you’ll need to contact the relevant department in your home country. If it’s a Dutch license, you must supply an official police report to your local municipality.
The cost of getting a Dutch driving license
Whether you’re renewing an existing Dutch license or exchanging your foreign license, the fee is €39.45.
This fee should be paid upfront at the local city hall/council office when you apply for your license.
Minimum age for Dutch driving license
The minimum age for driving in the Netherlands is 17. You cannot get a full license until the age of 18.
Under a national scheme, drivers can pass their theory test at the age of 16, take lessons and do a preliminary test at 16.5, and then their full test at 17. They’ll then need to be accompanied by a coach (begeleider) until they turn 18.
You can find out more about how the scheme works at www.2todrive.nl.
Taking a driving test in the Netherlands
If you must take a driving test in the Netherlands, you must pass both the theory and practical tests. The government recommends that drivers should take a theory test every 10 years to maintain their understanding of the rules. This is voluntary, however.
Check out our listings for expat-friendly driving schools in the Netherlands.
Online moped theory training in English
The Dutch moped theory test is available in English with the release of a new online training and testing course in English by The International School of Driving (DriveRight).
For driving schools in English, check out our A-Z listings under Travel and transportation > Driving Schools.
More information on driving in the Netherlands can be found via the Department of Road Transport (RDW) by visiting www.rdw.nl.
Now that you know how to exchange your driver’s license, you may want to learn about the tax exemptions for importing a car into the Netherlands.