If you have a driver’s licence from outside of the Netherlands, certain nationalities must exchange it for a Dutch driver’s licence.
The rules around driving in the Netherlands can be complicated, especially when it comes to licensing, with different agreements in place with different countries.
In this article, Expatica explains how driving licences work as an expat in the Netherlands.
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Driving licences 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 licence for a Dutch equivalent (rijbewijs) as the current laws permit EU citizens to drive using their existing licences.
EU licences issued since January 19th 2013 are valid from 15 years from their issue date, but those issued before then are only valid for 10 years. Expats from Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland are also permitted to drive in the Netherlands using their current licence for up to 10 years or when your licence expires, whichever comes first.
Although EU nationals may not have a Dutch driver’s licence, local laws are still applicable including licence expiry dates, any medical tests required and points, fines and penalties.
Driving licences as a resident in the Netherlands
Drivers from some countries must exchange their licences 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 licence – either an international driving licence or an International Driving Permit (IDP). More information can be found at www.rijbewijs.nl.
Licences that can be exchanged:
- Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dutch Caribbean, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, (States of) Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Isle of Man, Monaco, Netherlands Antilles, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and UK.
- Specific licenses from Taiwan, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Andorra, South Korea, Canadian Province of Quebec.
Exceptions to Dutch driving licence rules
If you are a highly skilled migrant who benefits from the 30% ruling, then both you and your family can exchange your driving licence for a Dutch equivalent, regardless of which country you are from.
In 2016, the Dutch vehicle licencing service announced plans to introduce an app for mobile driving licences in the new few years, though this is yet to come to fruition.
How to exchange a foreign licence in the Netherlands
To exchange a licence, you will need to go to the local town hall (Stadhuis) to get a proof of residency (uittreksel bevolkingsregister). You will need to pay for this, but it will serve as a proof of identity and address.
Once you’ve applied for an exchange of licence, your local council will forward your application to the RDW, where it will be processed. If you contact the RDW yourself to apply for a licence, the application will not be processed.
To apply for a licence, you will need:
- your original, valid foreign driver’s licence
- a certificate of medical fitness
- a recent passport photograph
Replacing a lost or stolen licence in the Netherlands
If you lose your driving licence (or it gets stolen), how you replace this depends on whether it’s the one from your home country or a Dutch licence.
If the former, you’ll need to contact the relevant department in your home country. If it’s a Dutch licence, you’ll need to supply an official police report to your local municipality, which will then process your application.
The cost of getting a Dutch driving licence
Whether you’re renewing an existing Dutch licence or exchanging your foreign licence with a Dutch one, you’ll need to pay a fee of €39.45 to do so.
This fee should be paid up front at the local city hall/council office when you apply for your licence.
Minimum age for Dutch driving licence
The minimum age for driving in the Netherlands is 17, though you won’t be able to get a full licence until the age of 18.
It works like this – under a national scheme, drivers can pass their theory test at the age of 16, take lessons and do a preliminary test at 16 and a half, 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 are required to take a driving test in the Netherlands, you will have to 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 roads and rules of the roads, although this is voluntary.
Check out our listings for expat-friendly driving schools in the Netherlands.
Online moped theory training in English
The Dutch moped theory test is now available in the English language 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 you know how to exchange your driver’s license, you may want to learn about the tax exemptions you could get when importing a car into the Netherlands.