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Expats in Denmark get green light for driver licence swap

Beginning on April 1st, citizens of the United States, Canada and Australia can simply exchange valid driver’s licences issued in their home countries for a Danish one.

Expats in Denmark get green light for driver licence swap
It will now be much easier for Americans and others to legally drive in Denmark. Photo:Thomas Rousing/Flickr
The new system is the culmination of years of lobbying on behalf of expat groups and finally ends well over two years of legal wrangling since the Ministry of Transportation agreed to give internationals an easier road to driving legally in Denmark. 
 
“Finally! The rules in this area have been a years-long headache for many expats and the international companies that hire them. Therefore it is gratifying that the minister has displayed vigour and changed the rules so that the many highly-qualified expats don’t have to fight with difficult bureaucratic obstacles just to be allowed to drive a car in Denmark,” Stephen Brugger, the executive director of the AmCham Denmark, said in a statement. 
 
 
For years, citizens of the US, Canada and Australia who have moved to Denmark have experienced problems getting a Danish licence, because they belong to the so-called ‘Group 2 countries’ where driver training is not deemed comparable to that of Danish drivers. 
 
As a result, many foreigners have been forced to pay for driving lessons and a Danish driving test despite having driven safely every day for years. 
 
AmCham and the US Embassy have long been lobbying for the change and successfully convinced Hans Christian Schmidt, Denmark’s transport minister, to finally put the new rules in place. 
 
“The difficult rules on exchanging foreign driver’s licences has been a key issue for us for many years. But it was first after a meeting with Transport Minister Hans Christian Schmidt in November that something finally happened – more than two years after the then minister, Morten Bødskov, promised to solve the problem,” Brugger said, calling the coming rule change “a big victory for AmCham”. 
 
Rather than having to take time-consuming and costly tests, citizens of the aforementioned countries will now just be required to sign a declaration stating that they have not had their licence revoked within the last five years and that they have been driving regularly over the past two years. 
 
Brugger said the change is not only good news for foreigners in Denmark, but also for the Danish labour market. 
 
“This will make a giant difference for the foreign experts and leaders who come to Denmark to fulfil specific functions,” he said. 
 
The new rules will allow people from Group 1 and Group 2 countries to use their foreign licences for their first year in Denmark but long-time expats who have avoided the bureaucratic licence exchange may not be fully out of the woods. 
 
“[The new rules] do not explicitly deal with the situation where a person has been resident in Denmark for more than one year without exchanging their licence. In theory, it should be possible to exchange the licence even after one year – however, this implies that the person has not had a valid licence for a period of time, which creates a dilemma in relation to the declaration mentioned above,” AmCham wrote on its website
 
The driver’s licence exchanges will be handled by local Citizens Service Centres (Borgerservice). 
 
The full text of the new rules can be read here (in Danish).

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DRIVING

How and when should I exchange my foreign driving licence for a Danish one?

Foreign residents of Denmark are required to exchange their foreign driving licence for a Danish one after moving to Denmark.

How and when should I exchange my foreign driving licence for a Danish one?

The rules for when a foreign driving licence must be exchanged for a Danish licence depend on the country which issued the original licence.

You must change your foreign licence for a Danish one within 90 days of moving to the country (meaning the date on which you arrived in Denmark with the purpose of staying).

At the time of writing, the 90-day deadline is extended to 180 days due to delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

EU and EEA countries

If you have a driving licence issued in the EU or EEA (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein), you can use it in Denmark. You can freely exchange the licence for a Danish licence without having to take an additional driving test.

Australia (Capital Territory only), Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, Switzerland and Ukraine

Driving licences issued in the above countries and territories can also be exchanged for Danish licences without taking any additional test.

In addition to your existing licence, you must also submit a medical declaration from your doctor and a signed written declaration that you have not been disqualified from driving within the last five years. Your licence must not be restricted or issued under special conditions.

It should be noted that the above only applies for category B driving licences. This is the category for driving a normal car. For other types of category such as motorcycle or HGV licences, it is necessary to take an additional test in order to exchange your foreign licence for a Danish one.

Singapore, United States, Canada, Australia, Chile, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, New Zealand, Isle of Man (UK) and Israel

For the above countries and territories, the same conditions apply as for the non-EU/EEA countries listed further above.

Additionally, you must also submit a declaration that you have two years’ effective (reel) in Danish driving experience. In other words, you must have driven regular for at least two years and not had a driving licence for five years or more without having done any driving.

United Kingdom after Brexit

The UK does not neatly fit into any of the above categories because the applicable rules depend on whether your licence was issued before or after the UK left the EU.

In short, you can exchange your licence in line with EU rules if it was issued before Brexit, but UK licences issued after January 1st 2021 are treated as “third country” driving licences.

The rules for exchanging UK driving licences in Denmark following Brexit are set out in more detail in this article.

Other foreign driving licences

Driving licences issued in all other countries can be used to drive in Denmark for up to 90 days after you are registered as living in the country.

Danish rules permit the use of foreign driving licences printed in English (or French) with Latin letters, or if it is accompanied by an English, French or Danish translation. If your licence does not meet this, you may be required to obtain an international licence before driving in Denmark.

You will be required to take what is termed in Danish a kontrollerende køreprøve (“control driving test”) to be able to exchange your foreign licence for a Danish one.

What is a ‘control driving test’?

The Danish Road Traffic Authority website states that a control driving test or kontrollerende køreprøve consists of a theory and practical element. Driving lessons are not mandatory for the test, unlike with the regular driving test given to new drivers.

Drivers taking the test must supply their own vehicle and applications are made via their home municipality.

Where do I go to exchange my licence?

The application form for exchanging to a Danish driving license can be found on the Local Government Denmark (KL) website.

The form must be handed in at a municipal Borgerservice (“Citizens’ Service”). Check the website of your local municipality to find out where the Borgerservice is located in your area. You may be required to make an appointment (or it might be better to do so to avoid a queue).

You’ll need to bring your existing licence, passport and a photo (see here for the photo specifications) when you hand in your licence for exchange. You’ll also need your Danish residence permit.

More information on the application process can be found on the Danish citizen and residents’ platform Borger.dk.

A fee of 280 kroner is charged to exchange a foreign driving licence for a Danish one.

Sources: Færdselsstyrelsen, Borger.dk

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