How Canadians can get a German Driver’s License (Berlin)

I was looking around for information on how this works for awhile and didn’t have much luck.  In the end, I just went through the process, had a lot of luck by getting a really nice lady at the Government office and now just have to wait 8 weeks for my German license!  I’ll tell you how I did it after the jump.  By the way, this article is mainly for Canadians who are looking to swap their Canadian Driver’s License for a German one.    People from other countries have to check out the rules themselves…it can vary quite dramatically depending on your country, and even the state/province you are from.



I couldn’t actually figure out the first step – I mean, where was I supposed to go?  On the internet, people kept advising to go to the main hub in Berlin, somewhere near Friedrichstrasse but my goal was to avoid getting  an ADAC translation (which takes a week or so and costs around 60 Euros, I hear).   I mean,  that seemed like such a waste of money.  There is only basic information on my license – address, validity, height, weight, etc.  What the heck are you going to translate??!   Anyway, it seemed, from what I read, that everyone who went to the main hub had to get a translation.  I thought a better strategy would be go to a smaller Bürgeramt.  I ended up calling 115 on my cell phone, which connected me to a friendly woman (in German) who helped me make an appointment at the Bürgeramt Märkisches Viertel (all the way out in Reinickendorf).  I didn’t want to chance the waiting room.  Then I went and got a passport size photo takes (all you need is one).  And that was it.

I went to the Bürgeramt and there was no one in the waiting room, so the appointment was clearly not necessary.  Check the hours though of each Bürgeramt.  I needed one open later so I could make it after work and usually they are only open later on Thursdays.   I spoke friendly German to the lady.  She asked for my Canadian license,  my visa that allows me to stay in Germany, my passport, my photo and 35 Euros.  She didn’t ask me for a translation or my Anmeldung (registration of address).  10 minutes later we were done and she informed me that my German license would be ready in 8 weeks!  I asked if I would be able to keep my Canadian one as I travel often back and forth, and she said I would have to ask when I pick up my license.

The best is that the German license has no expiry date!  Fantastic!  Good thing they don’t know that I have no idea how to drive manual cars…

NOTE:  My German is not perfect, but it is pretty decent.  I managed to answer her questions and express myself clearly to the Government lady.  The people working at the Bürgeramt do not speak English, so you have to speak German or go with someone who can speak for you.

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2 thoughts on “How Canadians can get a German Driver’s License (Berlin)

  1. Leigh Majer says:

    Hi! I am so glad I found your blog and wonder if you are still living here in Germany. I am a Canadian but a few years ago became a dual citizen – American – as I had been living there for 15 years working. My husband (American) and I just moved to Germany and have been going through the “adjustment” phase – the most difficult part for me is just dealing with the rudeness/curtness/stoic unwavering faces of people who seem bothered greatly that we are not yet fluent. I came SO excited to learn German and now I am feeling in this rebellious mind set (and I have *never* felt that way in my life) where being forced to do the integration courses and having people talk rudely to me when I smile at them – well – today it has just been too much. I got a job as a substitute teacher at the local International English school and now feel I will have to quit that to do this integration courses and am wondering if you did them and if so what your experience was.
    I also am wondering if they ended up allowing you to keep your driver’s license – I am going to research the way to do it with american license but I imagine it will be quite similar to the canadian way and I think it is just a straight exchange hopefully. We are not fluent yet so we will take a friend to help translate for us.
    My husband is here as a Pastor to start up an English church and I guess his visa says he doesn’t have to take the classes but mine is mandatory to get to B1 level by the end of the 2 year visa I have or they downgrade the visa and only issue it on a one year basis. I honestly at this point don’t care if they sent me home tomorrow and that is saying A LOT because I love to travel, love to learn languages, was so excited to be here and just feel very beaten down by 2 days of dealing with very rude people at the VHS school in two locations and wondering why everything has to be so serious, difficult and with so many road blocks.

    Sorry for the vent but am hoping maybe you can understand a little bit.

    Thanks for any support or advice and I look forward to reading your other blog posts.

    • HelloBonjour says:

      Hi! Oh I understand what you mean. I find it actually interesting that you are required to do the integration course. Are you sure? It is usually voluntary (freiwillig) for Canadians/Americans, etc. I didn’t HAVE To do the integration course. I wanted to do it because it was a subsidized language course – I ended up paying 300 Euros for 6 months of courses. I definitely didn’t have to do it. I’m not sure if that is because I am married to a German or not, but I really thought it had to do with me being Canadian. Also, I totally know what you mean re people just not being friendly, especially when you are trying to speak THEIR language. Even in Canada, when someone speaks broken English (or in Germany for that matter!), I am always very polite and nice and encourage them to speak. It’s just different here. But I have to say that it is MUCH better in Stuttgart. I left Berlin earlier this year and am now living in Southern Germany and it is just so much nicer here on that front. People are really nice and really happy to hear me speak German. They are actually encouraging!! So maybe it is a Berlin thing…


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