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.