High demand for overseas licence conversions

3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 9, 2020

The NZ Transport Agency is working hard to process a significant increase of applications from overseas driver‘s licence holders who need to convert their licence to a New Zealand driver‘s licence. During the period of June and July the processing time for these applications was nearly 30 days.

“The number of current applications for conversions for drivers from non-exempt countries is significantly higher than usual, likely as a result of Covid-19 restrictions on international travel,” vehicle and driver licensing senior manager Sue Hardiman says.

Drivers who hold an overseas driver‘s licence and meet certain criteria may drive in New Zealand without a New Zealand driver‘s licence for a maximum period of 12 months from the date they arrive. 

If a driver will be in New Zealand for more than 12 months, they need to obtain a New Zealand driver‘s licence. If their overseas licence is not suspended, disqualified or revoked in the country of issue and is still current or has expired less than 12 months ago, they can apply to convert it to a New Zealand licence using a DL5 form.

While licence holders from 24 countries are exempt in most licence classes from resitting a theory test and – if they have held a licence for two years – a practical test, licence holders from other countries must undergo additional assessments such as theory and practical tests at specialist overseas conversion sites. These additional tests ensure that these licence holders drive safely on our roads. 

“Many overseas drivers who are nearing the end of the 12-month validity period for their overseas licences may not be intending to leave New Zealand due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. This means they now need to convert to a New Zealand driver‘s licence to continue driving on our roads.

“Our team is balancing the need to conduct these assessments accurately and consistently with processing times that give our customers the peace of mind they will be able to drive legally.

“We‘re doing everything we can to clear the backlog and reduce the processing time and will update our website with the latest information.”

Drivers also have the option to apply for a New Zealand driver‘s licence rather than converting their overseas driver‘s licence. Theory and practical driving tests are continuing under alert level 2 at specialist overseas conversion sites. 

More information on this process can be found at https://www.nzta.govt.nz/driver-licences/getting-a-licence/licences-by-vehicle-type/cars/.