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New Zealand - Driving Licenses

An expat is permitted to use the driving licence issued in their home country for up to 12 months, or alternatively use an International Driving Permit if they have a full driver’s licence issued in their home country. After a period of 12 months it is compulsory to change to a New Zealand driver’s licence. The driving licence should be carried at all times and you will only be permitted to drive the same vehicles that you are permitted to drive in your home country.

Licences that are not in English will need to be translated by an approved translator. Advice on translation can be obtained from the New Zealand embassy or consulate in your home country but can be done by the New Zealand Translation Service, a member of staff at the embassy or the driving licence authority in your home country. If you drive without an English version licence then you may be liable for prosecution and a fine. You will also be forbidden to drive without the English version licence and any car you drive can be impounded if you are caught doing so.

In order to change your licence for a New Zealand version there are a number of steps you need to take. The change can be done at any driver licensing agent, a complete list is available on the New Zealand Transport Agency website. You can obtain from them a copy of the application to convert the licence or download the required form from the NZTA website. You will need to show your overseas licence or the translation if you had one done, as well as proof of ID and your address in New Zealand. You should also have with you photocopies of all the documentary evidence that you are taking with you. You may be asked for a medical certificate. This will depend upon a number of factors including your age and your medical history and when you visit the licence agent you will be asked to take a quick eye test unless you have recently taken an eye test with an optician and have documentary evidence of the results. There is a fee payable but the amount varies depending upon the type of licence that you have.

Expats from certain countries may be required to take practical tests and theory tests before a New Zealand licence will be issued. A list of countries that are affected by this regulation is available from the website of the New Zealand Transport Agency.

A driver who exceeds the speed limit by more than 40 km/h will have their licence suspended immediately for a period of 28 days. The same regulation applies if a driver is found to have more than the recommended blood or breath alcohol levels. Those who refuse to take part in either the blood or breath tests will also have their licence suspended. A driver who has been caught for drink driving and has committed a similar offence in the previous four years will also have their licence suspended.

This suspension begins as soon as the police stop the car. Demerit points are another system used for drivers who commit driving offences and if a driver has more than 100 applied to their licence over a 2 year period then a 3 month suspension will be issued. A court has the power to disqualify a person from driving for a longer period. For all periods of suspension a driver must hand their licence in either to the police or to the NZTA.

A disqualification or a period of suspension caused by too many demerit points will mean that a person cannot simply begin driving again once this is finished, but will have to apply to have the licence reinstated. There are circumstances in which a temporary licence can be issued for emergencies during a period of suspension or disqualification but this does not apply to the 28 day on the spot suspensions. To get your licence reissued you will need to pay a fee to the licensing agent, provide evidence of ID and address and complete the relevant application form.

Unlike in the UK, licences expire every few years and it is up to the driver to make the application for renewal when necessary. If you allow a licence to expire and do not renew within a few years then you may need to take tests again.

Useful Resources

New Zealand Transport Agency
Tel: 0800 822 422 (licensing agents)

Read more about this country

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