Using and Converting Foreign Drivers Licenses in South Africa
Please note that we are not able to assist with license conversions of any kind. This article is for information purposes only.
Moving to a new country is confusing enough, without also having to wonder whether or not you are driving around legally, using your existing license from overseas. Below, we provide some details about the legality of using your foreign license in South Africa, as well as how to go about converting it to a local license.
According to South Africa’s National Road Traffic Act, a drivers license issued in any country other than South Africa is valid to drive within SA if:
- The foreign drivers license was issued on a date on which the holder thereof has not been permanently or ordinarily resident in SA. A person is ordinarily resident in SA if he/she is in SA on an extended visit of more than three months on a contract of employment (not just visiting). The permanent residence requirement does not apply to a holder of a diplomatic permit or a treaty permit.
- The license is in English, or a translation of the license in English is attached to the license, or a certificate of authenticity or validity in English which was issued by a competent authority (e.g. the Embassy or Consulate) of the country concerned, is attached to the license. The legislation does not prescribe who should attach a translation or a certificate of authenticity or validity to a driving license, how it should be attached or when it should have been attached. The legislation also does not prescribe that the translation should state the capacity of vehicle the license authorizes. The code of the license does not necessarily relate to a South African license code, and therefore should describe the capacity of vehicle the license authorize.
- The license contains or has attached thereto the photograph and signature of the holder thereof. The legislation does not prescribe who should attach a photograph and signature to a drivers license, how it should be attached or when it should have been attached. The rule of thumb here should be that if a license does not have the holder’s photograph or signature contained on it, some other formal document like a passport that contain the person’s photograph or signature should accompany the license.
The foreign drivers license will remain valid until an individual has been permanently resident in SA for a continuous period of 1 year. After this point, it is necessary to obtain a South African drivers license. Once you have been granted permanent residency in SA, you will need to convert your foreign license within 5 years. If this noes not occur, your license will no longer be valid.
Your foreign license will be converted if it is:
- Translated into one of the official South African languages.
- Accompanied by a letter of validity obtained from the relevant embassy, and a translation, if the licence is not in an official language of South Africa.
- Has your photo and signature.
To do the conversion, you will need to go to any driving license testing center in the province where you obtained your permanent residence, and complete the Application for exchange of a driving licence form (DL1).
The time-frame for exchanging the licence varies from one testing center to another, due to internal auditing processes. It is a good idea to call the center ahead of time to find out what the costs involved are, and when the best time of day will be to go (so as to avoid long queues).
For a list of what you will be required to submit, and links to South African municipalities for further information, click here.
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