Exchanging a foreign driving licence in Denmark

If you aren’t a recent immigrant to Denmark then probably just skip this post entirely – this is a local post for local people, there is nothing for you here. Our usual service focusing on seasonal baked goods and statues with gratuitous bosoms will resume shortly.

Up until recently, expats with Australian, US or Canadian driving licences have had to go through an arduous recertification process to get a Danish licence. It was necessary to take driving lessons and then actually re-take a full practical driving test. To add to the misery, all this is entirely in Danish, so you also need to incur the added expense of an interpreter on top of the already high costs of lessons and the test itself (I think it’s safe to assume very few people can pick up enough Danish in their first few months to freestyle a driving test).

The good news is on April 1st 2016 they changed the rules so that people from these countries can exchange their driving licences far more easily… I say more easily, because the process is still not entirely easy! There is hardly any information online, so I fell into a few traps when I went to make the switch. As much as I enjoyed the opportunity to practice my newly acquired Danish numeracy while waiting for my number to come up, I wouldn’t wish multiple trips to the Borgerservice on anyone. Having taken one for the team, I figured I’d be a good global citizen and put some info up online.

As a recently arrived Australian, US or Canadian expat, you can drive on your foreign licence for 90 days from the date you arrive in Denmark. Note: I have read elsewhere that you can drive for up to a year after establishing residence in Denmark, but when I specifically asked this question at the Borgerservice they were adamant it was 90 days. I am not convinced this is right, because in general they were pretty hazy on the details of the new rules, so either err on the side of caution and assume 90 days or contact the Borgerservice directly if its an issue for you.

Sometime during this initial period you need to go to the Borgerservice and initiate a licence transfer. No need to book, just show up with all your documents, but be prepared to wait an hour or two if necessary.

What you need

Before you go to the Borgerservice, you need the following:

  • Australian (or US or Canadian) driver licence
  • Proof of residence/ID (CPR yellow health card, Residence Permit, Passport etc.)
  • 280 DKK (cash or Dankort)
  • A Medical Certificate from within the last three months
  • Some kind of official document indicating when you first received your licence.

Medical Certificate

You need to get a medical certificate from your doctor saying that you are fit to drive. The medical certificate needs to be less than three months old when you apply for the transfer, or it won’t be accepted and you’ll have to get a new one done.

The test itself doesn’t take too long – you just go through a questionnaire with the doctor, and then they do some very basic eyesight tests. I was able to select ‘Certificate for Local Authorities’ (‘Attest til Kommune/myndigheder’) as an option when making the appointment online, and it cost around 500 DKK (this might vary from place to place).

You also need to bring a passport photo with you to the appointment. The doctor has to stamp and sign the back of the photo, as well as write your CPR number on it. They will then put the certification forms and the photo into a sealed envelope for you to take to the Borgerservice – whatever you do, don’t open the envelope!

Documentation about when you received your licence

The Danish authorities need to know when your licence was first issued in order to process the transfer. I didn’t find any information about this requirement online, which is the main reason I am writing this post – to hopefully save some people a wasted trip.

I am not sure about the specifics, sorry, but I assume they will only transfer the licence if you have held it for a given amount of time, possibly over five years. I got the impression it is also linked to when you first entered Denmark – the licence has to have been issued before you became a Danish resident. If you haven’t had your licence very long might be best to check with the Borgerservice before going in in person.

Annoyingly my licence doesn’t have any information about when it was first issued on the card itself, so I was sent home to try and find some kind of relevant documentation. Helpfully, via the Roads and Maritime Service website you can generate an online driving record that seemed to satisfy the Danes. It cost about $22 AUD and was delivered instantly via email.

This advice might only apply to Australian (or maybe even just NSW) licences – if you have a US or Canadian licence you’ll have to have a look at what information is on the card to see whether you need to find more documentation (feel free to let me know and I can update this advice).

The process and temporary licence

Once you have got all the documentation approved, you just need to sign a 2 page declaration that you haven’t been disqualified from driving etc. and that you wish to transfer your licence. The transfer process costs 280 DKK (again, I think you can only pay in cash or Dankort).

At this point they take your licence and documentation and initiate a process whereby the Danish Police confirm the information you have provided with the relevant Australian (or US or Canadian) authorities. Apparently this can take over six months, and given this is a new arrangement I’d definitely expect teething problems and delays.

You are given a temporary licence which is just a slip of paper (no photo or anything, it is extremely inadequate looking). This licence is valid for three months. If you haven’t got your shiny new Danish licence by then you just need to visit the Borgerservice again and they will extend the temporary licence for another three months.

Unfortunately, this temporary licence is only valid in a few Scandinavian countries. I forget the exact list, but from memory it only allows you to drive in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and maybe one other place like Estonia… don’t quote me on that. It’s understandable, because the temporary licence looks like something you hastily mocked up and printed at home and not any kind of official document.

Anyway, the take home message is it is completely useless if, like me, you are heading back to your home country and need to drive. In this case, you need to go back in to the Borgerservice 10 working days before you leave on your trip and request your old licence back. I was told your old licence will most likely be filed with your other paperwork in the Borgerservice building, so you should be able to get it back quickly. However, there is a chance it will be with the police, hence the recommended ten day buffer. You hand in your temporary licence in exchange for your old licence and they put a temporary halt on the exchange process.

Once you return from your holiday you have to, surprise surprise, visit the Borgerservice for the millionth time to switch back to the temporary licence and re-start the transfer process again.

It sounds straightforward, but I haven’t been through this part of the process yet. If there are any issues I’ll update this page again.

So there you have it, Danish bureaucracy in action. The process is actually very straightforward, provided you have all the bits and pieces of info with you and don’t need to drive anywhere but Denmark and other Scando countries in the next 6-8 months. If this information helps even one other person avoid multiple trips to the Borgerservice, then I will be satisfied that this post is not in vain.

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This is the kind of excellent car you can hire once you have your new Danish licence
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