Driving in Denmark: exchanging one’s license

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driving licenseMy husband and I come from Germany and the U.S., respectively, but when we arrived in Denmark we each had a Swiss driver’s license because we had most recently lived in Switzerland. Getting our licenses in Switzerland was a breeze – it involved very little paperwork and took little time, thanks to the efficiency of the motor vehicle office personnel in Lausanne. So we were a little apprehensive when we learned that we had to exchange those licenses (which are good for life!) for Danish ones. However, it turned out to be nearly as easy…

There are different rules for exchanging a driver’s license in Denmark, depending on where you’re coming from. Those who have never had a license must, by law, go through 7 hours of traffic related first aid lessons, 28 theory lessons, 4 practical maneuver lessons on a track, 16 driving lessons in traffic, and 4 lessons on an advanced slippery track before taking a theory and driving test. However, those people coming from abroad who already have a license may a) be required to do nothing; b) have to exchange their license for a Danish one; or c) have to take the theory and driving tests as well as exchange their license. Here is the breakdown of those who can simply exchange their license and those who must do more:

Those who hold a driver’s license from an EU/EEA (Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein) or Nordic country, including the Faroe Islands, do not need to exchange their license. They may continue to drive in Denmark with the license issued by the country they come from.  However, they should keep in mind that if they lose theirs or it is stolen ‘it may be difficult to obtain documentary proof required to apply for a new driving license from the country that issued the license’, according to the International Community’s (Århus) web site. Moreover, if you come from a country where your license expires after a certain period, e.g. 10 years in the UK, and you plan to stay in Denmark it is probably advisable to switch a Danish license to avoid the hassle of renewing in your country.

Group 1 Brazil Must exchange your license within one year of establishing ‘usual residence’ in Denmark
Australia (from 1 April 2016)
Canada (from 1 April 2016)
South Korea
Taipei (Taiwan)
United States (from 1 April 2016)
Group 2 All other countries (including Greenland) Must exchange your license and take both theory and driving tests within 90 days of establishing ‘usual residence’ in Denmark

People from countries in Group 1 must gather the required paperwork and visit their kommune’s borgerservice (citizens service) office within one year of establishing usual residence in Denmark (see below). If you are in Group 2, you must gather the required paperwork and take both a theory and driving test. You must pass the theory test before you can take the driving test. The cost of the test is included in the license exchange fee but if you do not pass you must pay 870 kr. for each additional test until you pass. You legally have 90 days to drive on the license you have when you arrive before you must exchange it for a Danish one. For more information on this please click here and here.

As my husband and I fell within Group 1, we just had to gather the necessary papers before visiting Aalborg Kommune’s borgerservice – we did not have to take the tests. Here is the list of documents that were required to exchange our licenses:

  • Valid foreign driver’s license (must be translated by a state-authorized translator if not in English, French or German). According to a reader from Australia who just exchanged hers (at end of April 2016) and wrote her own blog post about it, you also need proof of when you were first issued your licence, so if it isn’t written on your license, you’ll need to get other documentation to show when it was first issued.
  • Passport
  • Completed application form (which one can get at borgerservice)
  • Doctor’s certificate issued by one’s doctor. The certificate is placed in a closed envelope and must not be older than 3 months
  • Yellow health card
  • Valid photo with a stamp from one’s doctor. Click here to see the requirements for a photo. This will accompany the doctor’s certificate in a sealed envelope (see below).
  • Valid residence permit (if one is not an EU citizen or citizen of a Nordic country)
  • Dankort or cash to pay administrative fee (we paid 280 kr each in March 2014, up from 260 kr in 2012). The fee in 2016 is still 280kr.

The most complicated thing we had to do to complete this list was the doctor’s visit – but even this was actually painless and quick. We made appointments for ‘motorattest’ and each of us brought a passport photo with us. At the doctor’s office, we had to fill out a form about our general state of health and pay 400 kr each (including VAT/MOMS). The nurse then tested our vision and asked us simple questions about our health. That was it. After obtaining the doctor’s signature on the forms, she stamped the back of each photo and put it in its respective envelope with the signed form, then sealed the envelope and wrote an ‘x’ over the seal on the back.

Armed with our doctor’s certificates and all the other documents we showed up at Aalborg Kommune’s borgerservice about 10 minutes before closing time on a Wednesday. We took a number and were next in line. The woman who served us only asked for our licenses, doctor certificates, (my) residence permit, our yellow health cards and the fee. It took about 15 minutes for us to get our temporary paper licenses (good for 3 months, a period within which we should get our ‘real’ licenses) and walk out the door. Our licenses, once we receive them, will be valid for 15 years.

While the process of exchanging our licenses was quite simple and straight forward, I have heard that it is not the same for those who must take the theory and driving tests. More than one web site I checked recommended that people take a couple of driving classes through a Danish driving school in order to get familiar with the rules of the road. (Here is a list of driving schools in Aalborg/Nørresundby.) Also, please not that while one can take either or both tests with an interpreter’s help, one must pay for the interpreter’s time and the cost is not inconsequential. The Århus International Community’s web site has a list of the potential costs involved in preparing for and taking the exams, as well as some additional information on exchanging a driver’s license. I also have a guest post on this subject, including the fees the writer had to pay. To read it, please click here.

Happy driving in Denmark!


4 thoughts on “Driving in Denmark: exchanging one’s license

    […] who come from outside the EU (see her previous post on the subject of Danish driving licenses here for more specifics on who) have to take both the theory and practical exams in order to get a […]

    Eyal said:
    June 24, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Dear sir,
    I am a member of the driving testers union in Israel and would like to learn a little about your working standards.
    I will be very thankful if you could answer the following questions, and sand it to my e-mail:
    How many tests does a tester make a day?
    How long does a test last? For a car, a bus, a semitrailer , and a motorbike.
    How many driving students are there in the car in each test?
    How many lessons must a student take before a test?
    When a student fails a test, how long must he/she wait for another one?
    After a person got a revocation of a license, how long does the new test last?
    Thank you for your attention, 
    Eyal aviav.

      sarahinjylland responded:
      August 14, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Hi Eyal – Sorry for the delay in responding to your questions. In fact, I do not know the answers to your questions. You would have to contact a driving school in Denmark. I have a link to the ones in Aalborg in the post above. Please click on that link and choose one of the schools. The level of English ability in Denmark is very high, so I am sure someone will be able to answer your questions. All the best…

    […] residence’ to do so. Read my previous – and updated – posts about this subject here and here and find other information about it here and […]

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