Converting your South African drivers license in Austria
How to get your Austrian “Führerschein”
As with most other countries across the world, you are allowed to use your South African drivers license for six months provided that you have an international translation.
If you move your main residence to Austria, your South African drivers license will become invalid after six months and needs to be converted within that period. In most cases you will be required to do a practical driving test, unless you are a resident of any of the following countries:
- No test required for all vehicle classes for residents of: Andorra, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Switzerland, Serbia
- No test required for all vehicle classes “B” (cars not exceeding 3,500kg and 8 seats) for residents of: Australia, Bosnia, Hongkong, Israel, Canada, Macedonia, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, South Korea, USA and UAE
It is important to note that once you register your residence (“Hauptwohnsitz”) and have a “Meldebestätigung” (it is compulsory to register if you take up occupation) you are required to convert your drivers license with six months. Any time thereafter it is not possible to convert and you have to redo your drivers license in Austria from scratch (which can cost up to €1500).
You can apply at any Magistrate (“Bezirkshauptmannschaft“) where you need to apply with the form “Antrag auf Umschreibung des ausländischen Führerschein” – you need the following documents (original and copy):
- Passport and Permit of Stay (“Aufenthaltstitel”) – original and two copies
- South African drivers license – must not expire within 6 months – original and two copies
- Translation of the drivers license (this was not required for my wife)
- A passport-photo in portrait mode 35mm x 45mm – best is to comply with photo-criteria
- A medical certificate (“Ärztliches Gutachten”) – must not be older than 18 months
- Proof of residence – this is your “Meldezettel / Meldebestätigung” – original and one copy
- A record of driving from the RTMC – must not be older than 3 months
- A processing fee of €60,50
The conversion process in Austria
This is fairly simple: Obviously a good command of the German language will help (if you struggle, bring a local with. In our case we visited the “Bezirkshauptmannschaft Spittal an der Drauf“, asked for the forms and were explained what is needed.
Thankfully the official was very helpful and friendly and he did not insist on a translation of the drivers license or any of the other documents. It certainly helped that we already had the permit of stay and the the proof of residence.
The medical report (“Ärztliches Gutachten”) requires you to visit a medical professional who is listed with the magistrate and this can not be just any doctor. It is best to ask the magistrate for a list of doctors, or you can look them up on the Austrian Government website. My wife got a list of doctors, where one of them once down the road from the magistrate and she walked in to ask for an appointment and to her surprise was immediately taken in. The tests took about 30 minutes and included a basic eye-test and checking the basic vitals. Within an hour she had the report (which I think cost about €50 for the report and assessment).
Verification of South African drivers licence and dealing with the RTMC
The South African Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) will upon request, issue a printout of the licence required and supply a Letter of Confirmation of the licence. This letter reflects the date the licence was first issued and that the license is still valid / has no infringements / suspension.
The RTMC verification should really be very simple: Request the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) (in writing) for a printout and Confirmation Letter of your drivers licence. Your request must include your contact details (including fax number), a copy of your ID and a copy of your drivers licence.
The bigger challenge was getting the verification from the South African RTMC. In essence this is an extract from eNatis/RTMC, stating that the current drivers license is still valid, has no infringements and RTMC does not object the conversion. What was problematic for us is that the RTMC website was blocked from Austria and we knew that we could possibly get the form through them. We had no-one left in SA who was willing to help (“I would do anything for you, but go to the Traffic Department”) and we finally found contact details (details from December 2018):
Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) Private Bag X147 Pretoria, 0001 Street Address: Boardwalk Office Park – Phase 5, Boardwalk Boulevard, Faerie Glen, 0043 Telephone: 087 301 8200 / 012 999 5200 / 0861 400 800 (not toll free) Fax: 086 602 5928 E-mail: [email protected] / tshwa[email protected] / [email protected] / [email protected]
This is when the “fun” started: It is already challenging to get help from a South African government department when you visit them in person. It is tough to do it telephonically (we tried) and it is agonising when doing it via e-mail. It was a matter of 2-3 weeks of back-and-forth and the RTMC issued the letter. We then used WeQ4 to pick up the letter and DHL it over to us – this cost a good R2500 as we paid for the queuing service and the shipping of an envelope.
Getting the Austrian drivers license
With all the supporting documents in hand, we headed back to the Bezirkshauptmannschaft, paid the application fee and were told that it will take a few days for the license to be issued. It took 3 working days until my wife had her shiny new card:
Some pointers / hints
We did the above in December 2018 (over the Xmas holidays) and generally found that Austrian government institutions are super efficient. In most cases you will pull a number and will be served within one hour. Unlike in South Africa, there are no long queues and the officials are really efficient and there to help you. To cut your queue time short, arrive shortly before the offices open (8am).
It is very possible that the process of conversion will change, so it is best to check the Austrian Government website (English) – you will notice that the German version provides a lot more detail and explanation.
Make sure that your South African drivers license does not expire and that it is at least valid for another six months when you touch down in Austria.
For us the RTMC / eNatis “record of driving” was a surprise as it is nowhere mentioned – to avoid this stress, rather organise it while you are still in South Africa.
IMPORTANT: Apostile everything!!!! You will very quickly learn this when applying for your Aufenthaltstitel, that documents issued by any South African government agency require to be legalised for use abroad. This can easily be done by DIRCO – I must add praise for DIRCO – stepping into their offices in Pretoria felt like we arrived in another country: no queues, clean government offices and friendly/efficient staff. The legalisation of the documents to no more than one hour (while you wait).