Exchanging a Foreign Driving Licence

Information on who can exchange their driving licence for a Japanese one, and the steps to follow if you have to exchange your licence...

Driving licences are issued by driving licence centres (menkyou shikenjou).

A licence issued in a foreign country can be converted to a Japanese licence by passing an aptitude test, written and practical examinations and submitting documents. This procedure is called gaimen kirikae. The following countries have a driving licence agreement with Japan which makes the process of organising a Japanese licence easier:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Canada, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and Taiwan.

People who hold a licence from one of these countries can obtain a Japanese licence without doing the written or practical exams. However, an aptitude test must be taken at the Drivers Licence Centre. This checks eyesight and colour recognition.

Written examination

The written examination is a test of knowledge of traffic rules. It lasts for ten minutes and candidates are required to answer ten "true or false" questions. To pass, seven of the questions must be answered correctly. The test can be taken in Japanese, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese and Persian.

Practical examination

The practical examination involves a test of driving skill, taken at a driving centre by appointment. The test can be taken in either an automatic or a manual car. If the test is taken in a manual car, then the candidate can drive both types of car; if the test is taken in an automatic car then the candidate is only allowed to drive an automatic. It is advisable to have some driving lessons at a local driving centre prior to sitting the examination. Candidates may be accompanied by an interpreter (the interpreter does not need to be officially qualified, and it is possible to be accompanied by a Japanese-speaking friend).

  • For further information on the driving tests: Click here

Documents

The following documents are usually needed, along with a conversion fee, to change a foreign licence to a Japanese one:

  • A valid driving licence from the applicant's home country, with proof of having lived in that country for more than three months after acquiring the licence
  • Official translations of the above documents. Acceptable translations can be made by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) or the relevant country's embassy or consulate in Japan
  • Alien registration card
  • Passport
  • One passport size photograph (3cm x 2.4cm), taken within the last six months

The application to convert a foreign licence should be made at a local driving licence centre. It is advisable to contact the local centre in advance to check that no additional documents are needed in that prefecture; for example, some driving licence centres may request a certificate of residence (Jūminhyō) from the local ward office.

  • For a list of driving licence centres: Click here

The licence is valid for up to three years. It will expire on the driver's birthday immediately prior to three years from the date of issue. It must then be renewed and is valid for three years from the holder's renewal birthday.

Renewal takes place at the nearest driver licence centre.