Exchanging a Foreign Driving Licence

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

The procedure for converting a foreign driving licence in Vietnam is easier than it is to apply for a new licence. There is no need to take either a written or a driving test. The Department of Transportation is in charge of granting Vietnamese driving licences to foreigners who have valid driving licences from their home countries. They are also in charge of replacing lost driving licences and issuing licence renewals.

To qualify for a Vietnamese temporary driving licence, a foreigner must be at least 18 years old and have a visa or residence permit with no less than three, or in some provinces, no less than six month’s validity. Additionally, applicants will need to present their current valid driving licence or a valid International Driving Permit.

If the driver is converting a foreign driving licence or International Driving Permit to a temporary Vietnamese licence, the licence issued will be the same as the type and class of licence that the applicant holds in their home country. For example, if the foreign licence is only valid for an automobile, it cannot be converted into a Vietnamese motorcycle licence. A person in this situation will need to take a driving test, but they will not have to take a written examination to get the added endorsement on their Vietnamese licence. The driving test can be taken at any authorised test centre in Vietnam and costs VND 50,000. For an automobile, if a test is required, the fee is VND 300,000. The local Department of Transportation will provide the locations of the nearest test centre upon request.

How to apply

Foreigners in Hanoi may pick up an application form for a driving licence from the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

  • Department of Transportation (Traffic) and Public Works
    At: 16 Cao Ba Quat Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
    Tel: (04) 39422715
  • At: 2 Phung Hung, Ha Dong District, Hanoi
    Tel: (04) 433824404

In Ho Chi Minh City, applications can be obtained from the Office of Transportation.

  • Office of Transportation
    At: 63 Ly Tu Trong Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
    Tel: (08) 38223760
  • At: 252 Ly Chinh Thang Street, Ward 9, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
    Tel: (08) 89350551 / (08) 89350517

Elsewhere in Vietnam, the local police will tell the applicant where to apply for a driving licence. Licences can be granted from any provincial Department of Transportation office.

After the form is completed, but before it is signed, the applicant will need to take it to their embassy or consulate. Consular staff will need to verify the information on the application, as well as witness and notarise the applicant’s signature. Additionally, the applicant should be prepared to present the following to consular officials:

  • Passport
  • Vietnam visa or residency permit with no less than three months validity
  • Six or more current colour passport photos. Check to verify the size and number of photos the local Department of Transportation office requires as this can vary significantly depending on the location

Translation and verification

Although it is common for embassies and consulates to assist their citizens with verification and notary services, the United States Department of State writes in their Consular Information Sheet of 9 July, 2013: “The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City cannot assist you in obtaining Vietnamese driver's permits or notarize U.S. drivers' licences for use in Vietnam.” Citizens of the United States will need to seek the proper verification and certification of their documents through their place of employment or by other approved means.

If translation and legalisation of a passport is requested, it can be done at the following addresses:
Hanoi:

  • The Notary Office No. 1
    At: 310 Ba Trieu Street, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi
    Tel: (04) 39760725

Ho Chi Minh City:

  • The Notary Office No. 1
    At
    : 97 Pasteur, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
    Tel: (08) 88230177 / (08) 88231644

Once the application is complete, the applicant must submit their application and supporting documents to the appropriate authorities. In Hanoi, the application should be taken to the Department of Transportation and Urban Works. In Ho Chi Minh City, applications need to be taken to the Office of Transportation. In other areas, the local or provincial police can direct applicants to the proper location.

The following items will need to be presented to the office:

  • Completed application, officially certified and notarised by the foreigner’s embassy, consulate, or other recognised and authorised certifying authority
  • Two or more officially certified and notarised copies of the original driving licence
  • Two or more officially certified and notarised copies of the original driving licence that has been translated by an officially authorised Vietnamese translation service into Vietnamese
  • Two or more officially certified and notarised copies of the applicant’s passport
  • In some locations, or under certain circumstances, an officially authorised translation and legalization of the applicant's passport into the Vietnamese language may be requested and must be done by a translation service approved by Vietnamese authorities
  • At least three colour passport photos. Check to verify the size and number of photos the local Department of Transportation office requires as this can vary significantly depending on the location.
  • The applicant's original passport and driving licence must be shown for verification when the documents are submitted

Once the documents have been submitted, the cashier will collect VND 30,000 for the licence fee. It takes from 3 to 14 days processing time for the new licence to be issued. The new temporary Vietnamese licence will have the same expiration date as the initial foreign licence or International Driving Permit that was submitted for conversion.

The temporary driving licence is valid for use anywhere in the country of Vietnam.

Penalties and Fines

Vietnam law imposes severe penalties for drivers who do not possess a valid Vietnamese licence. In addition to the possibility of very large fines, an unlicensed driver could face a prison sentence of up to three years. An unlicensed driver who causes an accident could be sentenced to a Vietnamese prison for up to 10 years. If the accident results in death, the sentence can be as much as 20 years. The actual penalty would be determined by the police and by the courts. If a driver is stopped by the police and is unable to show a valid licence, the police are authorised to impound their vehicle for 90 days in addition to the imposition of other penalties. See the Vietnamese Driving Licences page for additional information.