How to Get a Chinese Driver’s License for Foreigner | 2024

Introduction:

Living in mainland China as a foreigner, driving is an important skill. Unlike Taiwan, mainland China does not recognize the International Driving Permit (IDP), which means foreigners cannot use the IDP to drive directly as they can in Taiwan. This regulation poses a significant challenge for many foreigners, as driving not only provides convenience but also improves quality of life. Therefore, understanding how to obtain a Chinese driver’s license in mainland China becomes a necessary task for foreigners living in China. This guide will thoroughly analyze why the IDP cannot be used in mainland China and how to get a Chinese driver’s license.

The International Driving Permit (IDP) and the Chinese Driver’s License in Mainland China

Although the IDP is widely accepted in many countries and regions, it is not recognized in mainland China. This contrasts sharply with Taiwan, where foreigners with an IDP can drive directly. This difference mainly stems from mainland China’s laws and regulations, which aim to ensure that all drivers are familiar with local traffic rules and road signs. Foreigners must hold a Chinese driver’s license to drive in mainland China, a requirement intended not only for legal compliance but also for traffic safety.

Additionally, the traffic environment in mainland China differs significantly from many countries, with distinct driving cultures and road conditions. These factors further emphasize the necessity for foreigners to be familiar with local traffic regulations. Foreigners with an IDP cannot legally drive in mainland China, so they need to convert their foreign driver’s license to a Chinese driver’s license. Although this process involves some procedures and tests, it is a necessary step for those planning to live and work in China for the long term.

Chinese Driver's License

Part 2: How to Get a Chinese Driver’s License

Even if you hold a foreign driver’s license, you still need to reapply for a Chinese driver’s license to drive in mainland China. Firstly, a Chinese driver’s license is usually valid for six years and can be renewed upon expiration. If you come to China for tourism, business, or a short stay, it is unlikely that you will reapply for a Chinese driver’s license. Secondly, the People’s Republic of China Motor Vehicle Driving License (referred to as the Chinese driver’s license) for category C1 is usually valid for ten years and can be renewed upon expiration. Here are the detailed steps:

  1. Foreign Driver’s License:
    • You must have a valid foreign driver’s license. The foreign driver’s license must be translated into Chinese and notarized.
  2. Visa and Residence Permit in Mainland China:
    • Hold a valid visa (such as a work visa, family reunion visa, etc.) or residence permit. Tourist visas (short-term visas) are usually not suitable for applying for a long-term Chinese driver’s license but can apply for a temporary driving permit.
  3. Medical Examination:
    • Foreign driver’s license holders need to undergo a medical examination at designated medical institutions to ensure they meet the driving requirements. For example, in Beijing, you can choose Beijing First Hospital or Beijing Jishuitan Hospital; in Shanghai, Shanghai Sixth People’s Hospital; in Shenzhen, Shenzhen People’s Hospital; in Guangzhou, Guangzhou Twelfth People’s Hospital.
  4. Translation and Notarization:
    • Translate the foreign driver’s license into Chinese and have it notarized. The translation and notarization must be done by a recognized institution. For example, Beijing Translation Company, Shanghai Foreign Affairs Translation Center, Shenzhen Recognized Translation Company, Guangzhou Translation Service Center. Submit all required materials to the local vehicle management office.
  5. Submit Documents:
    • Submit valid passport and visa copies, foreign driver’s license and its notarized translation, valid residence permit or long-term visa, medical examination certificate, and recent passport-sized photos.
  6. Written Test:
    • Foreign driver’s license holders need to pass the written test on Chinese traffic regulations, usually requiring a score of 90 or above. The test content mainly covers Chinese traffic rules and road signs. Most city vehicle management offices provide an English version of the test to assist non-Chinese-speaking candidates.
  7. Practical Driving Test:
    • Besides the written test, a practical driving test is also required. This test includes an assessment of basic driving skills such as parking, lane changes, and turns. This ensures that drivers are not only familiar with traffic regulations but can also safely operate a vehicle in real-life driving conditions.

Although the Chinese traffic regulations test may be challenging for non-Chinese-speaking candidates, with the help of provided English resources and tools, foreigners can successfully pass the test and obtain a Chinese driver’s license. This process involves both the written test and the practical driving test to ensure all drivers possess the necessary skills and knowledge.

Related Institutions for Chinese Driver’s License:

Except for the Chinese Driver’s License, You can Apply for the Temporary Driving License in China

If you’re a foreigner visiting China and need to drive, you can apply for a temporary driving license, also known as a China Provisional Driving Permit. Here are the details:

Requirements of Temporary Driving License in China:

  • Foreign Driving License:
    • You must hold a valid foreign driving license, which needs to be translated into Chinese and notarized​​.
  • Visa Validity:
    • The temporary driving license will be valid for the duration of your visa, up to a maximum of 90 days. For instance, if your visa is valid for 30 days, the temporary driving license will also be valid for 30 days​​.
  • Proof of Residence:
    • Obtain a proof of residence certificate from the local police station. If you are staying at a hotel, you can use the hotel address as your residential address​​.
  • Photos:
    • Two recent 1-inch, bareheaded, half-length, front-facing photos against a white background are required​.

Steps to Apply for The Temporary Driving License in China:

  • Translate and Notarize Documents:
    • Find a local translation company to translate and notarize your foreign driving license and passport. This can usually be done within a day​.
  • Visit the Local Driving Department Office:
    • Submit your application along with the translated and notarized documents, proof of residence, and photos. Some offices might require you to watch a training video​​.
  • Submit Application and Processing:
    • Fill out the application form (available in Chinese) and submit all necessary documents. The processing time is usually quick, often within an hour​.

Key Points of The Temporary Driving License in China:

  • No Exam Required: For the temporary driving license, there is no written or driving exam required​.
  • Validity: The temporary driving license is typically valid for up to 90 days, but it cannot exceed the validity of your visa​ .
  • Cost: The cost for a provisional driving permit is around 10 CNY​.

Where to Apply for Temporary Driving License in China:

  • Beijing: The Office of Vehicle Management of Beijing Municipal Traffic Management Bureau or its branches, such as at Beijing Capital International Airport​​.
  • Shanghai: Apply directly at Ehi Car Rental Service locations at Pudong or Hongqiao airports​.

Obtaining a temporary driving license in China is a straightforward process designed to accommodate foreign visitors who need to drive during their short-term stay.

Conclusion:

For foreigners planning to live, work, marry, or start a business in China, driving is an essential skill. By following the latest procedures provided by GWBMA, you can not only drive legally but also better adapt to the traffic environment in mainland China and enjoy life in China.

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