I met up with some new American transplants today, and the question of New Zealand driver’s licenses came up. Was it a good idea to get one? And how do you do it? It is allowed to drive on your overseas license for up to a year, but we went ahead and got New Zealand licenses shortly after arriving as we knew we were staying for awhile. Plus, we didn’t have to turn in our Texas licenses, so there was no downside to going ahead and getting New Zealand ones.
Converting a licenses from the United States is very, very simple if you’ve had a license for at least two years. You won’t need to take either a practical or driving test. You’ll just need your valid license, passport & visa, complete the appropriate form, and pay the fee, which is currently NZ$52.10. Make sure to bring color photo copies of your license and passport, too.
You’ll need to go to an approved overseas license conversion center which are sprinkled throughout the country. A tip we learned when we made our visit was to show up in the early afternoon, like between 2 and 3. It tends to be their slowest time of the day. At the center, you’ll provide your documentation, take a quick eyesight test, and that’s about it. When we went to our local AA center, it took less than 20 minutes, and 5 minutes of that was the lady processing my application missed that I also wanted to convert my motorcycle license along with my full driver’s license. (Admittedly, I wouldn’t suspect that I could ride a motorcycle either if I met me for the first time.)
We got a paper receipt showing we had New Zealand licenses on the way, and the real thing showed up in under three weeks.
There is an interesting quirk with New Zealand licenses: you don’t have to put your address on them, though you can. This is useful if you know you’re going to be moving houses frequently, but the downside is you then can’t use your license for proof of residency, which is useful if you want to get free admission to places like the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which offers free entrance for all Auckland residents.
If/when you find yourself in the position to buy or sell a car, it is a bit simpler to do if you have a New Zealand license. Change of Ownership forms can easily be done online with a Kiwi license, but a paper form is needed if you don’t. You may also need to visit an NZTA agent with your passport to make sure all of the paperwork is completed if you have an overseas license.
My biggest piece of advice is not to wait. There is no need to put off this very simple errand, and there are some real perks to getting it done quickly. Just get it done, and check this administrative item off the list.
If you are from: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The United Kingdom, or United States of America, you won’t need to take a theory or driving test, but if you’re from anywhere else, the rules are different. Find out more here.