What Britons in Austria need to know about exchanging UK driving licences

One of the many knock on effects of Brexit is that Britons who are resident around Europe will have to exchange their UK driving licences and it's the same in Austria.

What Britons in Austria need to know about exchanging UK driving licences

As well as having to apply for a new post-Brexit residency permit, Britons in Austria are also required to exchange their UK driving licence for one issued in Austria.

This requirement is the same for Brits living around the EU although the process is obviously different and the deadlines vary depending on which EU country they are in. 

June 2021?

The first thing to note is that you should have time to make the exchange.

Initially the deadline set for exchanging licences was December 31st 2020 to coincide with the end of the Brexit transition period.

But a draft law being pushed through by the Austrian government, which should come into effect in mid-December, will extend the deadline for applications to June 30th 2021.

In a recent Facebook Q&A the British embassy in Austria confirmed: “If you are resident in Austria, according to a draft update to Austrian law, you will have 6 months from 1st January to swap your driving licence.”

After this date the embassy warns the UK licences “will cease to be valid”. For anyone wishing to get an Austrian licence after this date, things get more complicated and they may have to take a driving test as is the case for some third-country nationals who fail to exchange their licence within 6 months.

But do I really need to exchange it?

This is a question mainly being asked by Brits who are not full time residents in Austria. Many spend part of the year in the country and the rest of the time in the UK.

Brexit is now forcing them to make a choice where they wish to be resident. From January onwards Brits will be treated like third-country nationals in EU states which mean they are subject to the 90-day rule. That means they can only spend 90 days out of every 180 in the Schengen zone.

So second home owners or those who usually spend a long period of time in Austria will have to decide whether or not to become resident and this has an impact on whether they need to exchange their UK driving licence for an Austrian one.

The British embassy says: “If you are legally resident in Austria it is important that you swap your UK licence for an Austrian one, or, according to a draft update to Austria's law, it will cease to be valid from 30th June 2021. Please be aware that if you spend more than six months in the year outside of Austria, this may affect your right to residence.”

In a response to a similar question the embassy said: “We recommend that, if you live in Austria you should swap your UK license for an Austrian one. Based on a draft update to Austrian law: if you live in Austria, your UK license will cease to be valid here from 30th June 2021 and you would have issues exchanging it after that point.”

And if you have another EU licence?

For those who have already exchanged their British licence for one from another EU country such as Germany the British embassy says: “If you have an licence from another EU country, you are not required to exchange your licence when you move within the EU. However, if you are, or intend to be, a long-term resident, it may be advisable to exchange your licence for an Austrian one.”

What about for those moving after December 31st?

The rules for Britons moving to Austria in the future, who won't be covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, have not been laid out.

But the Austrian government's rules for other non-EU nationals demand that anyone who has become a resident in Austria has six months from the moment they become resident in which to exchange their licence.

What do we know about the process?

Well it's likely the process is slightly different depending on the local authority you apply to (see below).

But according to the government these are documents you will need:

The Austrian government says that most driving licence authorities require the original documents plus copies.

If you are converting your British licence you'll need the following documents, but also be aware the local authority may also ask you to provide more.

  • Your passport
  • UK driving licence
  • Passport size photo (35 mm x 45 mm) of the owner 
  • Possibly a translation of driving licence 
  • Possibly Residence Registration Form [Bestätigung der Meldung] 

Who do you apply to?

The government says you must apply to your local driving licence authority.

That means:

  • In cities with Federal Police Headquarters it's the Federal Police Headquarters [Landespolizeidirektion]. 
  • In Vienna you should apply to the Motor Vehicle Department [Verkehrsamt].
  • In cities without Federal Police Headquarters or in Municipalities it's the district administrative authority [Bezirkshauptmannschaft]
  • In the statutory cities of Krems and Waidhofen/Ybbs: the Municipal Authority [Magistrat]
  • For the statutory city of Rust: the Federal Police Headquarters Burgenland[Landespolizeidirektion Burgenland]

The Austrian government says: “No matter what the reason for the conversion of an EEA or a European Union driving licence is, the authority must always send a request to the state which issued the driving licence in order to ensure that there are no reasons against the issuance of an Austrian driving licence. This request can take several weeks.”

How much does it cost?

According to the government the fee for exchanging the licence is €60.50 and for an “express production” you will pay an additional €18,94.

For more information on driving licence exchanges and other Brexit related questions you can visit the British in Austria website.

And for more details on the process you can visit the Austrian government's website.

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Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

People who have more than one citizenship often hold multiple passports, so what does this mean for crossing borders? Here's what you should know.

Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

For many readers of The Local, gaining citizenship of the country where they live helps them to feel more settled – but there are also travel benefits, including avoiding the long ‘non EU’ queue when coming back into the Schengen zone.

But this week the problems associated with travelling while holding dual citizenship came to light, leaving many people wondering what they should know when they are entering different countries.

Put simply – which passport should you use? And do you have to carry both with you?

Financial Times journalist Chris Giles tweeted that the UK Border Force “detained” his dual-national daughter while she was travelling from France into the UK with her German passport – and not her British one. 

He went on to say that UK border guards released his daughter. According to Giles, the border staff said she should have had both passports with her “and asked why she was travelling on her German one”.

The rules on dual-nationality have not changed, but now that the UK is not in the EU, there are strict rules on non-Brits who enter the country (and vice-versa) which has made it trickier for travel.

For instance, UK nationals receive a stamp in their passport when entering Schengen member states because they are only allowed to stay up to 90 days within an 180 period (unless they have a visa or residency card).

READ ALSO: Brexit: EU asks border police not to stamp passports of British residents 

People coming from the EU to the UK can generally visit as a tourist for up to six months without a visa – but are not allowed to carry out any work while there.

So which passport should you show?

The first thing to be aware of is there are no specific rules on travelling with more than one passport. 

Travellers can choose to use whichever passport they prefer when going to a country. 

But one thing to note is that it’s worth using the passport that is best suited to your destination when travelling there. Each country has its own set of immigration and visa rules that you’ll need to research closely.

It could be that one passport is better suited for your trip – and you may be able to avoid visa requirements.  

READ ALSO: How powerful is the German passport?

In the case of the UK, many people are still getting to grips with the different rules that apply because it’s not in the EU anymore.

A question submitted to the Secretary of State for the Home Department in September 2021 provided some insight into this issue. 

The question from Labour’s Paul Blomfield asked what steps the UK government “is taking to enable dual UK and EU citizens to travel to the UK on an EU member state passport without having to further prove their UK citizenship?”

The Conservatives Kevin Foster said: “Border Force Officers examine all arriving passengers to establish whether they are British citizens, whether they require leave to enter or if they are exempt from immigration control.

“Where the passenger claims to be British, but does not hold any evidence of British citizenship, the officer will conduct all relevant checks to satisfy themselves the passenger is British.

Border control at Hamburg airport.

Border control at Hamburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

“When dual nationals who are eligible to use e-gates travel to the UK, they will enter via the e-gates without being examined by an immigration officer.

“We recommend all dual nationals, including EU citizens, travel on their British passport or with evidence or their British citizenship to minimise any potential delay at the border or when commencing their journey.”

The Local contacted the UK Home Office to ask if there was any official advice. 

A spokesman said: “An individual can present whichever passport they desire to enter the UK, however they will be subject to the entry requirements associated with the nationality of the passport they present.”

They said anyone who is looking for more information should check out guidance on entering the UK and on dual nationality.

In short, if you present a German passport on entry to the UK you will be treated the same as any other German citizen – which can include being quizzed about your reasons for visiting the UK – as border guards have no way of knowing that you are a dual-national. 

Do I have to carry both passports?

There’s no rule requiring you to have both passports, but you won’t get the benefits of a British passport (entry into the UK without questions) if you don’t show it.

Likewise if you are a French-British dual national and you enter France on your UK passport, you will need to use the non-EU queue and may have your passport stamped.

Should I think about anything else?

An important thing to remember is that if you apply for a visa and register your passport details, the same passport has to be used to enter the country. 

It could also make sense to travel with both passports, just in case. 

However, note that some countries – like the US – require that US nationals use a US passport to enter and leave the States even if they are dual nationals. 

In general, it’s best to use the same passport you entered a country with to depart.

The rules and systems are different depending on the country. But many countries require people to show their passport when leaving – and they will either stamp or scan the passport – this is how authorities know that a foreign visitor hasn’t overstayed their time in the country. 

So if your passport is checked as you leave the UK, you should show the one you arrived with, just to ensure there is a record of you arriving and leaving.

However as you enter France/Germany/other EU destination, you can show your EU passport in order to maximise the travel benefits of freedom of movement.