New driving licence rules take effect

Most moving here for the first will find getting a license easier, but those who have been here for awhile are still stuck under the old rules

Plans to scrap the obligatory driving test for foreigners from non-EU countries became reality on December 1.

The new requirements allow foreigners who come from countries that have a level of road safety that is comparable to Denmark to exchange their licences if they have at least two years of driving experience and have not had their driving privileges revoked within the last five years. Foreigners from the US and Canada especially have long complained that being forced to start from scratch and pass a driving test, even though they have driven for years in their homelands without having been in accidents or committing traffic violations, was an unnecessary nuisance.

The actual text of the law, which the Justice Ministry released on Friday, still gives local councils and the national police a bit of leeway in deciding if an expat motorist should take a driving test.

READ MORE: Easier driving license exchange for foreigners announced

If the applicant comes from a country were the “traffic conditions and general road safety” are deemed to be less than those found in Denmark, the council can still require a driving test. If the applicant’s right to drive has been revoked within the last five years, a test can also be required.

If a driver had previously taken and failed a Danish driving test, or ever had the right to drive in Denmark revoked, a new test could be required.

No love for long-time expats
Those who have been living in Denmark for longer periods and are hoping that the changes would apply to them will most likely be disappointed.

“This is for people who are just moving here,” said Ole Schmidt, the policy head at AmCham Denmark, the local American chamber of commerce organisation. “The police aren’t going to ignore that those who have been living here for awhile should have already taken a test to get a Danish licence.”

Schmidt also said that working through the bureaucracy would take some time.

“We are working through the US Embassy to find out if the country as a whole or the individual states will have to be registered with the Justice Ministry in Denmark,” he said. “An American would of course have to get their driving records and information from the state where they got their driving licence."

Schmidt said that a list is being created of those countries that have a level of traffic conditions and general road safetysimilar to those found in Denmark.

"Countries (or states) are not automatically added to the list," he said. "They have to apply and provide appropriate information to the Justice Ministry."

Schmidt said that AmCham is working both to get the Justice Ministry to finalise the forms that countries have to submit and to get embassies engaged in collecting the information they need.

"We hope to have the first applications in by the New Year and the first approvals shortly thereafter," he said. "It is only after a country or state is on the list that the new rules apply to real people."

One of the new rules states that anyone who was issued a driving license in their home country before the age of 18 would be required to take a driving test. That would in practice mean that many American expats would be required to take a test, since many American states issue driving licences at the age of 16.

A spokesperson from the Justice Ministry said that recent driving records would carry more weight in the decision process and that long-time drivers would not be penalised for getting their licences early.

NOTE: This story was updated on December 3 at 1:00pm with additional information from Ole Schmidt of AmCham Denmark