During a stay in the USA of up to one year it is possible to use the German driver's license to drive a vehicle. However, due to possible language barriers (the driver's license contains entries and instructions in German only), an international driver's license is recommended.
However, in order to continue to legally drive a car after this one year, it is mandatory to have your German driver's license converted.
The administration of driver licensing in the USA does not fall under the competence of the federal government. Rather, each individual state is solely responsible for the rules in this regard, and how each state administers these rules can therefore vary. Some states have concluded agreements on the mutual recognition of driver's licenses with Germany in order to ensure an uncomplicated transfer without a new practical and/or theoretical examination. Of the New England states, only Massachusetts and Connecticut have such agreements.
The following information is based on the current knowledge of the Consulate General and does not claim to be complete. Please inquire directly with the responsible driver's license/motor vehicle authority about the documents to be submitted.
General Requirements for the Conversion of German Driver's Licenses
The following documents must be submitted regularly in principle in all states when applying for the transfer of a German driver's license:
- Proof of residence in the respective state (rental contract, utility bill, etc.)
- A driver's license valid for at least 60 days in Germany
- Passport or birth certificate
- Proof of legal residency status in the USA
- Social Security Number or confirmation from the Social Security Administration that there is no entitlement to such a number
- Current eye test
- Payment of a fee
- Recent passport photo
- Extract in English from the German central traffic registry (KBA)
Appplication for an Extract from the Registry of the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA)
Information on how to apply for the registry extract can be found here. The issuance (free of charge) can be done - on request - in German and English.
Additional Requirements for Conversion in Individual States
In Massachusetts, according to the information available here from the responsible local U.S. authority -the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) – you will require for the conversion (exchange) of your German driver's license into a local driver's license, in addition to the above-mentioned documents, the following:
- a so-called “consular certificate” from the German Consulate General Boston, in which the essential data of your German driver's license is quasi translated
- a current registry extract from the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) in Flensburg..
Please note that according to information from the RMV, both the consular certificate and the KBA registration excerpt must not be older than 30 days when applying for the conversion.
For more information on the required documents, the application process, making an appointment, deadlines at the appropriate U.S. driver's license office RMV, click here.
Note: The RMV will retain your German driver's license after successful conversion and issuance of a Massachusetts driver's license and forward it to the Kraftfahrtbundesamt. As soon as you take up permanent residence in Germany again, you will submit an appropriate application to the driver's license authority then responsible for you locally and receive your German driver's license back.
The Consulate General Boston is not a driver's license authority; you cannot apply for or obtain a driver's license from us.
Application for the Consular Certificate of the Consulate General
The “consular certificate” (referred to by the RMV as “translation”) can be obtained upon application at the Consulate General. When applying, the following documents must be submitted as originals:
Valid German driver's license
Proof of your residency in Massachusetts (e.g. electricity or gas bill or similar)
Valid passport or identity card
Confirmation of appointment (printout or digital, required for access to the Consulate General)
For the issuance of the certificate a fee of approx. 40 USD is due (the exact amount depends on the current exchange rate), payable in cash or by credit card.
Incomplete applications cannot be processed; you may have to make another appointment.
To apply, you must reserve an appointment in advance via our appointment system.
The written test is at the discretion of the authority; based on current information available to us, it is being waived.
State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Road test and written test required
Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV)
4. New Hampshire
Proof of purpose of U.S. residency required
New Hampshire Department of Safety
Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
5. Rhode Island
Road test and written test required
Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles
Need for a road and written test is at the discretion of the authority; however, if waived, the fees for it still apply.
Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles
The consular certificate (referred to by RMV as a “translation”) for the conversion of your German driver's license in Massachusetts is available upon request from the Consulate General. You can find more information here.