On Saturday January 19, a new driving licence will come in to use in the EU. The plastic credit card-sized permit will replace the 100 or so others found in European wallets today.
Depending on each member state’s choice it may or may not include an electronic chip that contains the information printed on the licence or other data, with the aim of reducing fraud.
With these new rules, driving licences with unlimited validity will come to an end. The new licence will have to be replaced every ten years (or every 15 years if states choose this option). Licences for professional drivers will be valid for five years.
In the long-term this will mean that all current driving licences will have to be replaced. The renewals will be phased in as the licences expire. Driving licences with unlimited validity – like those in Belgium – will have to be replaced by 19 January 2033.
States may require physical or mental aptitude tests for licence renewals if they consider it necessary. For professional drivers, a medical exam will be mandatory every time it is renewed.
One of the biggest changes with the new cards will be the tougher rules for those on two wheels. Applicants who want to ride a scooter (the smallest type of motorcycle) will now have to pass a theory test and aptitude tests may also be required.
For larger motorcycles, there are two possibilities: either direct eligibility at age 24 (up from 21 today) upon passing a theoretical and practical exam; or access from age 20 after at least two years experience on a smaller motorcycle.
In practice, this measure is expected to push riders to acquire experience on smaller motorcycles first before moving up to more powerful ones. The hope is that road safety will improve as a result.
The new rules are also expected to end what is known as “driving licence tourism” by preventing those whose licences have been revoked in one state from applying for a new one in another member state.
If you have already got a driving licence, you should follow the rules applicable in your member state of residence as regards the procedure of exchanging your driving licence for the new harmonized EU model.
If you move to another EU Member State, in principle, you do not need to exchange your driving licence for a local one since all driving licences are mutually recognised within the EU.
However, if you move to another EU country and establish your residence there, you will need to exchange your licence for a local one once it expires.
If you hold a driving licence for life and have established your residence in another EU country, the host member state may require you to exchange your licence for a local one after two years. You will then be subject to the same rules as nationals of that country regarding validity periods, medical checks and so forth.
For more information about the EU, call 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or check out the website: europa.eu/youreurope