Live In China: How To Get And Renew Driver’s License

To drive or not to drive? That is the question for many expatriates living in China. Most visitors find they have enough trouble surviving Chinese traffic without actually taking the wheel. If you don’t want to give up the convenience of driving by yourself in mainland China, the information below will be quite helpful.

Before starting, you have to know about the following information first.

-You can not drive with an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) in mainland China, nor with permits obtained in Hong Kong, Macao, or Taiwan, China.

-This article is based on the laws of the province of Beijing, and as usually is the case in China, the requirements may vary slightly depending on the city in which they apply.

-Written exams can be done in English or Chinese. Nonetheless, in some small cities, you may be forced to do them in Chinese (sometimes they may authorize you to bring a translator). On the other hand, in some of the main cities of the country, you may even find exams in other languages (such as Spanish, French, German, or Arabic).

How to get a temporary driver’s license

If you have a driving license issued by your home country, you can apply for a temporary driving license and drive in China without having to take related tests, according to a clause in a regulation issued by the Ministry of Public Security.

The regulation, which deals with the management of automobiles and expatriates that come to China for a short stay, stipulates that the valid period for the temporary driving license should not exceed the period marked in the entry and exit certificates, and the temporary license can be valid for three months at most. The valid period cannot be extended. In addition, the temporary driving license should be used together with the driving license issued in your home country and you should always take these two licenses with you, in case traffic police ask you to show these licenses at any time.

Although you have obtained your driving license at home and can get your temporary driving license in China without having to take related tests, you need to attend lessons to study Chinese road safety regulations, before you can drive in China. And you can only drive small cars or automatic-gear cars.

Necessary documents:

National driver’s license.

International Driving Permit.

Chinese translation of the foreign driver’s license (consult the embassy to know where this can be done).

Completed application form.

A hotel booking for at least one day.

Three one-inch color photos with a white background.

How to get a permanent driver’s license

If you will stay for a relatively long time in China, you can consider obtaining an official driving license in China.
Get a Chinese driver’s license with your driver’s license obtained from your home country

If you have a residency permit and a driver’s license from another country, you can get a Chinese driver’s license (valid for 6 years) just by passing a written exam. The process and the exam take place in the traffic police department (chē guǎn suǒ 车管所) in the city you live in and you may need a prior appointment. The exam consists of answering 100 multiple choice questions, lasts 45 minutes, and you pass by getting more than 90% of answers right. If you don’t pass, you can repeat it at that time, and if you don’t pass the second time, you have to wait at least 20 days to take it again.

Necessary documents:

Passport and resident permit with at least three months of validity (original and photocopy).

Record of temporary residence obtained at the local police station (original and photocopy).

Driver’s license from the other country (original and photocopy).

Certified and notarized translation to Chinese of the driver’s license from another country (In many places, such as Beijing, you only need to provide a translation signed by a Chinese national and bring a copy of his/her card).

Medical certificate (normally you can get this at the same place).

Getting a driver’s license for the first time

If you are over 18 years of age, you have a temporary or permanent residency permit and you don’t have a driver’s license from another country, you can still get a driver’s license in China. To do this, you’ll have to pass four exams:

-Written exam on laws and traffic regulations and basic concepts on vehicles(100 questions)

-Parking and basic driving skills test on a track

-Written exam on correct driving habits (50 questions)

-Road test

Each exam can be taken twice. If you fail, you’ll have to pay the fee again and wait at least 20 days.

To get your license, you’ll have to sign up for a driving school. Some driving schools specialize in foreigners or accept foreigners. There are even some which allow you to bring along a translator. It normally takes 2 to 3 months and 3,000 to 8,000 Yuan (fees, theory classes, and on-road practice) depending on the driving school and the city.

Necessary documents:

Passport and residency permit with at least 3 months of validity (original and photocopy).

Record of temporary residency obtained at the local police station (original and photocopy).

Medical certificate (normally this can be obtained in the same place).

Three to five one-inch color photos with a white background.

With the information above, you are well prepared to get a Chinese driver’s license now. Please enjoy your stay in China.


Driver’s License Renewal

I. Conditions

(1) 90 days before the driver’s license expires

(2) Driver’s license has not been put in a suspended, canceled, or revoked state

II. Required documentation

(1) Driver’s license application form.

(2) Applicant and, if applicable, authorized agent’s original identification document.

(3) Original Health examination certificate issued by the hospital of county-level or above. Applicants of 71 years old and people with bad left lower limbs who are applying for renewal must submit a health certificate issued by the hospitals appointed by the municipal bureau of medical care.

(4) Original driver’s license (Applicants should submit a translated version if it is not in Chinese).

(5) Three 1-inch color photos with a white background.

III. Processing time

Within one business day after the application has been received

IV. Others

(1) The applicant should apply to renew the license issued by Beijing Motor Vehicle Administration within 90 days before its expiration. A license with a 10-year effective period will be given to those whose penalty points are less than 12  in each of the past six years. Along-term driver’s licenses will be issued to those whose penalty points will be less than 12 in each of the coming 10 years.

(2) Inspection of the driver’s license will be done at the same time when renewing the license. Inspected items include the license holder’s health condition and accumulated points. An applicant whose accumulated point total has exceeded the maximum allowable will have his/her license revoked by the Road Traffic Safety Violation and Punishment Regulations’ (Public Security Department, Order No.69, Article No. 11).

(3) An applicant of 60 years old or above, or an applicant who has a license to drive large-size passenger vehicles, tractors, buses, mid-size passenger vehicles, large-size freight vehicles, and trolleys must get a physical health examination once a year and submit health certificate issued by a hospital of county-level or above within 15 days following the end date of an annual period for recording license penalty points (one period is 12 months, beginning from the initial date of issue on the license).

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