This license is turning out to be the longest (and most expensive) license I've ever gotten. and I've had 5. I'll admit that I've not been the speediest at pursuing it, partially due to circumstances (needing Matthew to be in town for certain parts, not taking the kids with me, the opening hours/availability of the driving school, courses, government entities, etc) and some due to my general dragging of feet. I've listed the requirements at the end of this post below.
I guess, all in all, if I had really hurried and avoided any failures, the quickest the entire process could be completed is 9-10 weeks. I started the process in April and probably have another 4 weeks now at the very minimum. At least now that Brandtley is in Kindergarten and I can complete #8-10 on my own, I can hopefully move forward more quickly. Now that I've made it this far, I'm determined to finish.
Also, each of these items have a cost. I haven't added them all up...I don't really want to. But I've invested enough time and money (and also own a car in my name that I'm not currently driving) to get it done.
Interesting side note: I've seen estimates of €1,500- 2,000+ for a not-previously licensed beginner to obtain a license, including the full course of instruction in the car. So, getting a license here is a really big deal. The majority of this cost is obviously for the private instruction, for which I've only paid €93...so far.
Also side note: the TÜV is where the German license testing both written & practical, occurs. Similar to the DMV but without the paperwork/documentation portion. And much cleaner. TÜV (pronounced like "toorf"to english ears) stands for Technischer Überwachungsverein, English translation: Technical Inspection Association. While in a part of town that would not be uncommon for the DMV, it was extremely clean and reminded me of an upscale auto-workshop with a garage in the back and a waiting room in the front next to the testing room. I actually took a picture to show Matthew as I waited. You first pay for your test, then take a number & wait for your turn to enter the testing room where there are 13 computers. Other than waiting for the testing room availability, there are no lines. And it was an overall pleasant, if slightly confusing, experience as I deciphered the signs to figure out the process.
Steps to getting my German Driver's License:
As a recap, only certain states in the US have complete reciprocity with Germany, and the lucky holders of licenses from these states simply fill out the paperwork, make an appointment, and exchange their US driver's license for a German one. Some states have partial reciprocity and only the written test is required. And then others, like Georgia, have nothing. We are among the unfortunate ones who must complete the entire process (though hopefully with a shorter instruction period since we've driven for nearly 20 years each and have already put in many many many practice hours behind a wheel over those 20 years).
So far, I have made it to step 7 of the following (which must be completed in order and you cannot move forward without proof of completion of the prior):
1. Get a certified translation of our US licenses by ADAC. 2 week turnaround. €55 per license.
2. Select a nearby driving school and go there to register as a student. Purchase the study material for the written test at this time. (The driving school also provides info on the location, schedules, & registration of the safety courses needed for step 3).
3. Attend a Safety and First aid course. 7-8 hours in a classroom. All in German. Not fun, but not hard. (I've heard the nearby town of Siegburg has a course in English but you need to register & you might not be able to complete it as quickly due to availability)
4. Vision exam. Fairly standard.
5. Photo taken. Also not hard. Some safety courses will provide the vision test & photo on the day of the course.
6. Appointment at the Stadthaus to register for our intention to obtain a license and provide proof of items 1-5. Then wait a few weeks to get letters from the "TÜV" (pronounced like "toof") that we may proceed with our intention to test for the license. Begin studying for the written test during this time.
7. Once letters have been received and you feel you are ready, it's time for the written test. Our driving school required that we pass it with them first before they would approve us to take it at the TÜV. (They're responsible for only sending on prepared students or lack of preparation would reflect poorly on them & call into question the quality of their instruction. Makes sense, but that meant we have to pass the written test twice.) I passed at the school, and they handed me documentation to take with me to the TÜV, along with a list of TÜV locations with their hours. (I don't know if the partial-reciprocity individuals have to take it first at a school or if this is because we're "all in").
Y'all. This test. There is a question bank of over a 1000 questions and only 30 will be on the test. But you can only miss 3 and still pass, so you must be prepared for all of them. Some questions are hard/technical. Some are well worth knowing if you'll be driving here: things like street sign meanings, and priority/right of way rules which are different than in the US. And some are just common sense if you've driven before.
Thankfully, we can take it in English. However, the English translation is just different enough that you really do need to review all of the questions. For example, I would think that "pavement" is what you drive on. But no, the "pavement" is either the side of the road or sidewalk. Not where the car drives. So, parking on the pavement and letting pedestrians out on the pavement creates a different situation (and answer) based on the meaning of this word. And some words I still don't know the meaning of - like what in the world is a Sunken Kerbstone??
8. Drive with an Instructor. The driving school did not allow me to schedule instruction time until I brought proof that I had passed the written test at the TÜV, which I guess demonstrates sufficient knowledge of the rules. The instructor will evaluate my driving and decide if I can proceed to take the practical test at the TÜV. If not, I will be required to practice with him for however long that takes. If I did not have a prior license, I would be required to complete something like 20+ hours in the car with an instructor, so at least I'm hopeful to avoid that!
Also - important timeline info that I found out yesterday when registering for instruction - my instructor will contact me in the next 2 days to schedule our first session. Once he approves me to take the test, whenever that is, there is a 3 WEEK delay before I can actually take it at the TÜV.
9. Practical Test at the TÜV. I've been told that it's common for Americans to fail this at least once. It will all be in German, and I am not allowed to bring a translator. And of course, I will be taking it in a manual transmission car. So I'm fully expecting to fail. I don't know if this makes me more or less nervous.
If I fail, I must wait 2 weeks before trying again. I'm unsure if I'm required to go back to the driving school before the next try. If I fail 3 times, then I must wait 3 months before the 4th try.
10. If I ever pass the practical test, then the final step will be to make an appointment to go back to the Stadthaus to exchange my US license for my new and very precious German license.