How to get a driver's license in China?

Unfortunately, China does not recognize any international or foreign driver's license, even those issued in Hong Kong or Macau. For foreigners from any country that want to drive in China, they must get a Chinese Driver's License. 

The process for foreigners to get a Chinese Driver's License can be complicated and confusing. Below, we will lay out some tips to help you through this process!

China Driving License vs Provisional Driving Permit

China offers two types of driving license: a full Chinese Driving License and a Provisional Driving Permit. 

The full Chinese Driving license is for those on a long-term visa (more than 90 days) or residence permit in mainland China.

The Provisional Driving Permit is for those on a short visit or business trip in China. This is a temporary license that is typically only valid for the duration of your Chinese visa, up to 90 days. The provisional driving permit must be used in conjunction with your foreign driving license

Foreign Driver's License holders...

If you have a valid foreign driver's license, you can simply apply for a Chinese driver's license to drive the same type of vehicle(s) listed on your foreign license. 

Step 1: Translate Your Foreign License

Applicants need to get a Chinese translation of their foreign driver's license, which must be done by an official notary office. This costs around 50RMB.

Step 2: Gather & Photocopy Required Documents

  • Passport, with photocopy of the photo page and your current visa

  • Temporary Registration Form from your local police station

  • Foreign driver's license, with photocopy of both sides

  • Translation of foreign license (mentioned above)

  • Two license-sized photos, with white background

Step 3: Health Certificate (NEW RULE!)

Applicants need to have a medical certification verifying that the applicant is medically fit to drive. You can get one of these from any local hospital. The screening process is pretty quick and simple, and the hospital will usually issue you the medical certifcate on the spot. The screening will cost around 30-60RMB.

You could also get your health certification from the health check center at the Shanghai Vehicle Management Bureau (SVMB), which is where you have to go to anyway to apply for your Chinese Driver's License in Shanghai. They will perform the required screening for 60RMB.

However, starting from September 20th, Provisional Driving Permit applicants can apply for a temporary drivers permit (cars only) without physical examinations/medical reports. (NEW RULE)

Step 4: Apply at Local Traffic Police Department

The issuance of driving license in China is under the authority of the traffic police department (). Each major city should have its own branch of this office.

In Shanghai, this is called the Shanghai Vehicle Management Bureau (SVMB). The address is locacted at: 1330 Hami Road, near Jinbang Road.

For Provisional Driving Permit:

The application process for the Provisional Driving Permit can be completed within 2 hours. The application is free, and there is no exam that you have to take.

For Chinese Driving License:

You must schedule to take the online driving theory test when you hand in your application materials to your local traffic police department. Usually, the soonest that you can take the exam is one week from the date of your documents submission, but it depends on demand.

Step 5: Take Theory Exam (only for Chinese Driving License)

The theory test involves 100 questions to be completed in 45 minutes, with a passing grade of 90%. The exam covers everything from traffic police hand signals and length of jail terms for various offenses, to road sign meanings and speed limits. The test is available in English, Russian, Japanese, Spanish and French.

You might think that you will be able to pass the theory exam for a Chinese driving license based on your prior driving experience abroad and just general road safety logic. You would be wrong. Rather than relying on your own instincts and experience, you will need to memorize the answers to the exam questions, which will require that you STUDY!!

The theory exam is to be taken at the local traffic police department at your scheduled time. It costs 55RMB to sit for the exam. The exam will be completed online, and once you submit your answers, the computer will tell you immediately whether or not you have passed.

If you pass, you will be able to obtain your driving license right away. You can usually have your new Chinese driving license within 15 minutes of completing the exam.

If you fail the theory test, you'll need to arrange to take it again. The test fee drops to 40RMB for retakes.

Learn to Drive in China

If you do not have a foreign drivers license, you can still get a driver's license in China, as long as you are over 18 years of age and have a temporary or permanent residency permit.

You will need to take a driving training course provided by a local driving school and pass the four required exams:

  • Written theory exam on laws and traffic regulations and basic concepts on vehicles (100 questions). This is similar to the theory exam mentioned above.

  • "Xiao Lu" Road test on parking and basic driving skills on a track. This takes place around 5 weeks after the written test. Candidates have to learn to perform 5 short technical items: 2 parking tests, 2 zigzagging tests, driving up a slope.

  • "Da Lu" Road test, that is an actual on-road driving test. This takes place around 3 weeks after the Xiao Lu test.

  • Written exam on correct driving habits (50 questions).

Each exam can be taken twice. If you fail, youll have to pay the fee again and wait at least 20 days. The entire process, including testing, takes around 2-3 months, and costs from 3000 to 8000RMB, depending on the driving school and the city.

Required Documents:

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

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

  3. Medical certificate

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

If you still have any other questions about the above steps, feel free to contact AnyHelper!

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