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Driving For Members

Explained: Who needs to exchange their driving license for an Italian one?

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected]
Explained: Who needs to exchange their driving license for an Italian one?
Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

Italy's international residents often find themselves needing to retake their driving tests due to the country's rules on foreign permits. Here's how the rules apply depending on where you (and your license) come from.

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Many of The Local's readers from the US, Canada, and elsewhere have written in recently to check what the rules are on driving in Italy on a license issued in their countries.

The issue of foreigners in Italy having to obtain an Italian driving license has been in the news lately, as the British and Italian governments negotiate a deal allowing UK-issued permits to be exchanged for an Italian equivalent.

But many other non-EU countries don't have such an agreement with Italy, meaning their citizens are usually unable to exchange their licenses and will need to retake their driving tests if they become Italian residents.

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Who needs to get an Italian driving licence?

Simply put, the majority of people moving to Italy for the longer term from outside the EU are probably going to need to exchange their license for an Italian one.

If you’re a resident in Italy and want to drive on the nation’s roads, it’s mandatory to have an EU or Italian license.

Note that this only applies to residents. Visitors do not face this requirement.

The Italian rules state that holders of a driving licence from most non-EU countries can drive in Italy for a maximum of one year from acquiring residence in Italy. After that, they'll need to exchange it for an Italian license or, if that's not possible, retake their driving test in order to get an Italian license.

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

The US, Canada, Australia and South Africa do not have reciprocal agreements in place with Italy allowing licenses issued in those countries to be swapped for an Italian one in most cases.

If your license was issued by another EU member state, you can continue to use it in Italy and there's no legal requirement to exchange it for an Italian one, though it is recommended that you do so. The exchange will not involve retaking a test and will be a more straightforward swap.

There are also some countries outside of the EU which have a reciprocal agreement with Italy, meaning driving licenses from these countries can be exchanged for an Italian one:

Here are the countries which currently have reciprocal agreements in place according to Italy's Ministry of Transport:

  • Albania (new agreement valid until 12 July 2026)
  • Algeria
  • Argentina
  • Brazil (until 13 January 2023)
  • Philippines
  • Japan
  • Lebanon
  • Macedonia
  • Morocco
  • Moldova
  • Principality of Monaco
  • Republic of Korea
  • Republic of San Marino
  • Switzerland (until 12 June 2026)
  • Taiwan
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine (until January 24, 2027)

The UK's agreement with Italy is not yet in force.

The following countries allow exchange in certain cases:

  • Canada (diplomatic and consular staff)
  • Chile (diplomatic staff and their families)
  • United States (diplomatic personnel and their families)
  • Zambia (citizens on governmental missions and their families)

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The ministry states that conversion without retaking your test is only possible if

  • The foreign driving license was obtained before acquiring residence in Italy
  • The license holder has been resident in Italy for less than four years at the time of submitting the application (those who have been residing for more than four years will have to take the exam).

It's unclear exactly why certain countries have these agreements with Italy and others don't, and what the criteria are.

Drivers with licenses that may not be exchanged need to take a full Italian theory and practical driving exam to obtain an Italian licence.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I drive a minicar in Italy without a driver’s licence?

Besides the considerable cost and time commitment of taking a test in Italy - not to mention the fact that both the theory and practical exams must be completed in Italian, requiring a very strong grasp of the language - those who do manage to pass the test face the additional hurdle of being considered a 'new driver' (neopatentato/a) in Italy.

Drivers in Italy are considered neopatentati for three years after passing the exam and face tighter restrictions in that time, as well as higher insurance costs.

Please note The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. To find out more about how Italy’s rules on driving licences apply to you, check with the relevant Embassy or Consulate or the Ministry of Transport uffici della motorizzazione civile.

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Comments (3)

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Regina 2023/12/02 04:39
I remember reading on here that the EU is considering requiring it's member states to exchange with more foreign countries that adhere to similar road regulations. Is there an update to this?
Anonymous 2022/10/19 20:35
What a shambles this is, if your Italian and come to live in the UK you can change your Italian licence for a UK one, crazy.
Anonymous 2022/10/19 17:31
The article states that an EU licence can readily be converted to an Italian one. This is not necessarily true. If the test was taken in the WU, then no problem. But if you present an EU licence converted from a licence not on the list of non-EU countries that convert in Italy, you will be refused. For example, Cyprus converts NZ licences, but Italy does not. A person with a NZ licence can convert to a Cyprus licence, and hold an EU licence, but cannot convert this EU licence to an Italian one. Crazy rules - but beware.

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