Driving For Members

Americans in Italy: What to know about planned changes to EU driving licence rules

The Local Italy
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Americans in Italy: What to know about planned changes to EU driving licence rules
Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

The EU is proposing changes to its rules on swapping driving licences, which could be good news for many Americans in Italy - here's what you need to know.


What's the change?

This is something that is being proposed at an EU level, to make it easier for residents in EU countries who have a driving licence from a non-EU country to swap their licence for a local one.

At present some people who have non-EU licences can simply swap them for a licence from the country they live in, while others have to take a driving test - and in some countries also take compulsory lessons - in order to get a licence, even if they have been driving for many years.

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

Whether they can swap or have to take a test depends on which country they live in, and where they got their licence.


Now the EU wants to create a list of countries that have 'comparable' driving standards to the EU, and allow people who have a licence from those countries to simply swap their licence for a local one, whichever EU country they live in. Find full details of the proposal here.

What is the situation in Italy?

Anyone who lives in Italy and holds a non-EU licence may drive on that licence for a year, but after that they must exchange their licence for an Italian one.

Across the EU, whether or not you can swap your licence depends on whether your home country or state has an agreement in place with the EU country you live in.

Several non-EU countries do have agreements in place with Italy, including the UK since December, but the US, Canada and Australia do not.

This means that if your licence was issued in the US, you will have to take an Italian driving test, both theory and practical.

As well as being time-consuming and challenging, retaking the test in Italy can also be extremely expensive as most driving schools will insist on at least six lessons first.

Many people find the fact that the test has to be taken in Italian prohibitive: there's no option to take it in English.

READ ALSO: How do you take your driving test in Italy?

The EU's proposal would mean that, provided the US is accepted as a country with comparable driving standards, anyone with a licence issued anywhere in the US could swap it without having to take a test.

The changes won't however affect Italy's domestic systems around making the licence swap, which can still be time-consuming.

How soon will this happen?

Don't hold your breath; the EU is notorious for taking its time over any changes.

The change is part of a package of measures around standardising driving licences across the EU, which must be considered by the European Parliament and European Council under the EU’s normal legislative procedure.


READ ALSO: What’s in the Italian driving licence theory test?

If they are approved the European Commission will draw up a list of countries that it considers to have comparable driving standards to the EU, and then each of the 27 EU member state would be given a six-month deadline to provide its opinion on factors including driving licensing standards and road infrastructure in that country, according to the text of the proposal.

It's likely that we're talking years rather than months for any changes to come into effect, but we will keep you updated in our driving section HERE.


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