Moving to another country has many challenges, including obtaining a valid driving license. Dubai is a country where many expats are comfortable driving but must first figure out how to get a valid license.
Expats can apply for a transfer of their original driving license to a new UAE license if they are citizens of certain countries.
Other expats must go through the procedure of enrolling in driving lessons and completing theoretical and practical tests.
Several factors play a role in getting a driving license in Dubai. Passport, original driving license, and validity can influence the process. It also affects how many lessons one must take before the different tests.
How To Get Your Driving License In Dubai As An Expat?
It’s only natural to want to drive when settling down in another country, whether short or long-term. Being able to drive gives us a sense of freedom and independence.
However, trying to exchange your home country’s license may seem daunting. Getting a new driving license may seem even more challenging. You must follow a specific process in Dubai before driving around independently with a valid license.
Perhaps you’ll especially want to experience driving in Dubai as they have a well-developed road system with many luxury and high-speed cars.
On the other hand, more rural areas have lots of traffic, and learning to navigate this can be challenging.
It is imperative always to have a valid driving license when driving in Dubai. Depending on an expat’s country, getting a license in Dubai will differ.
Some can simply exchange their driver’s license for a UAE one valid in Dubai. Others would have to go through the entire UAE license process.
Exchanging A Driving License
Expats from certain countries can apply to exchange their driving licenses for UAE ones. As expats staying, working, or studying in Dubai are not considered tourists, they cannot drive with their home countries or international license.
Expats from 32 countries can apply for the transfer or exchange of their licenses. Some of these countries include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, South Africa, Germany, Italy, and the United States of America.
The application requires a few documents. These include the expat’s original driving license (which must still be valid), the Emirates ID, and recent passport-sized photos.
You can go to the local service center to give in these documents in Dubai. Be sure to also take copies of the Emirates ID and original driving license. Expats also need to show their visas.
Other documents required are a NOC (No-Objection Certificate) from the employer and an eye test report. The eye test can be done at the local optician or arranged by the driving center.
Importantly, sometimes the authorities will require an Arabic-translated version of your driving license, but this does not apply to all countries.
Dubai requires translation into Arabic or English from Japan, Greece, Canada, Turkey, Poland, and South Korea.
This UAE driving licence is valid for 1 year for customers below the age of 21 or 2 years for customers who 21 years old and above.
So our advice it to request the exchange only when you are sure you are going to drive soon, as it expires fast.
Getting A New Driving License
Unfortunately, a longer and more challenging procedure awaits those who cannot exchange their licenses. Expats would have to complete the process of applying for a new Emirate driver’s license, similar to those with no license.
Similar documents are required for this application – passport, passport photos, Emirates ID, the NOC, and eye test report. Expats must open a file with these documents at a registered driving school or center in Dubai.
There are two possible scenarios here. Someone from a country outside the 32 approved countries but with a driving license issued from an approved country can apply directly for the tests.
For instance, an Indian citizen with a driving license issued from Qatar can make an appointment for the final RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) test. However, if this is failed, the Indian citizen would have to undergo classes to retake the test.
Another scenario is someone not from 32 countries (Indian citizen) with a driving license from their own country (Indian license). This expat would have to go through classes and tests.
As with all new applications, driving classes and tests will be part of the process. They will test the theoretical components as well as practical driving skills.
During the lessons and tests, rules are followed strictly. For instance, during the final test, drivers can only make up to 13 small mistakes out of 25, without any significant errors.
If a major mistake is made, the test is stopped, and you’ll have to take more lessons before taking a new test. Often, this is what takes the longest as time will have to be made in an already busy schedule for classes and tests.
The lengthy process may be one thing, but the cost is another. It can be pretty expensive to enroll in these driving centers.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Driving License In Dubai
If foreigners only exchange their driving license for a UAE one from one of the 32 mentioned countries, it can be done very quickly.
For instance, if an expat is from Japan with a Japanese driving license, the authorities can give the new UAE license in as little as a day.
This timeframe applies if every single document is correct and available, but it can vary with individual cases.
For example, a German citizen with a Japanese driving license can also get the transfer done very quickly. Expats can also be from one of the 32 countries with different driving licenses.
However, getting a completely new driving license can take much longer as the process of taking classes and tests takes quite a long time.
An expat that does not have a driving license from any country and requires a new one will also have to complete the whole procedure.
Expats must take a minimum of 40 classes at a driving school in Dubai. However, the number of lessons can vary depending on the validity of your original license.
For the validity of more than five years (the individual has been driving for more than five years), the minimum number of classes comes down to 20. However, 40 lessons apply to those that have only had their license for less than two years.