For those who live in China for more than 3 months and have a need to drive often, getting a Chinese driver’s license can make moving around by car easier. Though you can not simply “exchange” your international driver’s license or your local driver’s license to a Chinese one, it’s relatively easy to get one, because you only need to pass the theory test (Subject One). In this article, I’ll walk you through the application process.
First of all, you should have a valid visa allowing you to stay over 90 days in China, or you have a residence permit allowing you to stay in a city for over 90 days. If you stay less than 90 days, you can only get a Provisional Driving Permit, read my article Can Tourists Drive in China to find out how to get it.
- A translated copy of your local driver’s license and of your passport information page by a registered professional translation service. Note that your name should also be translated into Chinese for both, and the translation must have the service provider’s seal stamped across pages.
- Health check report. You can find out the list of hospitals for such checkups in the city you stay online. You can get the report immediately after the checkup. (Name on the checkup result document should be identical to that on the translated passport)
- Proof of accommodation. You can get that from the Public Security Bureau or a nearby police station. If you are holding a residence permit, you should apply for the driver’s license only in the city where your residence permit is issued. (Name on the proof document should be identical to that on the translated passport)
- Have your fingerprint collected at the traffic police station nearby.
- Two 1-inch certificate photos.
- A photocopy of the outer skin of the passport, the residence permit and the passport page with the entrance stamp.
The application process
After you prepared all the documents, you are ready to proceed to apply for your Chinese driver’s license. Here are the steps:
- Take all the documents prepared, including your original passport and local driver’s license, and go to the Vehicle Administrative Service Center. (Driver’s counter)
- Take a number to queue and wait for your turn.
- Once your number is called, go the counter indicated and hand in all the documents. The clerk will verify them. Once accepted, he/she will set up the exam date of your choice.
- Go to the exam center on the appointed date and time, and take the exam. Note that it’s possible to choose the same day for the exam.
- After passing the exam, you will get the Chinese driver’s license immediately. You may need to wait a while if many people take the test that day.
How to prepare for the theory test
The theory test is a pc-based test with 100 questions and you have to answer at least 90 of them correctly, the more the better, of course. The questions are all traffic regulation and road-safety related, such as the penalty points, fines, police gestures, and violation behavior. You can scroll back and forth among questions to correct your answer before submitting the test. The time given is abundant.
The test can be taken in the following languages: Simplified Chinese, English, Spanish, Japanese and Russian. You can read through the book the vehicle administrative office gave you. The book is only in Chinese. The best way to get familiar with the questions is to go through all the questions from the question library again and again until you can pass the mock test every time. To help foreigners like me to pass it, I wrote the china driver’s license test app with the latest questions and mock tests in English and German, train with it and you won’t regret.