Imagine driving through the countryside or down the Australian Great Ocean Road. A new country, incredible scenery, the wind in your hair, and the smell of the ocean breeze. If you’re like most people, it feels a lot like freedom. Owning a valid driver’s license is a key element in this Australian dream. Here’s our guide to getting a driver’s license for international students.
In a practical sense, driving in Australia requires you to have an International Driver’s License from your home country. Or, you’ll need a current and valid driver’s licence from your home country (along with a certified translation of it).* You need these documents in their physical carded form, not as an electronic copy on your mobile phone or computer.
If you don’t have either of those things, don’t give up. Consider applying for a driver’s license in Australia.
Each state has a different set of rules, series of tests, and other requirements. Their simple intention is to measure whether you’re able to drive safely. If you’re not an experienced and skilled driver, this can take time. It’s well worth the wait, though.
It’s necessary for you to have good English language skills otherwise you won’t be able to read the information signs. Read more about English courses in Australia
*Already have permanent residency in Australia? Be quick! You’ll need to apply for your Australian driver’s license within three months of arriving. Even if you have a driver’s license from your home country, it won’t be valid after your first three months in the country. See The best courses for scoring Australian residency.
In this guide, we’ll give you the knowledge you need to apply for a license in any state of Australia. Once you’ve got your driver’s license, your first self-guided Australian road trip will be less than a mile away.
Guide to getting a driver’s license for international students
Each state has its own specific requirements, but typically there’ll be three stages.
- First stage: a learner’s permit
- Second stage: A provisional or probationary license
- Third stage: A full (but restricted) driver’s license
To obtain your learner’s permit, most states will require you to do a knowledge-based test.
You’ll receive a probationary license after completing a number of requirements, including supervised driving. While you’re on your learner’s permit, you won’t legally be able to driver without supervision.
In many states, you won’t need a licensed driving instructor to supervise you while you’re on your learner’s permit. You can usually be taught by anyone who has their full driver’s license.
Once you’ve received your probationary license, you can usually drive unsupervised. Additional requirements such as the display of ‘P-plates’ and curfews may apply, depending on the state in which you’re driving.
There are fewer requirements asked of a full (but restricted) driver’s license. It’s likely that you will have a driving speed limitation and zero blood alcohol content requirement, though.
Alright – ready to get applying for your learner’s permit? Simply scroll down, find your state, and follow the links. These include applications for both car and motorcycle licenses.
1. New South Wales
Last December 2017, Roads and Maritime Services of NSW introduced some changes. Now, you’ll apply for a learner’s permit, a probationary (1) license, and a probationary (2) license, before you can receive your full license. The next webpage explains you the new way get your licence. The changes recently introduced in NSW are detailed here.
If you’re already a skilled motorcycle rider, you’ll probably pass your tests very quickly. But, you still need to do them! See here for more on how to begin the process.
2. South Australia
Great news – South Australia state has a very friendly website to help guide you!
There are four stages involved in getting your full car driver’s license in South Australia. See this link for all the information you need to get it.
Motorcycle license stages go from ‘pre-learner’ to ‘learner’s’ permits, followed by the ‘R-date’ class and ‘R class’. See here for more information on getting it done.
There are eight classes of motor vehicle licences in Tasmania. These relate to the size and carrying capacities of every vehicle, the special skills required to operate each vehicle, or specific experience required to hold a license in each class.
See here to understand the process involved in getting a licence. There’s a helpful video here that’ll also help international drivers specifically to understand the Tasmanian road rules.
A new motorcycle licensing training and assessment program has recently been released in Tasmania for all new motorcycle riders. Find out more about it here.
To know more about Tasmania and the 8 reasons to study here click here.
The driver licence process, and the categories of motor vehicles (there are five main ones), are clearly listed on the Victorian government website.
The Victorian government website has a dedicated space for overseas drivers. It’s a fantastic way for you to find information that’s relevant specifically for you.
If your overseas licence has expired, you actually may not need to hold a learner’s permit. In fact, you may be able to begin driving unsupervised straight after successful completion of the practical test. So – you could find that you can skip a step!
Even better – if you’re 21 years or older, and have held an overseas full driver licence, you can be issued with a full Victorian driver licence directly.
Find the steps to obtaining your Victorian motorcycle license here.
The Queensland Department of Transport of Main Road’s website is a little outdated, but it does offer relevant information (and videos). See it here.
To apply for a driver license, see here.
There are two types of motorcycle licences: ‘RE’ for basic licenses, and ‘R’ for licenses which will allow you to ride a motorcycle of unlimited engine size.
See here for more on how you can get your motorcycle licence, and to find out what motorcycles you can ride with the type of license you’ll apply for.
6. Western Australia
There are a number steps involved in getting a Western Australian driver’s license. They all intend to help you prove your knowledge of the road rules, safe driving conduct, and your driving skills – so as long as you know what you’re doing on the roads, you won’t have any issues passing each step.
Follow the steps here to apply for your driver’s license in Western Australia.
There are six steps involved in getting a motorcycle licence. See here for more on how you can apply for your license.
7. Northern Territory
The Northern Territory government has a step-by-step guide (that’s recently been updated!), to explain the details involved in getting a learner’s permit, your probationary license, and your full license.
See the government website here for more on how to get your car license.
There are three stages to get a motorcycle license in the Northern Territory. Once you have a learner’s permit, you can drive a motorcycle up to 660 cc. Not bad, eh? See here for more.
In Canberra, driving a car is the best way to move around the city because of the layout of the city. Driving (and directions!) in Canberra is quite simple – certainly as compared to driving in larger cities like Sydney or Melbourne.
Car and Motorcycle licenses
It’s not especially difficult to get a licence in Canberra. However, the process changed a few years ago. Now, people are trained and assessed in a way that is cognisant of vulnerable road users. See here for more on how to obtain your learner’s permit for both cars and motorcycles.
Get ready for your next roadtrip
Once you have your driver’s license, you can make the most of your study breaks by taking roadtrips around the country. If you live in a more regional area, you may find that being able to drive will open up your day-to-day opportunities more as well.
No matter what you ultimately decide to do, you don’t have anything to lose by applying for your learner’s permit. Good luck!
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