Driver's license issue a personal responsibility reminder

  • Published
  • By United States Air Forces in Europe
  • Public Affairs
Living in Germany and traveling throughout Europe is a great opportunity for Airmen and their families to experience new cultures and historic landscapes. As welcomed guests in Germany, it is our responsibility to understand and follow German policies and laws.

There has been a great deal of information circulating recently about German authorities enforcing a new standard for military members, U.S. civilian employees and their families to possess a valid stateside driver's license in order to operate their vehicles here, with the overarching issuing being what constitutes a valid license.

While discussions are taking place at the appropriate levels between the U.S. Embassy and the German Foreign Office on the matter, service members, Department of Defense civilians and their families are encouraged to take the necessary steps to maintain the validity of their state-issued driver's license.

U.S. military authorities have no control over the application or enforcement of the policy. Individuals who run into problems with German law enforcement regarding this issue should remain calm, professional and speak with their local legal office afterwards.
It's important to note that German police are not targeting U.S. citizens, and to date there have only been a few documented incidents related to this issue.

The following questions and answers are provided for additional information:

Q1: Why are we being forced to update our driver's licenses when the USAREUR license replaces it here in Germany?
A1: The USAREUR certificate of license is only valid in conjunction with your US license, and does NOT replace it. Until the issue of whether or not expired licenses are still considered a valid basis (together with a valid USAREUR Certificate of License) to operate a USAREUR-plated vehicle under the NATO SOFA Supplementary Agreement is resolved, we encourage all personnel and dependents to ensure their US licenses are current.

Q2. What are commanders doing to ensure the German Polizei do not issue tickets for expired US driver's licenses?
A2. The dispute of this change in policy is taking place between the German Foreign Office and the US Embassy. US Forces authorities, including installation commanders, do not have control over the application of the German policy. 

Q3. What options are available for avoiding these sanctions?
A3. If your license has expired, check with the issuing state authorities on whether or not being stationed abroad provides for an automatic extension until you return to the US. If yes, keep a hard copy of those rules in your vehicle in case you get checked by local police. If no, check for options to renew or extend your license via mail or online.

A complete list of state-by-state extension policies can be found on the DMV website.

Q4. Does an international driver's license count in place of a US state-issued or German license?
A4. No, an international driver's license is not a valid replacement for a state-issued or German license.

Q5. What should I do if I am unable to renew my US driver's license?
A5. If none of the options to renew your license or get a new one works, we recommend you do not operate a vehicle on German public roads until the dispute is resolved.

Q6. What should I do if I get ticketed or have my car impounded by German police due to an expired US license?
A6. Remain calm and professional when interacting with German law enforcement. Afterwards, contact your local legal office.

Q7. If I am unable to renew my state-issued license, can I get a German license?
A7. This does not appear to be consistently possible in all German states.
Members should speak with their local legal office before starting the process of attaining a German driver's license.

Q8. If German police are not targeting US personnel, what about reports of traffic checkpoints?
A8. According to German police, the traffic checks are not specifically targeted at U.S. personnel, but rather all motorists travelling on German public roads.