And you thought a 54 minute wait time at the DMV to renew your driver’s license was something to sniff at. (Googled fact: 54 minutes is the average longest wait time among US state DMVs which goes to the lucky residents of California.)
In some states including Washington State, you can usually renew your license online with four pieces of information: your WA state driver’s license number, the last 4 digits of your SSN, your birth date and your eye color (to test just how well you know yourself.) If you change states, you usually just have to present a valid driver’s license from the state you are coming from, take an eye test (on site at the DMV), and maybe a road sign test (also on site) and Bam! – you too could be driving the awful stretch of pavement from Seattle to Tacoma.
In Luxembourg, you can drive with your valid US driver’s license for one year. (that’s nice.) After one year, you must get a Luxembourg driver’s license to stay insured. (insurance = important.) Thankfully many EU countries including Luxembourg have reciprocity with the US which allows you to exchange your US license for a European license after that year grace period without having to do written or road tests. (written test in foreign language = v. hard.)
My year is up and so I’m in the process of getting my Luxembourg Driver’s License. I’ve just finished my third week of collecting documents.
Application to Obtain a Driver’s License: In 10 Easy Steps. Strike that.
Application to Exchange a Valid Driver’s License: Still In 10 Easy Steps whereby no two steps will be taken in the same location.
1. The application form. This form is available online to be downloaded and completed. A promising first step.
2. A recent biometric ID photograph sized 45 x 35 mm. The Service des Permis de Conduire (SNCA) herein referred to as the “Luxembourg DMV” is apparently not equipped with cameras. You must bring your own photo. A biometric ID photograph is similar to passport pictures but not the same, so that extra one you had made when you got your passport is neither right sized or recent enough. Cost for recent biometric ID photograph taken by licensed photo service = 15 euros. Upside = you can smile for this one!
3. An affidavit from the US Embassy. This affidavit is to state that you have no criminal record, have never filed for bankruptcy, and are a licensed driver in your home country. The criminal records collected previously upon moving here need not apply. As one might expect, this one requires an in person visit to the US Embassy which conveniently has drop in hours on Thursdays only save of course for closing hours for a proper lunch. Cost = 50 euros. Validity = affidavit good for 1 month only. You know, because of all that criminal activity you plan on flying home to do.
4. A full medical exam. Lenny at the Luxembourg DMV will not be giving you a vision test on the spot. No, you will need a full medical exam no more than three months old, issued by a doctor licensed to practice in Luxembourg. Your full physical from earlier that year, or the one that may have been required to play golf in Luxembourg (true story, not mine), need not apply. This too includes an in person visit to the doctor to pee in yet another cup and once again review your family medical history. Cost = 67 euros. Validity = clean bill of health good for 3 months only.
5. An affidavit from the Luxembourg Authorities. This affidavit is to state that you have no criminal record in Luxembourg. (Does anyone?) Upside = this one (assuming you have a nice person who speaks French to call on your behalf) comes in the mail all stamped on heavy paper and ready to go! Validity = unclear.
6. A certificate of residence from your local Commune. A copy of your valid Luxembourg Residence Card (which caused you more paperwork and time than can be fully explained to anyone who has not been a foreigner in a foreign land) will not apply. Nor will any recent utility bill with your current address. Nope, this requires an in person visit to your local Commune where you take a number and queue. Cost = 2 euros to print and stamp. Validity = stamped certificate good for one month only. Hurry, hurry!
7. A photocopy of your passport. This one you can do at home if you have an All-in-one Printer/Copier/Scanner. You should already absolutely have a new one of those because the printer you brought from the US will have smoked out upon arrival.
8. A photocopy of both sides of your foreign driver’s license. While you might assume that since you can make your own photocopy of your passport, you can also make your own photocopy of your foreign driver’s license – you’d be wrong. This copy must be certified … by whom, it’s not clear, but guaranteed it will be at a different address. Note: The Luxembourg DMV requires a certified copy of your foreign driver’s license even though they will be keeping your original foreign driver’s license upon the exchange. Cost = TBD due to accidental omission.
9. Your left kidney. Since you’re already handing over originals and certified copies of originals, let’s just get ahead of the curve on organ donation. I think I just peed my pants writing that.
10. A tax stamp available from the SNCA or the Administration de l’enregistrement et des domaines. This is where you bring in the hired help. Cost = 12 euros. For a stamp.
If you had a relocation person to help you on arrival, Step 10 is where they re-enter the scene to collect documents 1-9 and your 12 euros in cash. They will first go in person and queue for your very expensive tax stamp at the SNCA (Location F), after which they will scan all your documents (a brilliant idea), and finally go to the Luxembourg DMV (at Location G) to present the originals on your behalf. This is especially helpful for working people since the Luxembourg DMV is open 5 days a week and closes every day at 4:45pm.
Assuming all goes well, a letter will arrive by post a couple of weeks later inviting you to present yourself at the Luxembourg DMV (Location G) before 4:45pm where you will take a number to queue, hand over your US Driver’s License (the one with the recent enough 2009 photo) for their safe keeping (fingers crossed!) until you move back to your home country, and be issued your Luxembourg Driver’s License for which no wallet will be fail safe enough to house. Should you be able to follow these paper instructions to the letter of the Luxembourg law you will be declared fit to do the unnatural and yield right in a moving vehicle subject to the double negative road signs that occasionally call off the whole idea.
May the DMV be with you and the grace of the Luxembourg DMV with me. My file is being submitted without a certified copy of my foreign driver’s license. My relocation person tells me she is *hopeful.* I myself am delightfully entertained by the whole process. I am also, until my letter arrives by post, taking extra precaution in all roundabouts.