Driving license (rijbewijs) requirements for operating a car, motorcycle, moped, truck or other motorized vehicle for international residents living in Holland.
RDW (Rijks Dienst Wegverkeer) is the Netherlands Vehicle Authority, the organization responsible for overseeing all forms of motorized transport in the Netherlands.
Its activities include:
- Licensing vehicles and vehicle parts
- Supervision of vehicle roadworthiness testing and certification
- Recording, maintaining and reporting all data related to vehicles and their owners
- Issuing documents including vehicle registrations and vehicle driving licenses
The RDW is authorized to perform these tasks by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (I&M).
Licensing requirements to drive a vehicle
All motorized vehicle operators in the Netherlands must possess a valid operating (i.e. driving) license. In addition, the vehicle being driven must be insured by a policy that includes third-party liability coverage.
There are several types of Dutch driving licenses, with each authorizing the operation of a different category of vehicle:
- Category A – motorcycles
- Category B – automobiles
- Category C – trucks
- Category D – buses
- Category T – tractors
Because non-standard vehicles require additional driving skills, a specific category of license is required to operate such vehicles. These additional license categories are designated with a number or letter following the main category letter. For example, a person wishing to drive an automobile with a trailer attached, must be in possession of a valid Category ‘BE’ driving license. Someone wishing to drive a camper must have a ‘C1’ license.
The minimum age to drive a car unsupervised in the Netherlands is 18 years old. However, teens who have passed both the theoretical and practical exams are able to drive from the age of 17 but they must be supervised by a registered ‘driving coach’ up until their 18th birthday. The young driver must apply for a driving passport to be granted the privilege. The program allows the student driver to gain valuable practical driving experience while being under the watchful eye of an experienced adult driver. Once they reach their 18th birthday, they are eligible to drive alone.
There is no maximum age for operating a vehicle as long as the driver holds a valid license.
Driving with a foreign license in Holland
An experienced driver who holds a license issued in another European Union state OR in an EFTA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) can use the foreign license to drive in Holland even after becoming a resident of the Netherlands. At the time the foreign license is due for renewal, it can be exchanged for a Dutch driving license of the same category. Certain restrictions may apply.
A driver who holds a valid license from one of the countries listed below (which have a special treaty with the Netherlands) may drive with the foreign license for up to 185 days from the point of municipal registration and are also eligible to directly exchange their foreign license for a Dutch license, as long as the exchange is completed within the 185-day window.
The countries with this special treaty are:
- Canada (applies only to the province of Quebec)
- Netherlands Antilles
- South Korea
Drivers who hold a valid license from a non-EU/EFTA country which is not included in the list above, are able to drive using their valid foreign license for 185 days from when they are first registered in the municipal database. To continue driving in the Netherlands after the 185-day window, the driver must have a Dutch driving license. This can be earned through the standard process which includes passing a theoretical exam (which can be taken in English) and a practical exam. An appointment for the latter can only be made by a certified driving school and only when they feel the driver’s skills are at a satisfactory level (regardless of whether the driver holds a valid license from a foreign country). The school may require the driver to take additional lessons to improve their skills before the school will schedule the practical exam with the CBR.
Exchanging a foreign driving license for a Dutch license
The exchange of a foreign license for a Dutch driving license is done at the municipal level (gemeente). You can find specific details about the license exchange process in these municipalities…
Driving license exchange with 30% ruling
Highly-skilled workers who come to the Netherlands for a job and are qualified for the 30% tax ruling can exchange their foreign driving license for an equivalent Dutch driving license, no matter what country they are from. This applies to members of their immediate family as well. The exchange must be done within the first 185 days of residency. For U.S. and Canadian nationals (except those from Quebec), this is the only situation under which they could exchange their foreign license for a Dutch driving license.
How to get a Dutch Driving License
Information about the application process and the steps required in order to earn a Dutch driving license in Holland: driving lessons, theoretical and practical exams (in English)
CBR is the organization responsible for ensuring a driver is qualified to operate a motor vehicle in the Netherlands. It is headquartered in Rijswijk here in South Holland, between The Hague and Delft. Like the RDW, the CBR is an independent organization which operates within the framework of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (I&M).
CBR is broken into 4 functional areas responsible for:
- Driving Theory: administering the theoretical portion of Dutch driving license exams
- Driving Practical: administering practical skills test of an applicant’s ability to drive safely
- Driver Testing: department responsible for issuing Dutch driving licenses
- CCV: administering tests for highly specialized license categories as well as providing ongoing training for driving professionals
Brand new drivers (never held a driver’s license) and experienced drivers who hold a non-exchangeable foreign license, must pass the 2-part Dutch driving examination (theoretical and practical). The driving exam in the Netherlands can be taken in English. To qualify to sit for the exam, an applicant must have completed a driving course at a certified CBR-registered driving school. Many driving schools in Holland offer lessons in English for non-Dutch speaking foreign residents. A driving school’s exam pass rate for the previous 3-month period can be found on the website Rijschoolgegevens.nl.
Dutch driving license exams
Theoretical – The theoretical portion of the Dutch driving license exam is now administered digitally on monitors set up in an exam room at the testing location. The exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of how a driver should react in various driving situations. Practice exams are available online. You can find the practice book for the exam in English here.
Practical – The practical portion of the Dutch driving license exam is taken in a motorized vehicle with the CBR test administrator present. The applicant’s driving instructor is allowed to be present in the car during the exam. In the event the applicant doesn’t pass the exam, the instructor can judge where additional training is needed.
How do you receive your Dutch driving license?
When a student driver successfully passes both parts of the Dutch driving test, the driving license can be collected from the local city hall office (gemeente), approximately 1 week after the exam was taken.
They must bring with them:
- Passport photo which meets the technical specifications
- A valid ID
- A form of payment for the processing fee
Note: If the license is not picked up within 3 years of passing the driving exam, the test results are automatically invalidated and the person needs to start the process over.