Exchange foreign license to Japanese license. Driving school.
The process of exchanging a foreign license for a Japanese driver's license is a slow, complicated process and can sometimes seem frustrating.
Saitama Asia Driving School has extensive knowledge and experience to help you seamlessly exchange your country's driver's license for a Japanese driver's license.
The foreign license conversion, gaikoku menkyosho kirikae (外国免許証切り替え)/gaimen kirikae (外免切替) process has some variations depending on the place in which it's being done and some not so slight variations depending on the home country of the license holder.
The average time and cost also span a bit of a range, give yourself between 3 weeks to 2 months and ¥10,000 to ¥30,000 for the entire process. Variations notwithstanding there are some things that apply to everyone:
- Your license must be valid (not expired)
- You must be able to prove that you stayed in the country where your license was issued for at least three months after obtaining the license
- You must procure a Japanese translation of your license
Exchange foreign license to Japanese license
Step 1: JAF - Japanese Automobile Federation
The issuing body for the license translation is the Japanese Automobile Federation. You should go to the nearest JAF office in your area with an application form from their website. You should also carry your foreign license, a copy of your green card and the amount of ¥ 3,000 with you.
Step 2: Documents:
The next step takes you to the licensing examination center, untenmenkyo shikenjou (運転免許試験場). At some centers it’s necessary to phone in and make an appointment but in many cases walking in and following the signs or by saying “gaimen kirikae onegaishimasu” (外免切替お願いします）to the staff seems to be enough. You will need to take quite a few documents with you, I suggest bringing copies of everything as well:
- License translation
- Foreign license (if your license has been renewed and does not show the original issuance date you need to provide a driving record or the old license)
- Passport (including expired passports to prove that you stayed in the country where your license was issued for the required three month minimum after obtaining it)
- Residence Card
- An original resident's certificate juuminhyou (住民票)
- A photograph for the application form (3cm x 2.4cm)
- Previous Japanese Licenses (if applicable)
The order of events and number of visits necessary have some slight variations but generally at the center your documents are inspected, you take an eye test, a written test and a closed course driving test.
License holders from the following countries are exempt from the written test and the driving test:
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States (Hawaii/Washington/Maryland)
Once your documents are in order and you pass the eye test your license will be issued, you may have to return on another day for it.
You will save time, money and above all a lot of effort in procedures.
Although it is true, you can process the exchange of your license on your own, but a large number of applicants do not pass the test due to inadequate preparation.
Step 3: Tests (Written, Eye, Driving)
You can do your written and vision exams the day you bring your documents for the paperwork. And then you must choose a day and time to take the driving test.
The driving test is notoriously strict and is more a sample of knowing the rules of the road / traffic, than a sample of driving skills.
Be aware of expectations for safety checks before getting into the vehicle, exaggerated sight checks while driving, tight turns, stopping and accelerating timing and indicating.
The route you take is predetermined and you’re given a map to study beforehand, in many cases you also have the opportunity to walk the course before the driving sessions begin.
(Sidenote: the test for an automatic transmission car and a manual car is different)
If you fail the test:
If you fail the test, as is fairly common, you will be allowed to schedule another day and time slot to take it again.
If you pass, you’ll have your license:
If you pass, you’ll have your license issued after a bit more waiting and paperwork.
Overall the process may seem daunting but even with paying to retake the driving test it’s significantly cheaper than going to a driving school and in practice it’s mostly a lot of sitting and waiting.
With the help of the Saitama Asia Driving School, the approval rate of your applications would increase dramatically.
We have a flexible, cheap but effective teaching system to help you. The support of our team of experts would go a long way in saving you time, money and peace of mind.