Getting a Chinese Driver’s License

Posted by Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Stephen O’Regangeely-concept-sports-car-courtesy-of-xinhua
International Business Advisory
Dezan Shira & Associates

To drive a car in China, you need a Chinese driver’s license. China does not recognize the International Driving Permit or other foreign driver’s licenses. Only foreigners with a valid residence permit can apply for a Chinese driver’s license. Tourists are therefore not allowed to drive in China. 

In 2012 the Ministry of Public Security published Rules of Motor Vehicle Driving License Application. This rulebook details the process that a foreigner needs to undertake in order to obtain a Chinese Driving License. Such foreigners generally fall under two categories: foreigners applying for a Chinese Driving License who already have a license in their home countries, and foreigners applying for a Chinese Driving License who do not have a foreign driving license.

Related Link IconRELATED: China Vehicle Sales Reach 22 million Units in 2013

Foreign nationals who have a driver’s license from their home country can apply directly to their city’s Vehicle Administration Office to convert their license. Applicants need to bring the following documents:

  1. Application form
  2. Identification Certificate, Work Permit, Passport
  3. Medical Report issued by designated hospital
  4. Foreign driving license with Chinese translation
  5. 1 inch full face photograph on a plain background

With these documents, the applicant must sit a theory test to in order qualify for the license. The theory test consists of 100 random questions out of 900. In order to pass the applicant must correctly answer over 90 percent. In the larger Chinese cities this test is offered in several different languages but for the smaller tier cities they may have no choice to sit the test in Chinese. However, it is permitted to bring a friend/translator to help. For an impression of what the syllabus looks like, click here for the Guizhou Traffic Police version. (English is the bottom link)

After passing the theory test, the Vehicle Administration Office will issue a Chinese driver’s license within five working days. This license only applies to cars. To obtain a license for buses or trucks, the applicant will need to take a practical exam for that vehicle.

Those who do not have a current driving license from their home country have to go through essentially the same process as Chinese nationals. You apply to the Vehicle Administration Office, bring the documents listed above and take the theory test just like foreigners holding a driver’s license from another country. In addition, you will need to take classes and pass several practical driving examinations.This process, depending on what city and the number of applicants, could take anywhere from three months to one year.


Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email or visit

Stay up to date with the latest business and investment trends in Asia by subscribing to our complimentary update service featuring news, commentary and regulatory insight.


Related Reading

Employing Foreign Nationals in China
In this issue of China Briefing, we have set out to produce a guide to employing foreign nationals in China, from the initial step of applying for work visas, to more advanced subjects such as determining IIT liability and optimizing employee income packages for tax efficiency. Lastly, recognizing that few foreigners immigrate to China on a permanent basis, we provide an overview of methods for remitting RMB abroad.

Revisiting the Shanghai Free Trade Zone: A Year of Reforms
In this issue of China Briefing, we revisit the Shanghai FTZ and its preferential environment for foreign investment. In the first three articles, we highlight the many changes that have been introduced in the Zone’s first year of operations, including the 2014 Revised Negative List, as well as new measures relating to alternative dispute resolution, cash pooling, and logistics. Lastly, we include a case study of a foreign company successfully utilizing the Shanghai FTZ to access the Outbound Tourism Industry.

Industry Specific Licenses and Certifications in China
In this issue of China Briefing, we provide an overview of the licensing schemes for industrial products; food production, distribution and catering services; and advertising. We also introduce two important types of certification in China: the CCC and the China Energy Label (CEL). This issue will provide you with an understanding of the requirements for selling your products or services in China.