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.

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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.


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20 thoughts on “Getting a Chinese Driver’s License

    Francis says:

    There is one exemption worldwide and that is for Belgian citizens who get a Chinese driving licence upon showing their Belgian driving licence. This agreement has been signed in 1987 I believe. I did it in Beijing myself, have to do it for Shanghai now where I moved last year escaping the pollution from Beijing…

    Peter says:

    My wife has a business in China. I visit China about 5 times a year, for a month each time. The visa is for 2 years, multiple entry. It is not for tourist, it is for visiting relatives.
    So, according to you, if I don’t have a work permit, there is no way I can get Chinese license ??

    China Briefing says:

    Hi Peter,

    Unfortunately, a residence permit is needed to get a driver’s license in China. On a standard family visit visa, only a temporary residence permit can be obtained. However, foreigners married to Chinese nationals can apply for a residence visa if they plan on living in China. The local “交通管理局” or “车辆管理所” offices can provide more information on the specific materials needed. For more information, please contact our HR specialists:

    Derek Graham says:

    I got my chinese license, it wasn’t that difficult in shenzhen. My question is about how to rent a car when I go back to the USA. I don’t have a us state license because I live in china. Do I need to get an international driver permit to rent a car in the USA now?

    If I do need an IDP, where can I get one?


    China Briefing says:

    Hello Derek,

    Thank you for your inquiry. Chinese driver’s licenses are not recognized in the US. We recommend contacting the DMV of the US state where you intend to drive for more information on international driver’s license requirements.

    Charles Coats says:

    Hello I have received my Chinese drivers license a few years back and I had my valid drivers license from Dallas texas in the US. My coworker from Inda has a Valid Indian Drivers license but since they drive on the left side of the road does he have to take the driving portion of the test? I did not have to. I only needed to take the written potion but we drive on the same side of the road (right side) as we do here in China. Thanks for the help.

    China Briefing says:

    Hi Charles,

    There is no specific rule that requires holders of driver’s licenses from countries that drive on the other side of the road to take a driving test. However, the exact rules may differ depending on the city.

    Vee says:

    Is it right to say that I can apply for a driving license if I have a Z Visa? Also, is there any link you could direct me to for the process is Yan Cheng Jiang Su?

    Your help is much appreciated.

    Thank you!

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Vee,

    Yes, if you hold a work permit (and residence permit) in China you can apply for a driver’s license. If you have a license from another country, you need to submit the other required documents and complete a theory test. If you do not have a driver’s license, you need to complete the entire licensing procedure.

    To locate the relevant bureau in your city, please contact the local “交通管理局” or “车辆管理所” offices.

    Nicole fajardo says:

    I am an au pair in Shenzhen and would like to obtain a drivers license. Would it be possible to get my license if i have a tourist visa? If so, how can I go about it?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Nicole,

    Unfortunately, foreigners require a valid residence permit to acquire a Chinese driver’s license. Tourists therefore cannot receive one.

    Derick says:

    Hi can I get a temporary driving license in haikou airport?

    China Briefing says:

    Hi Derick,

    Thank you for your inquiry. Please contact our HR specialists for more information:

    Naomi says:

    Hi. How would I go about getting a translation of my drivers licence? And if a medical is required, does that mean you need to visit the vehicle administration office first to receive a medical directive?. Thanks.

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Naomi,

    The driver’s license should be translated at a translation institute recognized by the government. The medical check should be able to be completed at the vehicle administration office. For more information, please contact our HR specialists:

    Marco S says:

    Hi, I already have since 2007 my Chinese driver license and I was wondering how about motorcycle, is it still impossible to get this added to the driver license?

    RayGod says:

    Hello, I have a business visa, with a temporary residence permit, can I still apply for a driver’s license?

    China Briefing says:


    If your visa is valid for at least 90 days, you should be eligible to apply for a driver’s license.

    El says:

    The citizens of China need to have International Driver’s license to drive abroad I guess. The question is, who is producing IDL? Goverment or commercial company in China? Or who could do it?

    China Briefing says:


    Government bureaus are in charge of issuing licenses. For more information, please contact our HR specialists:

Comments are closed.