Overseas Driver Licence Rule Changes

By Hanzel
Articles

As of 1 July 2023, there will be some rule changes in NSW for overseas licence holders with temporary visas such as to study or work in Australia. According to the new rules, temporary visa holders must convert their overseas licence to an NSW licence within six months of their arrival if they wish to continue driving. These rules apply to a person residing in NSW on or after 1 July 2023. If a person arrives in NSW earlier in 2023, the new ‘6-month rule’ does not apply. The person can continue to drive in NSW on their overseas licence until they become a permanent resident in NSW or their licence expires or has been cancelled or suspended.

If a person arrives in NSW before 1 July 2023, they can continue to drive on their overseas licence and would not be required to meet the new requirements. However, if a person arrives on 1 July 2023 or after, they must obtain an NSW driver's licence within six months.

Visitors:

The rules about tourists who are coming as visitors in Australia are allowed to drive in NSW using an overseas licence for up to three months provided that they:

  • Remain as a temporary overseas visitor,
  • Have a current overseas driver’s licence and;
  • Have not been disqualified from driving in NSW, Australia, or overseas.

Penalties:

There will be harsh penalties imposed on a temporary visa holder:

  • If they have resided in NSW for more than six months and continue to drive in their overseas licence,
  • If they are driving on their overseas licence after continuously residing in NSW for more than six months, they will be considered to be driving an unlicensed vehicle, and;
  • A fine of $603 will be applied for the first offence, and a fine of $924 will apply for a second or repeated offence. A maximum penalty of $2,200 (20 penalty units) may be imposed by a Court.

Converting an overseas licence:

The process of converting an overseas licence to an NSW licence may vary depending on the applicant's age and country of origin. Usually, there are two categories of overseas licence holders: licenses from a ‘recognised country’ list A or B and those with a licence from a ‘non-recognised’ country. An overseas licence holder from a recognised country, List A, and those 25 years or older from a recognised country, List B, can attend a Service NSW Centre and convert their current overseas licence to obtain an NSW licence without the knowledge or driving test. On the other hand, an overseas licence holder from a ‘non-recognised’ country will be required to undertake the knowledge test and driving test to obtain an NSW driver's licence.

The demerit point scheme:

Until now, a loophole allowed some drivers to hold their overseas licence after receiving 13 demerit points or being convicted of a severe road offence but from 1 July 2023; this will change. Under the new measures, a person’s visiting driver privileges will be withdrawn if they:

  • Accrue 13 demerit points,
  • Are convicted of a serious driving offence (There are few more offences under Section 224 of the Road Transport Act 2013),
  • Are suspended or disqualified from driving in any part of Australia or another country or;
  • Are convicted of a drug or alcohol-related driving offence

Currently, an overseas licence holder who accrues 13 or more demerit points or who commits a serious driving offence can drive on their overseas licence after they have served any relevant suspension or disqualification period.

Under the proposed new approach, these licence holders would have their visiting driver privileges permanently withdrawn if they commit any such offences. If they wish to drive again in NSW, they would be required to apply for a NSW driver licence,

Serious driving offences include the following offences:

  • Driving in a manner that causes a serious accident-causing death or grievous bodily harm;
  • Speed in excess of 45km/h over the speed limit;
  • Speed in excess 30km/h over the speed limit;
  • Drive with a prescribed concentration of alcohol or prescribed illicit drug present;
  • Take part in street racing and;
  • Drive without supervision (learner licence holders).

These new measures will apply to a visiting overseas driver who resided in NSW before 1 July 2023 but who accrues more than 13 demerit points or is convicted of a serious driving offence on or after 1 July 2023.

Along with the new measures to be introduced, international licence holders should be aware that using a mobile phone is strictly prohibited while driving, and driving after consuming alcohol and drugs is considered a severe offence. They should abide by the rules to avoid committing such offences.

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