Uisng Foreign Driving Licences in South Africa – Must Know

A driving licence issued in any country other than South Africa (RSA), is valid to drive with in the RSA if:

  • The foreign driving licence was issued on a date on which the holder thereof has not been permanently or ordinarily resident in the RSA. A person is permanently resident in the RSA if he/she is a RSA citizen, or disposes over the right to permanently reside in the RSA based on an official document issued by the Department of Home Affairs, and he/she resides in the RSA. A person is ordinarily resident in the RSA if he/she is in the RSA on an extended visit of more than three months on a contract of employment (not just visiting). The permanent residence requirement does not apply to a holder of a diplomatic permit or a treaty permit; and
  • The licence is in English OR a translation of the licence in English is attached to the licence OR a certificate of authenticity or validity in English which was issued by a competent authority (e.g. the Embassy or Consulate) of the country concerned, is attached to the licence. The legislation does not prescribe who should attach a translation or a certificate of authenticity or validity to a driving licence, how it should be attached or when it should have been attached. The legislation also does not prescribe that the translation should state the capacity of vehicle the licence authorises. The code of the licence does not necessarily relate to a South African licence code, and therefore should describe the capacity of vehicle the licence authorise; and
  • The licence contains or has attached thereto the photograph and signature of the holder thereof. The legislation does not prescribe who should attach a photograph and signature to a driving licence, how it should be attached or when it should have been attached. The rule of thumb here should be that if a licence does not have the holders photograph or signature contained on it, some other formal document like a passport that contain the persons photograph or signature should accompany the licence; and
  • The licence is valid in the country or territory of issue.
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A foreign driving licence remains valid until:

  • In the case where the holder of such foreign licence is an RSA citizen or a person that already have permanent residence, the person returns to the Republic to resume permanent residence and has been permanently resident for a continuous period of 1 year in the RSA; or
  • In the case of another person, the person obtains permission in terms of any law for permanent residence in the Republic and has taken up permanent residence and has been permanently resident for a continuous period of 1 year in the RSA. The question is raised whether contract workers and visitors can be regarded as permanently resident in the RSA. If contract workers and visitors do not comply with the aforementioned conditions, regardless of the length of their stay in the RSA, they are not permanently resident in the RSA. The permanent residence requirement does not apply to a holder of a diplomatic permit or a treaty permit.

The holder of a foreign driving licence (excluding a provisional (or learners) licence) issued in a prescribed territory (the Southern African Development Community member states, including Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania) as referred to above may drive:

  • A motor vehicle of the appropriate class for own use; and
  • A motor vehicle for which a professional driving permit is required in the RSA if the foreign licence allows the person concerned to drive such a motor vehicle without any other authorisation in his/her territory. Should a further authorisation be required to drive such a motor vehicle in his/her country then the person should also have such an authorisation with him/her when driving such a vehicle. Any document issued by a competent authority in any prescribed territory and serving in that territory a purpose similar to that of a professional driving permit shall, subject to the conditions thereof and to such conditions as may be prescribed, be deemed to be a professional driving permit for the purposes of the Act.
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A professional driving permit is required for the driving of:

  • A goods vehicle, the gross vehicle mass of which exceeds 3 500 kilograms;
  • A breakdown vehicle;
  • A bus;
  • A minibus

(i) the gross vehicle mass of which exceeds 3 500 kilograms; or

(ii) which is designed or adapted for the conveyance of 12 or more persons, including the driver;

  • a motor vehicle used for the conveyance of persons for reward or is operated in terms of a operating licence issued in accordance with the NLTTA;
  • a motor vehicle used for the conveyance of dangerous goods; and
  • a motor vehicle conveying 12 or more persons including the driver.

The holder of a foreign driving licence (excluding a provisional (or learners) licence) issued in any other country (excluding a prescribed territory) as referred to above may drive a motor vehicle of the appropriate class for own use. The person concerned may not drive a motor vehicle for which a professional driving permit is required.