Converting foreign driver's license to Philippine driver's license: A step-by-step guide

foreign driver's license to Philippine driver's license

No matter the country you are in, to drive a car, a driver must have a driver’s license. It is a legal requirement that, if not fulfilled by the driver, can lead to a fine and penalty. The Philippines is no different with the Land and Transportation Office taking care of every nook and cranny related to transportation, so that’s everything related to driver’s license and registration.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Which government office shall I visit to get my foreign license converted into a local license?

    You can visit any of the following LTO offices to get your foreign driving license exchanged or converted into an LTO-issued local driver’s license - LTO Central Office (License section), LTO Licensing Centres, LTO Extension Offices, LTO Authorized District Offices, and LTO Licensing Extension Offices.
  • Can I drive in the Philippines with my Foreign Driving License?

    Yes, but only for 90 days, as after that, you’ll need a Philippine driving license. How can a foreigner renew his/her local driver’s license?
  • Will I lose my Foreign Driver’s License once it gets converted to a local license?

    No, as converting a foreign driving license into an LTO-issued local driver’s license only means that you get a Philippines license without having to take a driving test, as you have already passed the relevant test in your native country.
  • LTO issues different types of driver’s licenses depending on the applicant's eligibility. So, first is the student permit, then comes the non-professional driver’s license, and then there is the professional license. Also, there is a Philippine International Driving Permit (PIDP) that is issued by the Automobile Association of the Philippines. Commonly known as the international driver’s license, it allows the holder to drive in foreign lands without any hassle.

    Also Read: Navigating the Philippine driver’s license application process

    Now that everything is sorted for the locals on the driving license front, let us now discuss what a foreigner in the Philippines needs to do to get a driver's license.

    Also Read: Navigating the Philippine driver’s license application process - Part II

    Foreigner driving a car in the Philippines

     foreign driver's license to Philippine driver's license

    Imagine you landed in the Philippines and wish to roam around a bit in the car that you want to drive. Is it possible to do so? Yes, why not, however, for your own and others on the road safety, a few prerequisites need to be fulfilled. This includes -

    • Having a valid driver’s license issued by the foreigner’s homeland’s concerned official authority
    • The foreigner’s native driver’s license must be in English. If not, he/she needs to secure an English-translated license from the local embassy of the issued country
    • Get a foreign driver’s license converted to a local driver’s license
    • A new driver’s license from the LTO

    Note that the first two requirements will get the job done if the foreigner is in the Philippines for up to 90 days. However, if he/she plans to stay longer than 90 days, the next two requirements need to be met.
    If you think converting a foreign driver’s license to a local license would be a lot of work, we’d like to tell you that this is not the case. With the right documents and information about the process, it is a piece of cake.

    What is a foreign driver’s license?

    As the name suggests, a foreign driver’s license is issued to the concerned person by the official authorities of his/her home country. Such a license is valid for just 90 days in the Philippines; i.e., it would be treated as legal as the LTO’s issued driver’s license. However, after 90 days, if the foreign person wishes to drive in the Philippines, he/she needs to convert the foreign driver’s license to a local license.

    So, unless a foreigner has an International Driving License, he/she needs a local license if he/she wants to be able to drive legally in the Philippines after 90 days of arrival in the country (as before, the foreign license will do the job)

     foreign driver's license to Philippine driver's license

    Advantages of getting a local driver’s license by a foreigner

    Having a local driver’s license by a foreign national with a valid foreign driver’s license comes with its own set of benefits, including -

    • With a local driver’s license in hand, a foreigner who is planning to live permanently in the Philippines will be able to diver here legally
    • The local driver’s license will serve as a valid government-issued ID for the foreigner in the Philippines

    Also Read: Here’s why you should not be driving without a license in the Philippines

    Eligibility criteria for converting foreign driver’s license to local driver’s license


    Like a Filipino citizen needs to meet certain requirements/qualifications to acquire a driver’s license from LTO, likewise, a foreigner must tick certain boxes, which include -

    • Must present proof that they will be staying in the Philippines for at least a year from the filing of the application for a license
    • Must have a valid visa for at least 120 days (upon the date of arrival)
    • Before applying for foreign license exchange, a foreigner must be in the Philippines for at least a month
    • In case of an expired foreign license, the applicant must pass the Theoretical Exam and Practical Driving Test
    • Must have a foreign driving license
    • If the applicant is from a country operating right-hand drive, then he/she must clear the practical exam

    While the above-mentioned qualifications are limited for foreigners, the rest remain common for them and Filipinos applying for a license. The list includes -

    • Must be mentally and physically fit to drive
    • Should know how to read and write Filipino, English, or any local dialect
    • Must be neat
    • Appear in a presentable at the office wearing well-dressed clothes
    • Should have no unsettled traffic violation
    • Must be at least 18 years of age
    • Both the written and practical exams conducted by LTO must be clear

    Documents required for converting foreign driver’s license to local driver’s license

    A foreign applicant needs to submit and carry a few documents to the LTO office to get his/her foreign driving license converted to a local license. The list includes -

    • Applicants Foreign Driver’s License (for presentation along with one photocopy)
    • Negative drug test result from an LTO-accredited or DOH drug testing centre
    • Original and one photocopy of the visa and stamp OR Alien Certificate of
    • Registration from the immigration office (if the applicant resides temporarily in the Philippines)
    • If employed, TIN
    • Original and one photocopy of the passport’s first page, visa page, and latest date of arrival in the Philippines
    • In case the applicant's foreign driving license is not in English, then he/she needs to present an official English translation of the license
    • Original and one photocopy of electronically transmitted medical certificate from an LTO-accredited medical centre
    • Submission of duly accomplished Application for Permits and License Form

     foreign driver's license to Philippine driver's license

    Step-by-step instructions for converting a foreign driver’s license to a local driver’s license

    An applicant with a foreign driving license needs to follow the below instructions to get a local license.

    Step 1: Visit the nearest LTO branch
    Step 2: Upon reaching, ask for the Application for Permits and License form. Make sure to complete it duly
    Step 3: Get yourself a queue number and wait for your turn
    Step 4: Upon being called out, submit the APL form along with the required documents
    Step 5: Once all the submitted documents have been approved by the agency, head to the cashier and all the relevant fees
    Step 6: Take the written examination and wait for the result
    Step 7: Take the actual driving test if you cleared the written exam, else come back the following day at your convenience
    Step 8: Wait for the result
    Step 9: If failed, it is the end of the transaction. If passed, head to the cashier and pay the required fees
    Step 10: After paying the fee, it is time to head to the biometric/encoding window
    Step 11: Fill up the encoding form so that all the details get entered in the new LTO-IT system (LTMS Portal)
    Step 12: Get your photo taken and affix your signature
    Step 13: Next, you will be handed over your Official Receipt and Driver’s License card
    Step 14: It is time to head home, but before leaving, sign the release form and the LTO log sheet

    Few crucial things to remember

    • LTO only converts the foreign license into a local license for one category. So, the license can permit you to drive only a single type of motor vehicle (all types of cars, motorcycles, and non-HGV lorries). So, before heading to the LTO office, make up your mind as to which vehicle you wanna drive first. You’ll have to repeat the entire process and obtain a separate license to drive another vehicle. Remember that a second trip to LTO can not happen before a month.
    • A foreign applicant with a valid foreign driver’s license can renew the expired or invalid Philippine driving license by clearing the theoretical and practical exam
    • Foreigners will receive the converted license via registered mail through the Philippine Postal Service
    • If the issuing country of the Foreign Driver’s License practices left-hand driving, then a local license will be issued to the applicant after he/she clears the practical examination

    Bottom line

    Getting a foreign driving license exchanged or converted into an LTO-issued local driver’s license is not a complex process. However, one needs to pay the required fee, submit a few documents, and even pass a few exams before getting a Philippine driver’s license.

    Also Read: International Driving Permit Philippines: Everything you need to know

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