Driving License for International Students in Australia

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Australia is a vast country, with many sights to visit. The cities are large and sprawling. For example, Melbourne covers an area of almost 10,000km squared, making it larger than cities like Los Angeles and Tokyo.

Unfortunately, the public transport in Australia isn’t conducive to exploring the outer reaches of each city and state or territory. 

That means there’s often no choice but to drive. However, to drive you need a driver’s license and it can be an involved process if you don’t know how to do it right.

Therefore, we’ve put together a guide for any international student looking to obtain their driver’s license in Australia.

Who Needs a Driver’s License in Australia?

Anyone driving a vehicle in Australia must have a valid driver’s license. This includes international students and any other temporary resident.

Australia takes its road laws very seriously, to ensure the safety of all who drive and commute in a vehicle.

Therefore, the punishments for not having a valid driver’s license are harsh, but more on that later.

Can I drive with my overseas license?

You can drive in Australia on your overseas license

However, different states have different laws around this. For example, if you are residing in Victoria as an international student, you’ll need to convert your overseas license into a Victorian license within 6 months of arriving in that state.

This law applies to all temporary residents in the country.

Furthermore, you’ll need to have a translation of your international driver’s license with you at all times when driving, if it isn’t in English.

How do I apply for an Australian driver’s license?

To apply for your Australian driver’s license, you’ll need to get in contact with the relevant state body for driving and licensing.

This can be done either online, in person or by phone call. Once you’ve booked in an appointment to complete the test, you’ll have to be there in person.

The driving test will consist of a computer test regarding road rules and laws. Where applicable, you’ll also need to complete a test in the car.

The relevant driving and licensing body in each state is as follows:

How much does the driver’s license cost? 

Each state and territory has their own fee for completing the process for obtaining your Australian driver’s license.

The fees for each state or territory are as follows:

  • New South Wales – $232
  • Victoria – $213
  • South Australia – $254
  • Western Australia – $133
  • Tasmania – $250
  • Queensland – $251
  • Northern Territory – $102
  • Australian Capital Territory – $232

As you can see, the price varies quite a bit from state to state. Therefore, it’s important to be informed before completing the driver’s license process.

What are the penalties of not having an Australian driver’s license?

Driving without a valid, acceptable license in any Australian state or territory is a very serious offence.

The penalties in each state are as follows:

  • Victoria – the penalties can vary wildly depending on a number of factors. However, drivers without a valid license can face a fine of up to $38,000 and prison terms of up to two years! 
  • New South Wales – the penalty in NSW can be a fine worth up to $5,500 and six to twelve months in prison.
  • Queensland – in Queensland, driving without a valid license can cost you up to $5,500 and up to twelve months in prison.
  • South Australia – a $2,500 fine is the penalty in South Australia, with prison time for reoffenders.
  • Western Australia – penalties for driving without a license in Western Australia involve fines up to $600 and up to 18 months in prison.

Clearly, it simply isn’t worth it at all to drive without a valid driver’s license in Australia, whether you are an international student or not.

Do you need a motorcycle license to ride a scooter?

In Australia, you must obtain a motorcycle license to ride a scooter that is more than 50cc. However, the laws can differ from state to state.

For instance, in Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia you can ride a scooter 50cc or less with a car license.

To ride a 50cc scooter in New South Wales, you must have a ‘conditional rider license’. 

If there is any grey area at all, get in touch with your relevant driving and licensing body, as listed above.

Do I need to translate my license from my home country?

Yes. If your driver’s license from your home country is not in English, you must carry a NAATI (National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd) translation of your license at all times when driving.

How long does my Australian license last?

A full Australian driver’s license lasts ten years. However, a provisionary license for new drivers lasts four years, before being upgraded to a full license.

If I break a road law and lose demerit points, will that affect me later on?

Over the span of three years, every driver is permitted to incur a maximum of 12 demerit points against their license.

You’ll receive these demerit points for things like speeding, running a red light, using a mobile phone while driving or failing to wear a seatbelt.

If you receive 12 demerit points, you’ll lose your license, as well as pay a hefty fine. In some states, you can even receive jail time.

Therefore, it’s essential not to break the law!

Do I need an Australian driver’s license to drive Uber?

Yes, you will need to obtain an Australian driver’s license to work for Uber. Moreover, you’ll need to have held this (full) license for at least 12 months.

However, some exceptions to that rule do apply. This is handy, as driving for Uber can be a very handy job for international students in Australia.

Happy driving, and don’t forget to read up on the road rules.

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