Convert a Philippine Driver Licence in New Zealand

It has been a wee while since I last made a blog and if ever I do have regular readers, I do apologise. Most of the times real life do get in the way. An example of this is I have been busy dealing with my extreme nervousness in sitting the practical driving test to convert a Philippine Driver Licence in New Zealand.

I arrived in New Zealand in September 2015. As an overseas driver licence holder, I was allowed to drive in New Zealand for 12 months from my date of arrival. But during this time I could only count the instances I drove in New Zealand in one hand as I was too nervous! It did not help that I had someone who drove and picked me up wherever I went.

In February 2017, I visited the Philippines and re-entered New Zealand therefore resetting my driving entitlement until February 2018. I landed a new job in April 2017 and during that time I mustered up the courage to finally drive on my own in New Zealand as it was not feasible for me to be driven around anymore.

I could have converted before February 2018 but I wanted to be more confident on New Zealand roads while reading the New Zealand road code on the side. Although I realised belatedly that the longer I drove here, the more overly confident I had become—as I was getting more confidence, I was also collecting bad driving habits from other New Zealand drivers as well! On hindsight, I now think it is actually better to convert your overseas driver licence to a New Zealand driver licence during the earlier months of driving here.

To rectify my driving behaviour, I sought the help of a driving instructor a month before my driving entitlement expired. True enough, he had identified so many things that I did not realise I was wrongly doing. Do not get me wrong, I am not a crazy driver… He commented I was a competent driver but I was always rushing. Lol. I always attributed that ‘rushing’ to the slow brakes of my car but thanks to my driving instructor, I now have better control of my brakes. I am now more aware of my driving habits on the road and am now more keen to be a better driver especially having encountered so many crazy drivers since converting my driver licence. Funny how having a New Zealand driver licence emancipates you on the roads while being more careful—must be the hefty fees and demerits you can get in New Zealand if caught doing illegal stuff on the roads.

The process of converting an overseas licence is conveniently published by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). It is available on print media in driver licensing sites and as a PDF online. Everything you need to know about converting an overseas licence is there.

Holders of driver licences of select countries are exempt from sitting the theory and practical tests. But since I come from a non-exempt country I had to go through all the steps.

Here are the steps I took in converting my Philippine driver licence to a New Zealand Class 1 Full Driver Licence.

1. Prepare for the theory test and practical driving test.

I bought the New Zealand road code a couple of months after arriving in New Zealand. It retailed for around NZD 25.00 but since I bought it second hand, I got it for less. I had been reading some parts of the book from time to time.

New Zealand Road Code 2015/16
New Zealand Road Code 2015/16

As you can see from the picture, my copy is at least 3 years old but there has not been big changes in the road code the past years so it is okay. If you do not want to buy this you can borrow it from the library.

I also bought a set of practice tests on the AA website which helped immensely as some questions on the practice tests and the actual theory tests are very similar. The practice tests simulates the actual theory testing and you are able to review your incorrect answers. It costs NZD 20 for 20 practice tests and I was not able to use up all the 20 tests.

Screenshot of AA Road Code Practice Test dashboard
Screenshot of AA Road Code Practice Test dashboard

Purchase the AA Road Code Practice Test here.

As for the practical driving test, as I mentioned above, I prepared for it by enlisting the help of a driving instructor. My driver instructor had me drive around my suburb but I belatedly realised that he coursed me through most of the practical driver licence test routes in that area (I live 3-5 minutes away from a testing site)! Silly me for not realising right away but I did not really ask. It costed NZD 70 per hour (only took a one-hour lesson). I have read that per hour rates in the North Island specifically Auckland may run cheaper.

I realised that he had me drive through the testing routes after Googling testing routes on YouTube and some forums. There were at least three routes that I found online and I practiced at least two of them in two weeks.

2. Apply to convert driver licence at a specialist conversion site.

You can find the specialist conversion sites here. You are not able to apply for conversion online. I went to a VTNZ nearest my house.

Here is what I brought:

  • Application form – DL5 Application for conversion of an overseas driver licence form 
  • Evidence of identity – passport
  • Overseas driver licence – Philippine Non-Professional Driver License (actual card)
  • Colour photocopies of passport (data page) and overseas driver licence (front and back)

These documents were carefully sighted by the specialist conversion site employee and your details will also be inputted on a computer. I brought photocopies of my documents but they are able to photocopy these stuff for you. I actually forgot to photocopy the back of my driver licence so they photocopied it on the same paper which has the copy of the front.

VTNZ Christchurch
The agent is checking my documents and inputting my information in the system.

Side note: If you also are from the Philippines and you only have a piece of paper as your driver licence, it will not be accepted for conversion unless you have a certificate from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) confirming your driver licence details. It costs a hundred pesos. I hope I can make the time to make a blog on how to do this.

You must also prove your eyesight meets the required standard so I also had to go through an eye test. I needed to look through an eye testing equipment with binoculars. The officer presses buttons and you must identify correctly where the light flashes. In my case I don’t know how I passed it because I could not see where the light was flashing! The officer thought it must be my hair that’s blocking the lights and he did not have me repeat it.

Application fee: NZD 52.10 (plus 2% surcharge if paying using credit card)

3. Book a theory test schedule.

If you want to and there is a slot available, you can take the theory test on the same day you applied for conversion. In my case, I thought I have not studied enough so I booked it on a different date.

Theory test/re-test fee: NZD 45.70 (plus 2% surcharge if paying using credit card)

4. Sit the theory test.

Please do not forget to bring your original evidence of identity which is in my case, my Philippine passport. You need to score at least 32 out of 35 to pass. I got 35 out of 35. 😉

If you pass the theory test, you can still drive on your overseas driver licence if it is not yet expired and until the New Zealand driver licence had arrived. If you did not pass the theory test, you need to pay the theory test fee again to book another schedule.

Technically the application for conversion still has to be approved by the NZTA but I have not heard anyone who was rejected and was not able to convert their licence.

If you need to pass a practical driving test to fully convert your overseas licence (non-exempt country), the New Zealand driver licence that will arrive once the NZTA has approved your conversion will have a supervisor condition on it. This means that while on this licence you need to have a supervisor with you AT ALL times when you drive. A supervisor is someone who has a current New Zealand full driver licence, has held a New Zealand full driver licence for at least two years, and does not have a supervisor condition on their New Zealand full driver licence OR an overseas driver licence holder who has held their driver licence for at least two years and is still permitted to drive in New Zealand.

New Zealand Class 1 Full Licence with condition
New Zealand Class 1 Full Licence with condition

When you convert a driver licence from a non-exempt country, you get a New Zealand Class 1 Full Licence which is evidenced by a green-coloured card and has a condition of “Must be accompanied by supv (except moped/ATV)”. Some people have been known to call this a restricted driver licence when it actually is not. A restricted licence would be yellow-coloured and would have different conditions listed. Some affectionately call this converted licence a full learners because those on learners also need to have supervisors when they drive.

When you finally have a New Zealand driver licence card, you are not legally able to use your overseas driver licence anymore to drive in New Zealand even if it still is valid.

5. Schedule the practical driving test.

When my friends who arrived almost the same time as I booked the practical driving test in 2016, they did not have to wait for the physical New Zealand driver licence to arrive before they could schedule a practical driving test. However things have changed and I had to wait for it to arrive before I could book my practical driving test.

I had to wait two weeks for the card to arrive by mail. Well at least I do not have to claim it personally at an LTO office like in the Philippines.

It was raining on the day it arrived so I went to the testing site next day. I am told you can also book the practical driving test online but we like it analogue sometimes so….

I filled out the DL22 form – Application to rebook a driver licence test form which is not available online and paid the fee. I was given an appointment slip which I should bring on the actual test day.

Practical driving test/re-test fee: NZD 59.90 (plus 2% surcharge if paying using credit card)

6. Prepare for the full licence test

You must familiarise yourself with the full licence test guide. In this guide you would know what a Testing Officer would expect of you in a full licence testing environment.

You must know what critical and immediate fail errors are.

And you must know whether or not your car is roadworthy for the exam.

7. Sit the full licence test

You must bring your New Zealand driver licence card. No need to bring the passport since the New Zealand driver licence is also a proof of your identity.

You must also bring someone to accompany you who can be your supervisor (see above for supervisor rules) or who can drive your car while you sit in the passenger seat. I know of a story wherein he was given an immediate fail because he arrived in the testing site alone. Remember once we have the New Zealand full licence with condition, we could not drive without a supervisor anymore.

Sad to say, I had to sit this test twice due to a problem my driving instructor had previously attributed to my “rushing” and overconfidence. I failed to choose a safe gap in a give way intersection and my Testing Officer saw that as a failure to give way which is an immediate fail error. When I make mistakes I tend to always think about it after the event and to beat myself for it since I think I should know “this” already… So I promised not to make the same mistake again, ever. Not even in a non-testing environment.

I got my driving test feedback through email which is a nice touch (we’re saving paper!). There I saw my Testing Officer observations of my driving and reasons why I failed.

I sat the practical driving test the next week and I passed it with flying colours.  I got a paper temporary driver licence and the feedback instantly on my email.

Temporary New Zealand driver licence
Temporary New Zealand driver licence
VTNZ results page
VTNZ results page

A week or two later I received the actual card through the post.

New Zealand Class 1 Full Licence, no conditions
New Zealand Class 1 Full Licence, no conditions

No conditions this time.

Hopefully this has been helpful in guiding you through your conversion process. If you have questions or have anything to share, please feel free to use the comments section below. Ta.

2 Replies to “Convert a Philippine Driver Licence in New Zealand”

  1. Hi,

    Im also converting my driver’s licence …

    I have one question on your blog –
    “You must also bring someone to accompany you who can be your supervisor (see above for supervisor rules) or who can drive your car while you sit in the passenger seat. I know of a story wherein he was given an immediate fail because he arrived in the testing site alone.”

    Do you need someone for your practical test, someone with a NZ driver licence, But what if you still have a valid PH license that you can still use here in NZ, not yet 12 months old upon arrival … Thanks

    1. Hi Francis

      Your question is confusing. I am wondering if you have read and understood this post at all. 🙂

      Again when you convert an overseas driver licence, when you pass the theory test, you will get a New Zealand driver licence with conditions once the NZTA has approved your application to convert. Once you have the actual physical NZ driver licence, you are not allowed to use your overseas driver licence in NZ anymore. You cannot be yourself as a holder of an overseas driver licence to be your own supervisor because to be allowed to sit the practical exam, you need to show your NZ driver licence with conditions. And again to reiterate, once you hold an NZ driver licence you cannot drive on an overseas driver licence in NZ anymore. You must follow the conditions of your current NZ driver licence.

      You could bring a friend who still has not started the conversion process and has held his or her licence for more than 2 years or another friend who already has an NZ driver licence and has been fully licensed (whether overseas or in NZ) for more than 2 years.

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