Date: 2006-10-01 19:50:00
bureaucracies are the same everywhere
Last saturday, I got all my paperwork together and wandered down to the LTSA (kiwi equivalent of DMV) office to convert my Canadian driver's license to a New Zealand one. In order to convert an existing license without having to do the practical driving test, you need to have held your overseas license for at least two years. Since I had just converted my Texas license to a British Columbia license in November 2005, I also brought confirmation from my TX insurance company that I had an automobile policy (with no claims). I figured that would be as good as anything to show that I had a driver's license there.

The agent wasn't sure about the insurance letter so she called to the LTSA office who said that wouldn't be acceptable. So, I went home empty-handed. Later that day I realised that I had a couple of previous licenses, one from BC valid from 1990 to 1995, and one from California valid from 1996 to 2000. With that, I figured I was set.

Yesterday, I went back and tried again, presenting all three licenses to the agent (different agent from the previous time). This time, she called the LTSA main office and spoke to somebody, but they weren't able to give a definite answer because there was no "team leader" there at the time. The problem was that even though my original BC license was issued in 1990, has the same name, address, birthdate, photo likeness, and license number, I still don't have any documentation that links them up and shows that I have held a valid driver's license for that whole period of time! Even if I still had every single license I had been issued between those times (three in California and one in Texas), they wouldn't be able to accept them all as me, because they have different numbers. Nor would it be possible to get confirmation from the BC DMV (who issued my only currently valid license) that I have had a license for more than two years, because I wasn't licensed in BC due to not actually living there. Confirmation from Texas wouldn't work either because although my license would still be valid if I still had it, I had to surrender it when getting my BC license last November. Surrendering a license invalidates it.

It turns out that you can drive for 12 months on an overseas license after arriving in New Zealand. One piece of information I found out from the LTSA agent was that every time you arrive in New Zealand, that 12 month timer starts again. So, as long as we take a trip outside the country (oh, say, to Australia) before March 2007, we can drive for another 12 months after that. Then, in November 2007 I will finally be able to apply for a New Zealand license.

Dealing with the LTSA (to get a driver's license) makes the dealing with the NZIS (New Zealand Immigration Service) look easy! It will take longer to get a driver's license here than it did to get permanent residency. Oh, and I got confirmation of the right to vote the other day. But I still can't get a piece of plastic with my name and address on it.
[info]edm : New Zealand driver's license
Out of interest is there some reason you're not taking the path of least resistance here, and doing the practical driving test? AFAIK if you're already licensed somewhere else you don't have to do the whole "new driver" process, just a practical test plus proof that you had a previous (overseas) license.

It does seem foolish that a combination of overseas licenses isn't sufficient (and especially that they can't verify it with the overseas authorities), but fighting the system is usually futile.

[info]ghewgill : Re: New Zealand driver's license
Oh, yeah I forgot to mention that. I could take the practical test, but that'd cost an extra $70. For me, it's now about the principle of the thing rather than the money. I'm also going to call LTSA myself on monday and see whether I can convince them that I have enough proof.
[info]mduell : Re: New Zealand driver's license
In Mass, it's just the opposite.

Driving test + license is $40 or $60 (I forget), but converting an out of state is $90. Either way they require four forms of ID, one each for date of birth, signature, citizenship, and residency, which for many people is a total pain (time+money to obtain enough forms of ID).
Be thankful that it's a piece of plastic! When my family moved to NZ, the driver's license was a dotmatrix printed slip of paper, with no picture on it. Try using that when you're overseas and someone asks for ID!

But that makes me wonder -- you want a local license mostly for the ID-ness of it? My brother doesn't drive and so he doesn't have a driver's license, and he seems to live fine in NZ. When he visited me recently, we went to a concert at a bar and he used his university ID to get in (which thankfully had his birthday and thankfully the doorman accepted it). But I got the impression from that experience that the driver's license isn't the de facto ID card like it is in the US (where it's so much the de facto that DMVs -- and RMVs, like it's call in Massachusetts -- offer cards that don't carry the driving privledges, just for ID purposes).

I'm wondering if you're carrying some cultural baggage related to drivers licenses or if they are also de facto ID cards in NZ too, and my brother is just an anomaly :)

(BTW, there ought to a classic-ish word for US-Canadian, you know like judeochristian. Like amerocanadian. So I could ask if you're hanging on to some amerocanadian cultural baggage :)
I wouldn't be concerned about this if I weren't driving, but now that we have a car I think I should have a driver's license. Yes, my Canadian license works but what if I were to get stopped by the police for some reason? I'd have to produce my license, and I don't normally carry my passport with me on a day-to-day basis so I wouldn't be able to prove that I had been in the country for less than a year. If I'm driving here, I should have a driver's license.

I've only run into a very few situations where I actually needed to produce identification, and in those cases my passport was fine.
An International Driver's Permit should solve that problem. You should be able to carry it with your foreign driver's license and not need a passport afaik. I got one (and still haven't used it - I've not driven a car in 9 months!)

Speaking of bureaucratic nonsense, a2na applied for a new Polish passport since hers will expire soon. She had a photo taken by a passport photo service, gave it to a bureaucrat, who said it was fine, then 3 weeks later another bureaucrat telephoned her to say her photo was unacceptable and she needed to give them a new one.
Yep, and they would have been $30 from your local AAA office in Austin :)
I looked into getting an IDP before we left but there was no benefit - an IDP is only good for 12 months after arriving in NZ, just like a driver's license from Canada.
I wouldn't worry about it; if they decide your word isn't sufficient and issue a citation, it's quite easy to produce the passport to the court. I don't see the cops making a big deal of it though, everytime I've delt with cops they've been decent. In fact, I got a speeding ticket at a speed trap on South Island in Jan, and when I produced my NZ lic the cop asked if I still had an overseas one, so he could apply the offence to it instead of my NZ one (and avoid the demerits points against the NZ). So my experience has been pretty relaxed.
Hah. Gotta love it. Had similar bit of drama with Sam; her lic expired a few days before she made it to LTSA, but fortunately they let her slide.
Greg Hewgill <>