Changes to driving license requirements getting a mixed reaction

States are coming up with new rules for driver's license requirements for those coming in, with Victoria leading the way and NSW likely to follow.

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The topic of changes to driving license requirements has been doing the rounds over the past couple of years, with each state and territory having different rules and regulations.

It’s been common practice to allow overseas visitors, such as international students and those on temporary visas, to drive on the driving license from their country of origin, provided it is still valid, (as Australia is a signatory to the UN’s Geneva Convention on Road Traffic). The same rules have applied to Australian citizens and permanent residents with Australian licenses if they move interstate.


  • A federal structure means, different states and territories in Australia can have their own set of rules and regulations
  • Victoria and NT have introduced a time limit by which, those driving on overseas licenses and those coming in from another part of Australia, will need to shift to a Victorian / NT license respectively
  • Stakeholders contend that although this might cause unease for overseas license holders, particularly international students and temporary workers, it might help in making our roads safer in the long term

However, of late, some states have tightened their regulations around these requirements. During the pandemic, Victoria moved to put a six month limit to the timeframe by which all overseas visitors driving on their country of origin licenses, as well as all those who have moved from another state, to acquire a Victorian driving license. The Northern Territory has also put an even shorter time limit of three months.

“Victoria being the education state of Australia has a lot of in-flow of international students and people on work visas. Rather than the driving license rules being supportive [to those coming in], the rules have been made in such a way that people feel rushed to get their license,” Karan Mehta, Chairperson of the Indian Students’ Association of Victoria told Indian Link.

“Not having a valid driving license makes commute difficult, especially for the ones living in suburban Melbourne which has very low public transport connectivity. It genuinely disrupts their opportunities of work, travel, and even their ability to commute for their day-to-day essentials.”

For many international students who pick up odd jobs like delivering food or driving cabs to meet their living expenses, these rules can have a massive impact on their ability to support themselves in Australia.

Muskaan Hakhu, a career professional and a former international student based out of Melbourne, noted that these regulations might add to the stress for individuals trying to settle in.

“When you move to a new place, there are hundreds of new things that you need to look out for, whether you are an international student or someone moving from overseas.

“Putting a time limit to the validity of overseas licenses within Victoria might be very overwhelming for a lot of people,” she said.

READ ALSO: Indian Students’ Association of Victoria: giving Indian international students a voice

Aussie road rules in different states
Aussie road rules in different states. Source: Canva

According to recent figures, there are over 95,000 international student visa holders in Victoria alone, with numbers continuing to rise after borders opened in December 2021. With a large intake of student visa and temporary visa holders still expected, the rules need to be brought in keeping in mind people’s “needs, wellbeing requirements, and employment challenges”, Muskaan contended.

When it comes to overseas driving licenses, there are concerns in the wider community regarding road safety and vehicle accidents.

“Every country has its own distinct rules and regulations and nuances, when it comes to driving on roads. People coming to Australia from different parts of the world and driving on their overseas license, without having a full grasp over the rules and dynamics of driving here, might lead to worsening of the road safety situation,” Ravindra from the Melbourne based driving school, DriveGuru, told Indian Link.

“Since Australia has a strong federal structure, the driving rules may also vary from state-to-state to a degree — and therefore if a state [or territory government] wants to install a mandatory requirement for every one moving in, to have a local driver’s license, is absolutely justified in taking such a measure [to secure its residents on its roads],” he stressed.

In a move that rests the fears of many who are having to go through the process of acquiring a driver’s license in Victoria, Daniel Andrews, the Victorian Premier has announced that the state government would be making the Ls and Ps free for new drivers — getting them a saving of $51.40 in licence and online testing fees for the Learners and $133.30 in licence and online hazard perception testing fees for those going for their Probationary License.

READ ALSO: How driving rules in Australia vary from state to state

That said, the in-person learner permit and licence testing appointment fees, as well as Drive Test fees will continue to remain. Those on an overseas driver’s license would also have to additionally pay $19.60 for a licence verification appointment after completing their online Learner Permit test, before they can be issued a learner’s permit or sit further tests.

Recently, there have been reports of NSW coming up with a similar three-month time limit, by which all individuals on temporary visas with overseas licenses and those who move interstate, would be required to obtain a NSW license.

However, there has been no official announcement on this issue by the NSW government so far.

Manu Prakaash
Manu Prakaash
Manu is the founder of a strategic communications and public affairs consultancy and a journalist, based out of Canberra. His professional experience is complemented by his Masters in International Relations and an MBA. Manu's research and writing interests include India-Australia relations, international affairs, politics, public policy, international education, climate change, and strategic best practices in business and leadership. On the weekends, you'll find Manu hiking in and driving around, some of Canberra's many national parks, along with his family.

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