Article by Francis Miller & Jin Zhou
Are you looking to buy, rent, or borrow a car in Xi’an? Or just drive a motor vehicle in China? In any case, you will need a Chinese driver’s license in order to legally operate a vehicle.
Getting a driver’s license in China requires significant preparation. If your Chinese is not at an advanced level, then it will be helpful (even necessary) to have a Chinese friend who can assist with some steps. However, the effort is well worth it. Once you have studied for the test and your paperwork is ready, you can have your driver’s license in hand in as fast as a day. Moreover, your first driver’s license will be valid for a period of 5 years, and it will allow you to drive a car just about anywhere in China!
For the sake of simplicity, this article is only going to explain getting a C1 driver’s license for a motor vehicle (not motorcycles) for foreign passport holders. Additionally, this article is only going to explain the process for those foreigners who already hold a driver’s license from their home country (if you are a foreigner without a driver’s license from your home country, the process is longer, more complex, and more expensive).
So, how do you get a license?
So, here is how to get started. You will first need to collect the following items:
- Your passport and a copy of your passport
- Your overseas driver’s license and a copy of your overseas driver’s license
- A copy of your residence permit (or other valid visa, which is required to be a visa of at least 1 year in duration)
- A copy of your registration form of temporary residence (This is from your local police station, called a 境外人员住宿登记表. This is from the registration process you are required to complete anytime you change employers, residences, or visas.)
- A notarized translation of your overseas driver’s license from a certified translation agency in Xi’an. If you have trouble finding one, ask around!
- A driver’s license health check (to find a hospital closest to you, use https://sn.122.gov.cn/#map – at the top of this page, you can use the 服务内容 to select 驾驶人体检. The map on this page will then populate with hospitals that provide the health check for drivers. Click on the hospital result to get the phone number. Make sure you bring cash to pay the fee which will be at least 25 RMB, and make sure you can squat and see clearly (This is seriously part of the test). If you are colorblind, you may have difficulty passing the eyesight tests. Finally, make sure you can say all digits from 0-9 in Chinese, because one test will require you to read numbers. I personally completed my health check at Shanxisheng Jiaotongyiyuan 陕西省交通医院.
- At least four 1-inch photos with a white background.
When You Are Ready
When you have your documents and you can confidently score a 90 or higher on your practice tests, you will need to go to the application and test center. I personally went to the No. 19 Dongyilu location (东仪路19号), or the Xi’an Public Security Bureau Traffic Police Vehicle Management Southern Branch (西安市公安局交通警察支队车辆管理所南区分所). If you are living in central Xi’an, this is also probably where you need to go. However, you should check with your local police office ahead of time to confirm.
Bring a book (there is a lot of waiting), money, and, ideally, a patient Chinese friend. First, when you find the application center and test registration room, you will need to take a ticket to wait until an official can process your documents. After your documents have been processed, you will receive an application that you can fill out to register for your test (also make sure you have a Chinese name picked out ahead of time). Then you must go to the test registration room, where you can choose a day and time to take your test. If you do this in the morning, you can usually schedule a test time on the same day.
When your test date and time are confirmed, find the testing room. You will need to wait until just 20-30 minutes before your test time. Then you will be called into another area where someone will review test rules. You will have to empty your pockets (there are usually lockers, but having a friend available to hold your stuff is a lot easier).
Finally, when you are seated in front of your testing computer, make sure your face stays within the view of the test camera, otherwise your test could be invalidated. After you pass, collect your results, and then go to the appropriate office to submit them. You will need to wait anywhere from another 30 minutes to a couple hours to collect your license. Before you leave with your license, make sure your information is correct. Good luck, and drive safely!