Those with US drivers licenses are not in the driver’s seat in Ireland.
Welcome, citizens of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Welcome to Ireland, here is your driving license, valid in Ireland. Stay as long as you wish, and swap for an Irish license if you like.
Welcome to citizens of Australia, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, New Zealand, Taiwan, Ontario Province of Canada, Manitoba Province of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Province of Canada, British Columbia Province of Canada.
You, too, can drive on your license then swap for our license. No problem.
Obviously, the missing country is (cough, cough) the United States. Why is this so? Here's what Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told IrishCentral recently. As to the issue of Irish emigrants moving back to Ireland and having to start all over again with driver's licenses, bank accounts, etc., Varadkar said the issue had "come to his attention in various ways."
On driving licenses, he stated that because of the huge disparity in driving tests in America he didn't want somebody driving in Ireland who has passed a driving test “nowhere near the standard of the Irish driving test."
So there you are, New York City drivers, California highway drivers – you, unlike those from all those other countries, are not house trained enough to deserve a driver's license in Ireland if you want to settle there.
It seems like an incredibly arrogant statement for the new taoiseach to make. American drivers are no less capable than drivers anywhere else.
They all but invented the automobile, take inordinate pride in their driving skills, have excellent safety records, yet are considered inferior to at least 40 other countries' drivers.
Indeed, if you are an Irish emigrant who has lived more than 10 years abroad you have to get to the back of the line and apply all over again for your Irish driver's license.
Never mind that you may have driven a decade or more in Ireland before you left. You are inferior to drivers from all those other countries.
Never mind that you held a license before you left Ireland and have been driving accident-free ever since in the U.S. It just does not matter.
And, yes, this is going to cost you gangbusters in terms of insurance as you are considered a new driver irrespective of your past record.
Maybe there is some fault on the American side, some failure to act on what is utterly obvious that drivers in Ireland and America should be able to exchange driver’s licenses.
It is time some smart folks in both countries figured this one out. If Ireland wants to welcome emigrants home as it says it does, and some Americans want to legally settle in Ireland, the least that can be done is make it as easy as possible.
Clearly, that is not the case right now but this should be remedied as quickly as possible.