So you think you would like to move to Ireland. There is a lot to consider, but make sure you add to the list the fact that getting an Irish driver's license is a long, annoying process, and insulting too, if you're an experienced driver.
Ireland has reciprocity agreements with all EU members and a list of other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and South Africa. The Canadian province of Ontario was recently added to the list and rest of Canada is expected to follow shortly.
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That means anyone moving from any of those countries to Ireland or from Ireland to any of those countries can swap their license. No problem.
What country is not on the list? Why it's the good ol US of A, of course.
As any American knows there is no such thing as an American or US license. Every state has its own laws and regulations regarding the licensing of drivers and issues its own licenses. They even have their own reciprocal agreements with foreign licensing bodies. Those vary from state to state, but no state has such an agreement with Ireland.
So, if you move to America from Ireland or vice versa you'll have to go through the same process as any new driver. Like I said, every state has its own rules, but if you're applying for a license in one of the 50 states you can count on a written test, a driving test and some form mandatory safe-driving course.
All of that would be aggravating enough, but if you're moving the other direction – eastwards – it's much more involved.
You have your usual written test to get the learner's permit, but then things get much trickier. You can't get a permit and go directly to the driving test. You first have to take 12 hours of lessons spread out over six months.
Oh, and those lessons are going to cost you $500 or more. (If that shocks you – and it would me – then the cost of your car insurance might well finish you off. Obviously, the rates will vary across companies and by individual circumstances so shop around, but be ready for nothing under €1,000 ($1,360) for a basic, annual policy.)
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Only when you've completed all 12 hours of lessons can you apply to take the driving test.
So if you're moving to Ireland and you want to drive a car you should probably sell your first-born to cover the costs involved and take up some form of meditation so that you have the requisite patience to endure the six months (minimum) wait until you can get a full license and (possibly) legally drive in Ireland. (I say “possibly” because it's also possible that you can legally drive for the first 12 months on an International Driving Permit, but the Irish government is vague on that. They seem to like a bit of ambiguity in their rules of the road.)
Now, after waiting the six plus months and swallowing the massive costs involved (& I never mentioned the price of a car – better not to look right now) all of that is behind you and there's nothing more to worry about, right? Well, no. That used to be the case, but no longer.
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The government has added a new twist recently. All new drivers – and that includes you with your 15 years of licensed driving in the state of Massachusetts or wherever – must now display big red “N” plates in the front and back windows of your car. That's “N” as in novice or newbie.
Maybe it's my age or my personality, but having to display a sign designed for 18-year-old drivers in my car windows would really gall me. I'd find it insulting, humiliating, infuriating. It might even be enough to discourage me moving to Ireland. It would be a big "N" for NO THANK YOU.
* Originally published in 2014.