Monday, January 19, 2009

Consequences of a Dutch driver’s license

Image of Washington Driver's LicenseWithin 180 days of becoming resident in the Netherlands, I was required to supplement my Residency card with a baby-girl pink Dutch driver’s license if I wanted to operate a car.  The process is painless: just fill in a form and visit City Hall.  There wasn’t a written examination or a road test, not even a fee.

Easy, but not without surprises.  I didn’t expect to have to surrender my Washington state driver’s license in exchange for the Dutch one.

What will you do with my license?  “We’ll send it back.”

Back where?  “Back where you got it.”

And what about when I go back to the US?  “We will get it back and return it to you.”

It made little sense but I’m the guest, so I handed over my US  license.  And, on my next trip to Seattle, I cleverly reported my license as lost and got a replacement.  Problem solved.

Until I needed to get some Sudafed for the kids.

Cold medications contain chemicals that are used to make methamphatamine, so you have to ask a pharmacist for the product.  They, in turn, have to query a state database, which requires a driver’s license.

She squinted at my baby-girl pink card and asked what state it was from.  The Netherlands?

She looked at the computer screen and asked for a two-letter code.  NL?

She typed that in as the State, and the computer coughed. “Sorry, you can’t have Sudafed.”

I cursed Dutch efficiency in actually sending the license back to someone who cared enough to take me out of the state database.  That meant that my replacement was now invalid as well.  Check and mate.

The loss of my US license has caused other problems.  Airport security is not amused by passengers bearing a Dutch ID, and I’ve been pulled out of line to dig out alternative ID.  I had to reapply to keep access as a state voter, and am now correctly classed as an expatriate with ballots coming to my Dutch address.  And it’s helped to have a black-and-white copy of my US driver’s license to show as backup to my Dutch one.

Finally, although I had an International Driver’s License, nobody ever cared or asked for it, and I have let it lapse without issue.


Unknown said...

How awful!

You must've fallen into the 30% ruling for your work to get the driver's license! In order for me to get my Dutch driver's license, also a US citizen holding a driver's license for 20 years, I must go through the exams and perhaps take 'lessons' on how to drive before I may have my Dutch driver's license. This link tells all about it:

Strangely, in Germany I can just hand over my license without an issue and receive a German driver's license, which the Netherlands will except in exchange as well. Odd laws!

However, on the other hand, I DO want to hang onto my US driver's license for exactly the same reasons you've mentioned. Most agencies in the US require two pieces of valid identification [banks, for example].

Dave Hampton said...

I didn't realize that my process was a consequence of being a knowledge worker: thanks for the clarification!

There's a rumor that the best way to get a Dutch license was to go to the Dutch Carribean to take lessons and get a license to transfer back up to Europe?

Nan said...

My husband and I also traded in our US licenses for Dutch licenses and requested that the Dutch government return the American licenses to us before we moved back to the US. Long story short, the consulate said the licenses would be returned to the state BMV that issued them...when I called the BMV, they had no record of our returned licenses. If your license hasn't expired, you can get a replacement with your passport and your Social Security card at a BMV branch. Good luck!

Dave Hampton said...

Thanks, Nan, I wondered about the procedure. At least that gives me something to try. I had visions of trying to exchange my baby-girl pink license at the local DMV, and being sent directly to start over with the driver's test