All driving licences issued in countries recognized by Finland are accepted for driving at the Finnish mainland.
This means that if you are for example a tourist who came by car or if you intend to rent a car for your vacation in Finland, or if you have moved recently and you hold a driving licence issued at your home country, you will be entitled to drive in Finland while your licence is still valid.
However, regulation turns somewhat stricter for foreigners who intend to live permanently in the country. And the requirements are not the same for everyone.
In some cases, such as people from other Member States of the European Union, they have the right to exchange their licence for a Finnish one if they wish. In other cases, it is mandatory to do so within a period of time set by law. And be careful, because if that period is exceeded, it may be necessary to undergo a driving test. Finally, people of certain nationalities will be in any case required to take the driving examination.
According to the information published by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom, the rules for each case are the following:
Driving licences issued by EU/EEA Member States
If you are the holder a driving licence issued at any of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) Member States, you can drive in Finland for as long as the licence is valid.
In this case, permanent residents or persons who have studied in Finland for at least six months may exchange or renew their driving licences for a Finnish licence. Lost, stolen or destroyed driving licences issued in an EU or EEA Member State can also be replaced for a Finnish licence.
If the EU or EEA licence has expired, the holder must enclose a medical certificate with the application. To pass a driving examination will not be necessary if the driving licence is still valid or less than 2 years passed since the expiry of the Group 1 licence (AM120, AM121, T, A1, A2, A, B, BE), or under a year has passed since the expiry of a Group 2 licence (C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, D, DE).
In order to exchange the driving licence, the holder must visit an Ajovarma office. Be sure to bring the following documents:
- Your driving licence issued in an EU or EEA country or, if you do not have the driving licence a driving licence extract from the country that issued your driving licence.
- Your passport or other official ID.
- Two photoghraphs.
Depending on the case, it may be also needed:
- A medical certificate, if the EU or EEA licence you are exchanging has expired or you want to upgrade your driving licence from Group 1 to Group 2 at the same time.
- A study certificate, if you have been studying in Finland for at least 6 months, but you are not a permanent resident of Finland.
The new driving licence will be sent to your home address within 3 weeks from the date you have submitted your driving licence to be exchanged for a Finnish one. You will be provided with a temporary driving licence for this period.
Driving licences issued by 'Contracting States'
Permanent residents who hold a valid driving licence issued in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan or a country that has signed the Geneva or Vienna Road Traffic Convention (those are the so-called 'Contracting States'), can also exchange the licence for an A1, A2, A or B Class driving licence without passing the driving examination.
In order to exchange the licence and avoid the driving examination, this must be done within two years of becoming permanent resident in Finland and before the Contracting State licence expires.
If the driving licence to exchange has expired or you have been permanently resident in Finland for over two years, you must also pass a driving examination (theory and driving test).
However, regardless of all this, it will be needed to pass the driving examination (theory and driving test) to obtain a licence in the Group 2 and BE category.
When exchanging your driving licence issued in a Contracting State at Ajovarma, you will need to carry with youi:
- Passport or other official ID.
- Two photographs.
- A medical certificate.
- The foreign licence (plus an official translation into Finnish, Swedish or English if the licence is written in a non-Latin alphabet).
You must submit your foreign driving licence, as an attachment to your application, to Ajovarma, which will send it to Traficom for safekeeping.
You will be issued with a temporary driving licence while your licence is in the process of being exchanged. The temporary driving licence will be valid for a maximum of 6 months, however, this period may not exceed the period of validity of the foreign driving licence. You are not allowed to drive abroad on the basis of the temporary driving licence.
The process for exchanging a Contracting State driving licence at Trafi and receiving a Finnish driving licence in your home address will take around six weeks.
The Finnish traffic authorities warn that, If the authenticity of the foreign driving licence cannot be directly verified, or additional information is requested from the customer, processing the case and provision of a Finnish driving licencee may take longer: from 1 to 4 months from submitting the application.
If you have also applied for a Group 2 right to drive or the exchange is only possible through a driving examination and you are issued with a driving licence permit for taking the driving examination, you will be provided with a Finnish driving licence within 3 weeks from passing the examination.
Your foreign driving licence will be returned to you only if you move permanently away from Finland. You must then return your Finnish driving licence to Ajovarma.
Another important condition to bear in mind: if your Contracting State driving licence was granted when you were permanently resident in Finland, it cannot be exchanged for a Finnish driving licence. In this case you can only get a Finnish driving licence through mandatory lessons and driving examination.
If you want to check the list of 'Contracting States' who signed the Geneva or Vienna Road Traffic Convention and the list of EU and EEA countries, you can do so by clicking HERE
Other countries recognized by Finland
If your driving licence was not issued in an EU, EEA or Contracting State, to obtain a Finnish driving licence you will have to apply for a driving licence permit, prove that you fulfill the related terms and conditions and pass the driving examination.
You must submit your foreign driving licence and a medical certificate as an attachment to your application, to Ajovarma.
The new driving licence will be sent to your home address within 2 weeks from passing the examination.
If your driving licence was issued in a state that is not recognized by Finland, or you were permanently resident in Finland when you were granted a driving licence by a non-recognized state, your licence cannot be accepted as a basis for passing the Finnish driving examination.