When I first moved to Ireland in 2008, we didn’t plan to stay more than a year or two. We didn’t buy or lease a car since we were in Cork city centre, so no need for a driving permit. Then one year became two then three and I got pregnant. We realised we were staying longer than expected and chose to begin the process of acquiring Irish Driving Permits. Sadly, we couldn’t just transfer an American Driver’s License to an Irish Driving Permit like EU or EEA residents can. Even though we had been licensed in America for almost 20 years each at that point, but had to start from scratch here. So, we did. I wrote a post about the process at the time, but eventually I stopped pursuing the process because I didn’t have a car, but did have a child that didn’t sleep so my priorities were about day-to-day survival.
Fast forward to now and the kids are finally sleeping and I am looking at the future where I like the idea of having a license for when the time comes to get myself a car. I am researching the process again because things have changed and I have learned a bit more so I’m sharing it here. If you’ve gone through this process, feel free to comment and maybe we can help others too. Here are resources I’ve found and linked to:
Part of the requirement is a letter of driving record (aka Driver’s Abstract Record or Letter of Entitlement) from your state of residence DMV/MVA and this can be requested online for the cost of $10–20 and sent to your local address in Ireland. Uncertified can be emailed to you (this works for this requirement) and certified is mailed. Another part of the process requires you mail in your American licence and they send it back, eventually. But plan accordingly for this because you may not be able to drive for this period of time.
The main text that applies if you wish to transition from an American Driver’s License to an Irish Driving Permit is this:
“If you hold a valid and current national driving licence from a non-EU country or non-recognised state, you may drive in Ireland for the duration of your temporary visit (up to 12 months), (for example, if you hold a valid current licence from the United States), and you hold an international driving permit from your own country, you may drive in Ireland for the duration of your temporary visit (up to 12 months).
On taking up residence you should apply for an Irish driving licence but if you cannot exchange your foreign licence, you will need to go through the learning to drive process. You must first pass a driver theory test, apply for a learner permit, complete a course of Essential Driver Training (EDT) and pass your driving test in Ireland.
On 21 January 2019 the RSA introduced a reduced EDT programme for foreign licence holders that cannot exchange their licence in Ireland. These drivers can apply to avail of reduced EDT, where they are now required to undertake a minimum of six rather than twelve driving lessons. They can also apply to be exempted from the usual six month waiting period before first time learner permit holders can sit a driving test.
Please note: Once you obtain an Irish learner permit, this will take precedence over your full foreign driving licence and all rules and regulations pertaining to the holder of a learner permit applies / e.g., display of “L” plates, must be accompanied etc.”