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Converting Your Foreign Drivers License

Page history last edited by KumamotoPA 13 years, 4 months ago

If you spend more than one year in Japan, you can`t drive legally without a Japanese Driver's License.


Even if your International License has not yet expired, you have one year from the original date on your Japanese visa to convert your foreign license into a Japanese one.



Converting a foreign license is a long and tedious process, but with some patience and a little luck it can be done relatively painlessly. Everyone must collect the required documents beforehand, spend several hours completing paperwork at the Menkyo [License] Center, and take an eye test, which costs ¥2400. An additional fee of ¥1750 is collected with each license conversion. JETs with American, South African, Indian Jamaican, Singaporean or Chinese licenses also need to take a written test and a driving test.




First, check that your home country’s license meets certain specific criteria: 

It must say “date of issue” or “issue date.”

- If your home license uses a different term to refer to the date you received your license or if it does not include this information at all, you will need to obtain a letter from the licensing center in your home country (state/province) stating the date when your license was issued.

The date of issue must be at least three months prior to your arrival in Japan (though the Menkyo Center prefers it be at least one year before your arrival).

- If you renewed your license within three months of coming to Japan, you will need to obtain a driving record or letter from the licensing center in your home country (State/Province) stating the date when your first driver’s license was issued.

- If you received a license for the very first time within three months of coming to Japan, you will not be able to convert to a Japanese license and will need to obtain a Japanese license from the start (i.e. by attending driving school) in order to drive in Japan.



Next you will need to get your home country’s license officially translated into Japanese.

This can only be done at your country’s consulate or the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF). In Kumamoto, it’s easiest to go with JAF. The translation costs ¥3000 and you can get it by mail or in person at the JAF office. Either way, download the application form at: www.jaf.or.jp/e/switch.htm

- By mail (takes one week): send the application form, copy of home license (front and back), and the ¥3000 fee plus ¥290 return postage by genkin kakitome (registered mail for cash) from any post office to the following address:

テ861-8038 Kumamoto-shi, NagamineHigashi 6-30-30

テ861-8038  熊本市長嶺東 6-30-30

- In person (takes about an hour): take the application form, your home license, and the \3000 fee to the JAF office. It is located where Dai 1 Kuko Dori (#1 Rd to the Airport) passes under the Kyushu Express way.

If you had to get a letter from your home licensing center, you will likely need to pay to get that translated, as well. Call JAF to inquire about the process and fees. JAF can only do certain translations, so you might have to go through your consulate.



Another document you need to get is a “Foreign Registration Certificate.”

This is different from your Alien Registration Card. It is a piece of paper issued by your city or town hall that verifies you still live where your Alien Registration Card says you live. The form is called Touroku Genpyou Kisaijikou Shoumeishou (登録原票記載事項証明書) in Japanese. It costs about \300 and can usually be issued in just a few minutes.





Finally, you will also need to prove that you were physically present in the country where the license was issued for more than 3 months after it was issued.


Ideally, this can be done by looking at the stamps in your passport. You may be asked to make a list of the trips you’ve taken and show the page numbers of the stamps that match each border crossing. Make the list in advance to save time. However, if there is an exit or entry stamp missing - many countries do not stamp passports these days – your passport alone will not be sufficient. The simplest way for most people to prove they were present in their home country is to provide university transcripts or a reference letter from a previous employer with dates that show you were there for 3 months. Though the Menkyo Center prefers an original, it is possible to use a photocopy of your transcripts or a reference letter from your JET application if it has an official stamp of authentication (genponshoumei (原本証明) in Japanese) from your Contracting Organization.  Finally, if you use a reference letter, this must also be translated into Japanese (doesn’t have to be an official translation, though).




Before you go to the Menkyo Center, call and make an appointment.

The number is 096-233-0116. Applications for transferring licenses are only accepted between 10:30AM and 11:00AM Monday – Friday. The license transfer process is called 外国免許切替(がいこくめんきょきりかえ) in Japanese. You will need to make an appointment, and when you do so, the Menkyo Center staff will ask to make sure you have the appropriate documents.




When you go to the Menkyo Center, bring the following documents and items:

- Passport

- University Transcripts or Letter of Reference (original or authenticated photocopy) showing that you lived in the country for at least 3 months at some point after you received your licens

- Valid Foreign Drivers License

- JAF Translation of Foreign Drivers License

- [An International License is not required, but if you have one it’s not a bad idea to bring it.]

- Alien Registration [Gaijin] Card

- Foreign Registration Certificate

- Inkan

- 2 Passport photos (or they can be taken at a booth at the Menkyo Center when you get there)

- Fee money: ¥1750 plus ¥2400 (and ¥700 for the photo booth if necessary)




** Everything related to the procedure is conducted in Japanese.


If you do not understand and speak Japanese, you need to bring someone to interpret for you. (In general, a 3kyu level ability or higher will suffice)



The Menkyo Center is in Kikuyo Town, just north of Kumamoto City.


It is on the same road as the Prefectural Athletic Park (Park Dome/KKWing). Buses leave from platform 14 of the Kotsu Center (main bus terminal) at 8:37, 9:13, 9:32, 10:05, and 10:40. They should say “driver’s license center” on the front.


When you arrive at the center, go up the stairs/escalator to the second floor and turn left. The office is on the left, down a small hallway just before the last set of help/payment windows.

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