How to apply for a driver’s license in Shanghai?

This article is a guide on how foreign nationals managed to obtain their Chinese driver’s license in Shanghai.

The basic information (probably) applies to other cities as well.

Note: This article was originally written in 2008 when I applied for my driver’s license but has been updated on Dec 4, 2021 to make it more current.

As you may be aware, China does not recognize a foreign or international driver’s license so if you have a valid one, you may convert it to a Chinese license by taking part in a theory exam.

If you follow all these steps you will be able to get everything done without having to speak Chinese and make the whole process a bit easier.

Documents Checklist:

  • Check if your visa is valid for 90 days or more.
    • Note: The minimum admission period must be 90 days, irrespective of the visa you have.
    • As a result of this requirement, it is smart to get your license while you can, your Chinese driving license will be valid for 6 years.
  • Make sure your current driver’s license is valid and is NOT a temporary or apprentice license.
    • The staff has an iPad with apparently pictures of licenses from all over the world and they will check their database to see when they are not sure.
  • Obtain a certified translation for your driver’s license.
    • You must have a certified translation of your original driving license. Take your original driving license to the address below. Prices vary for each country of origin.
      上海上外翻译总公司
      Shanghai SISU Translation Service Co.
      赤峰路573号,近曲阳路
      573 Chifeng Lu, near Quyang Lu Hongkou District
      Tel. 65362032
      Opening Hours: Mon-Fri, 8.30am-4.30pm
  • Obtain the accommodation registration from police station. This applies to any foreign national, even if you already have your residence permit in your passport. You should already have it if you’re living in China.
  • Do the physical checkup, process the documents and request a theoretical test date.
  • Take the following documents to the Driving Licensing Authority of the Shanghai Vehicle Management Board ( 哈 密 路 1330 号/ Hami Road 1330).

Tips regarding how to pick up a Chinese name:

Ensure you have all the documents ready and do NOT forget that if a photocopy does not contain a Chinese name you cannot get a license.

The easiest way to get a Chinese name is to ask a Chinese friend, so you’re sure it’s a proper name.

Another good way is to use the Chinese name of a famous someone/ actor that you share your name with.

How to get to the Shanghai Vehicle Management Bureau?

Take the subway line 10 to the station named “Shanghai Zoo”. From exit #1, go up the stairs, turn left and cross the bridge. You will see the main street and a lateral street on the left.

Look for building #10 to go have your photos taken (price 25 RMB), then building 9 to collect them. After you have your pictures bring them to the lady/man with the medical forms, make sure to fill in the forms with black pen ONLY.

If you have difficulty writing Chinese characters, you may ask the staff for help. Proceed to pay 60 RMB for the medical exam.

After that, you should take the medical test in the same building on the second floor

For the medical check, you will be directed to go from room to another. After the last test, go to the man at the end of the corridor and have the forms stamped for sign-off.

Once done, go to Building #1 to get the date of your written test. After you enter, turn left to get a number and you will probably need to show your papers. you will be directed to go to the end of the second floor (Window 41 & 42) and await your turn. They will check all the papers and give you a date for the exam if all the documents are cleared.

Taking the test:

Go up to the second floor where you will find a door at the end of the corridor, go right and then left to find the stairs that will take you to the third floor.

Hand over all forms to the guard or the woman and wait for your name (in Chinese) to be called. Give the woman at the office your passport and she will ask you which language you want to take your exam in. I selected English in my case, but you can take the exam, if you so wish, in one of the other following languages:

  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Russian

Getting the driver’s license:

The outcome of the test will be one of the following:

  • If you succeed, they will give you a form with a pass note.
  • If you don’t pass you will need to re-book.

In either case, go back to the first floor to get a new number. Go back up to the second floor to hand in the forms when they call you.

You will be told to pay 90 RMB at one of the Windows (30, 31 or 32) on the same floor.

After paying, come back to one of the windows (40, 41, or 42) to get your license right away.

When you are presented with your driver’s license, you have successfully completed your quest.

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