Some holders of expired licenses will be able to drive in Rheinland-Pfalz

Traffic flows along the A6 Autobahn above Kaiserlautern, Germany, Jan. 15, 2015. There are about 50,000 Americans in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. A dispute between the U.S. and Germany over whether a USAREUR license is valid if the bearer's U.S. state license has expired has many worried they might be driving illegally.



KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Rheinland-Pfalz will allow Americans with expired stateside licenses to resume driving as long as they have paperwork to verify their licenses are considered valid in the state where they were issued.

The policy change, which Rheinland-Pfalz’s Land Office of Mobility sent to municipalities in an email, comes nearly a month after German authorities in the region stopped acknowledging the validity of a U.S. forces license as a stand-alone document.

U.S. Army Europe, which oversees the licensing of American forces in the country, said the German side made a decision unilaterally after reinterpreting a section of a multilateral agreement on the status of NATO forces in the country.

Under the amended policy, an American with an expired stateside driver’s license will have to carry documentation translated into German showing that the state where the license was issued still considers it valid. Some states grant automatic license extensions to military personnel as long as they remain on active duty and reside outside the state.

A U.S. Army Europe spokeswoman said the command is aware of the “opinion” provided by the mobility office, “and appreciate their cooperation and consideration in an attempt to mitigate legal proceedings until the issue is resolved at the federal level.”

However, the command maintains the position that, under a supplement to the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, U.S. Forces personnel are only required to carry a valid certificate of license and ID card.

“The USAREUR Certificate of License already serves the purpose the LandesBetrieb Mobilität is attempting to accomplish by requesting an additional confirmation,” spokeswoman Hilde Patton said in an email. “Consequently, there is no legal basis under the NATO SOFA and Supplementary Agreement to require US Forces personnel carry any such additional confirmation or certificate.”

The new policy will also allow U.S. forces license holders who went through a defunct driver training program to apply for German licenses. The policy applies only to those who went through the program and got their military licenses before March 29, 1998.

According to USAREUR, more than 9,300 people who were licensed before that date are still in Germany.

American personnel will also be allowed to trade their expired stateside licenses for German ones. Those wanting to go this route would have to provide translated documentation verifying that the license is considered valid in the state in which it was issued; they would also have to surrender it to German authorities. They’ll be able to get their stateside licenses back if they return the German license to the German authorities.

German officials haven’t settled on how much to charge for the exchange, which won’t be available until at least March 1. An official said local authorities had discussed charging between 30 and 100 euros for the exchange.

Germans in the county surrounding Kaiserslautern pay 43.40 euros — about $50 — for a new license.

It was not clear Friday whether the exchange would be available to all U.S. license holders or just those whose states have reciprocal agreements with Germany recognizing the validity of each other’s licenses.

Jennifer Svan contributed to this report.



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