Moving to Australia and becoming a permanent resident is a complicated endeavour at the best of times, and it can be disheartening to go through the lengthy, complex process only to find that once you've settled, you can't actually drive anywhere. Unfortunately, even if you hold a valid foreign driving license, you can only drive legally on Australian roads for as long as your current license is valid, and many states require you to provide other documentation (such as translations) alongside it.
Driving under a foreign license can also leave you unprepared for many of the unique idiosyncrasies of Australian highway codes, making you a less safe driver and potentially messing up any legal defense you have in the event of an accident. However, holders of a valid foreign driving license do not necessarily have to start learning how to drive again from scratch, and many immigrant drivers gain Australian driving licenses quickly and easily via overseas license conversion.
What are overseas license conversion courses, and what do they involve?
An overseas license conversion course is essentially a truncated form of the standard Australian driving test that you can take to gain a full Australian driving license in much less time than you would take gaining one via conventional means. The conversion course assumes that you are already familiar with the basic aspects of driving, and instead focuses mainly on highway laws, Australian vehicle regulations and other topics immigrant drivers tend to be unfamiliar with.
A wide variety of driving schools offer these courses, and choosing a high-quality school gives you the best chance of success. However, whatever course you take at whatever school you choose will follow the same basic process:
Step 1: Foreign license validation
This largely perfunctory step simply involves contacting your local traffic authority to ensure your foreign license is valid -- your driving school will guide you through the steps necessary to achieve this. Be aware that driving licenses from a small number of countries will not be valid under any circumstances; a list of these countries can be obtained from the local authority.
Step 2: Road law knowledge test
This is a computerised test that tests your knowledge of Australian traffic laws, along with any specific traffic laws unique to your state. Some drivers are able to obtain the knowledge required to pass these tests from textbooks and video courses, but taking road law knowledge classes at your chosen driving school is a more reliable way to ensure you learn everything you need to.
Step 3: Hazard perception test
Another computerised test, this test involves watching videos of hazardous driving situations, during which you are expected to point out hazards accurately and promptly as they present themselves. Again, taking hazard perception courses with your driving school is advisable if you are at all concerned about your ability to detect hazards on Australian roads. They are particularly useful if you come from a country with quieter roads and less overall traffic.
Step 4: Driving test
The final step of the overseas license conversion course is your actual driving test, taken in a real car under real-world conditions, with a driving tester supervising and grading your performance as you complete a number of tasks. Be aware that if you fail this test, you may no longer be able to legally driving using your existing foreign license; as such, taking driving lessons from a reputable driving school to prepare for this step is absolutely crucial.