Similar to life in Canada, living without a car in Australia can be fairly inconvenient. If you're planning to emigrate to Australia for good, it's best to exchange your Hong Kong license for an Australian one or get a license there.
In this series of Kwiksure articles, we will take a look at four emigration hotspots for Hong Kongers (i.e. the UK, Canada, Australia, Taiwan) with a focus on the following topics: how to exchange an overseas driver license in Australia, get an Australian license, buy car insurance, and transfer your No Claims Discount/No Claims Bonus (NCD/NCB).
Exchanging your Hong Kong driving license in Australia
The Australian licensing system is divided into L license (learner license), P1 provisional license, and P2 provisional license (you'll need to hold onto this for 2 years before you can switch over to a full license). This can be such a lengthy process that we recommend getting your driving license in Hong Kong first before exchanging it for an Australian one. This way, you can skip the many steps needed to obtain yours from scratch in Australia.
Can you use your Hong Kong driving license in Australia?
Having a Hong Kong driver's license in hand has two distinct advantages. First, you can legally drive in Australia with your existing license. Second, you can exchange your Hong Kong license for an Australian one. With your Hong Kong license, you may drive on the streets of Australia for up to three months in the following states: Australia Capital Territory (ACT), Northern Territory (NT), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), and Western Australia (WA). However, in Victoria (VIC), it'll remain effective for as long as half a year!
Keep in mind that as soon as you receive a permanent resident visa, your international or Hong Kong license will become invalid. Thus, remember to convert your license to a local one within three or six months of the grace period.
Required documents for exchanging your driving license
- Hong Kong driver's license
- Certificate of Driving License Particulars from the Transport Department of Hong Kong
To transfer your license, you also must meet two conditions. First, you must have had your Hong Kong license for over 12 months. Second, you must be 25 years of age or above. If you don't meet the above requirements, you will have to retake the written test and then the road test to receive an Australian driver's license.
Note that the above is just an example of the general procedure. Each state has its own differences in regulations. As such, you should check out the Department of Transport website for your respective state. For instance, some states will require you to present both a Hong Kong and an International license, otherwise, you'll be seen as illegally driving. Thus, even if you have a grace period of three months or six months, it's safer to apply for an international license in Hong Kong in advance.
How to get a driver's license in Australia
According to the Department of Transport in Australia, the licensing process is divided into the following six steps:
- Pass a written test (i.e. Computerised Theory Test or CTT that includes 30 multiple-choice questions) to obtain a learner's permit, which is valid for three years.
- Learn to drive with a driving instructor.
- Complete the Hazard Perception Test (HPT) after turning at least 16 and a half years old and holding onto the learner's permit for at least half a year.
- After passing the HPT, you must learn to drive supervised for at least 50 hours (and log it either with a Learner Log Book or the Learn&Log app), at least 5 of which are in the evening.
- You can take the road test (Practical Driving Assessment or PDA) after meeting the minimum requirements for your selected car category you wish to get a license in.
- Congratulations, the provisional or P license is yours as soon as you've passed the road test.
How to buy car insurance in Australia
Except for New South Wales, the car license fee in Australia or "Rego" already includes compulsory third party insurance (CTP). Also known as the green slip, it only offers compensation for personal injury in accidents. Since it insures the person but not the car, you'll need to purchase an additional third party property insurance. This way, if you accidentally crash into a third party's vehicle or property, it will cover these compensation costs.
How to transfer your Hong Kong NCD/NCB to Australia
Ask your insurance company in Hong Kong to issue a "No Accident Letter", stating for how long you've not had an accident and claim compensation. Depending on the insurer, it may charge you a processing fee of HKD $500.
Once you arrive in Australia, present this letter to the local insurance company. Of course, whether Australian insurers are willing to accept this certificate, or whether they will deduct your NCDs, all depends on the company's practices.