Foreigners in the Philippines who hold a valid driver’s license issued by the road authority in their home country are allowed to drive on Philippine roads for up to 90 days after their arrival, as long as their license is in English. If the foreign driver’s license is not in English, the foreigner needs to secure an official English translation from the local embassy of the issuing country. However, if they plan to stay longer than 90 days, then they have the option to apply for a new one from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) or simply convert their foreign driver’s license into a local one at the nearest LTO licensing center or LTO office.
It doesn’t take much effort to convert a foreign driver’s license into a local one, provided that they have all the documentary requirements prepared. To help them do so, we created this guide to the requirements, qualifications, and procedures on how to convert a foreign driver’s license into a Philippine driver’s license at LTO.
Foreign Driver’s License vs. LTO Driver’s License
A foreign driver’s license is a driver’s license issued to a Filipino based abroad or to a foreign national from their home country. It can be used in the Philippines for up to 90 days. It can also be exchanged or converted into a local license if the foreign national intends to stay longer than 90 days.
On the other hand, a Philippine LTO driver’s license is a license issued by the Philippine Land Transportation Office (LTO) to qualified drivers in the country. The LTO driver’s license comes in different kinds: the Student Permit, the Non-Professional Driver’s License (NPDL), and the Professional Driver’s License (PDL).
Benefits of Converting Foreign DL into a Local DL
If you are a foreign national with a valid foreign driver’s license, here’s why it’s in your best interest to convert it to a local one:
- There’s a limit to using your foreign license in the Philippines which is only up to 90 days after arrival. If you are to live permanently in the Philippines, then you’ll need a local license to be able to drive legally, unless you get an International Driving License to accompany your driving license.
- It is another form of ID that is recognized and valid almost everywhere in the Philippines.
Qualifications for Converting Foreign DL into a Local DL
To apply for a foreign driver’s license exchange or conversion to a Philippine LTO driver’s license, the applicant must satisfy the following:
- Must be physically and mentally fit to operate a motor vehicle
- Must be able to read and write in Filipino, English, or any local dialect
- Must not have unsettled traffic violation
- Must be neat, clean, and presentable
- Must be well-dressed
- Must pass the LTO written and practical driving examination
- Must be a holder of a valid foreign driver’s license
- Must have passed the practical examination for applicants (Foreigners and Filipinos) from countries operating right hand drive
- In case of expired foreign Driver’s License, the applicant must have passed the Theoretical Examination and Practical Driving Test
- Must be at least eighteen years old
- Must have been in the Philippines for at least one month before applying to exchange the license
- Must have a valid visa for at least 120 days upon the date of arrival
- Must be able to provide proof that they will stay in the country for at least one year from the date of application
Requirements for Converting Foreign DL into a Local DL
Before you can process a conversion of foreign driver’s license to a local one via LTO, you will need to prepare to submit the following documentary requirements:
- Duly accomplished Application for Permits and Licenses (APL) Form
- Submission of one (1) photocopy and presentation of original electronically transmitted medical certificate from LTO-accredited medical clinic
- Presentation of original and submission of one (1) photocopy of valid foreign Driver’s License
- If the foreign Driver’s License is not in English language, original official English translation
- Presentation of original and submission of one (1) photocopy of valid passport showing the first page, visa page and latest date of entry in the Philippines.
- Presentation of Foreign Driver’s License
- TIN, if employed
- Negative drug test result (from a DOH or LTO-accredited drug testing center or hospital)
- Original and a photocopy of visa and stamp or Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR), available at the Immigration Office, if the applicant temporarily resides in the Philippines.
Procedures for Converting or Exchanging Foreign Driver’s License to Philippine Driver’s License
To convert your foreign driver’s license into a local one from the LTO, here are the steps to follow:
- Visit the preferred LTO branch closest to the applicant’s place.
- Request for and accomplish the Application for Permits and License (APL) form.
- Secure a queue number and wait for your turn.
- Submit the APL form along with the required documents at the LTO office.
- Once your documents are approved, pay for all the relevant fees at the cashier.
- Take the written exam.
- Wait for the result of the exam.
- If failed:
- Receive the computer generated letter saying that the applicant may come back the following day at their convenience.
- If passed:
- Take the actual driving test.
- If failed:
- Upon taking the actual driving test, wait for the results.
- If failed:
- End of transaction
- If passed:
- Proceed to the cashier for payment of fees
- Proceed to the encoding or biometric window.
- Accomplish the form for encoding of complete details in the new LTO-IT system, the LTMS portal.
- Get your photo taken and affix your signature.
- Wait for the OR and the DL Card to be sent to you by LTO.
- Sign the release form and the LTO log sheet.
- If failed:
If you are applying to convert your foreign driver’s license to a local Philippine-issued driver’s license, then here are some important reminders to take note of.
- If you are converting a foreign driver’s license (FDL), you are only allowed to convert one category at a time. This means that even if you have a FDL and are licensed for motorcycles, all cars, and non-HGV lorries, you can only choose one, so make sure you are clear which of the categories you want to convert.
- If you want additional categories, you will have to go back at least a month later to request for additional restriction codes.
- Regarding heavy or articulated vehicles for foreigners, foreign license holders shall only be allowed to operate DL Code BE, C, CE or D upon submission of DOLE Alien Employment Permit (AEP) and stating therein that the applicant is required or authorized to operate such and must comply with the experience and training requirements stated in the Supplemental IRR of R.A. No. 10930 Table 6.
- For renewal of invalid or expired Philippine DL with valid FDL and additional DL Code, the applicant should pass the theoretical and practical examination (not required if vehicle category in the Philippine DL is found in the FDL).
- The DL category in the FDL should serve as PDC for the equivalent Philippine DL Code being applied for.
- If the issuing country practices left hand traffic, the applicant must undergo a practical driving test.
- Processing time includes waiting time and starts upon the submission of complete requirements.
- If the client arrives at the office when the transaction cannot be completed within the day, he/she will be advised to return on the next working day and be prioritized at the step where he/she stopped.
- Foreigners who are applying for conversion of FDL to PDL shall receive their Driver’s License via registered mail thru the Philippine Postal Service. (Memorandum dated 27 February 2019).
- Due to adverse conditions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, applicants for conversion of FDL may opt to have his/her driver’s license delivered by chosen courier at his/her expense.
Video: How to Convert Your Foreign Driver’s License into a Local LTO Driver’s License
Learn how to convert your foreign driver’s license into an LTO-issued Philippine driver’s license by watching this video posted by Born Martinez:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
For your reference, we rounded up some of the most common questions and answers regarding converting a foreign driver’s license into a local driver’s license via the LTO.
1. What does it mean to ‘convert’ my foreign license?
When ‘converting’ a foreign driver’s license, this does not mean that you lose your foreign license, merely that you are given a Philippines license without having to take a driving test by providing evidence that you have already passed the relevant test in your own country.
2. Why would a foreign national want to get a Philippine driving license?
There are several reasons but here are the two (2) main reasons to do so:
- Since a foreign driver’s license can only be used in the Philippines for up to 90 days after arrival, living here permanently means you are only allowed to drive legally if you get a local license or an International Driving Licence to accompany your foreign driving license.
- It serves as a valid photo ID that is recognized anywhere in the Philippines.
3. I have a foreign license. Can I drive around the country?
Yes. A valid foreign driver’s license can be used in the country for up to 90 days from the date of arrival. This means that if you intend to stay for a longer period of time, converting your foreign license into a Philippine driver’s license is a must. Though you also have the option to apply for an International Driver’s License.
4. Are there required examinations to take in order to convert a foreign license into a Philippine driver’s license?
Yes. If your foreign license is still valid and was issued by countries operating left hand drive vehicles, then you won’t need to take any examinations. The same cannot be said if your foreign license was issued in countries operating right hand drive because then, you will need to take and pass the practical examination. If your license is expired, then you will be subjected to the LTO exams—both a written Theoretical Examination and a Practical Driving Test.
5. What is the coverage of the Theoretical Driving Exam?
The theoretical or written exam include:
- Background and evolution of LTO and its role in development
- Basics of LTO organization and functions
- Processes of vehicle registration and driver’s license application
- Traffic rules and regulations including traffic signs, signals, pavement markings
- Special laws and administrative issuances established by the LTO
- Hazard scanning recognitions and avoidance of road accidents
- Functions and use of vehicle accessories
- Parking techniques such as parallel, reverse, angle, and three-point turn
- Vehicle safety and basic troubleshooting
- Defensive driving, road safety and discipline practices
- safe driving techniques in different road conditions,
- densities of traffic, and
- weather conditions
6. Will the converted Philippine driver’s license allow me to drive all the same types of vehicles allowed in my foreign driver’s license?
No. You can only choose one category upon conversion of your foreign driver’s license. If you want to be able to drive more vehicle types, then you will need to request for additional restriction codes in your driver’s license.
7. Where do I go to get my foreign license converted into a local one?
To convert your foreign driver’s license into a local one, then you can visit any of the following LTO offices:
- LTO Licensing Centers
- LTO Licensing Extension Offices
- LTO Authorized District Offices
- LTO Extension Offices
- LTO Central Office – License Section
Converting or exchanging your foreign driver’s license into an LTO-issued Philippine driver’s license doesn’t mean that you will lose the foreign driver’s license. It simply means that you are getting an equivalent Philippine driver’s license and skipping through most of the LTO processes like the written and practical exams if the foreign license is still valid. It also means that you, as a foreign license holder, are getting the permission to operate certain vehicles legally on Philippine public roads. It doesn’t take much effort, too, though it isn’t free to convert your foreign driver’s license into a local one.