Many drivers may have a false belief that having a foreign driving license in Poland will allow them to avoid sanctions for breaking traffic rules. However, the truth is a bit more complicated.
Both Polish citizens and foreigners staying in Poland are obliged to comply with the road regulations in force in our country. Whether you are a Polish driver traveling abroad or a foreigner using a foreign driving license in Poland, it is worth being well-informed about the legal consequences.
Foreign driving license in Poland – a document confirming the right to drive vehicles
According to the Act on Vehicle Drivers, the following documents confirm the driving right of foreigners:
- An international driving license. Namely, the document specified in the Convention on Road Traffic, signed in Geneva on 19 September 1949.
- A national or international driving license. Namely, the document specified in the Convention on Road Traffic signed at Vienna on 8 November 1968.
- A national driving license issued in another Member State of the European Union. Moreover, a driving license issued in the Swiss Confederation or a Member State of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – a party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area.
- National driving license as defined in an international agreement to which the Republic of Poland is a party.
In some cases, foreign driving licenses may not be considered valid in Poland. This happens when a document has been stopped or temporarily or permanently suspended. This applies to a foreign driving license issued in:
- another Member State of the European Union,
- the Swiss Confederation,
- a member state of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – a party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area
Foreign driving license in Poland – when is it valid?
According to the Act on Vehicle Drivers, foreign driving licenses issued by:
- A member state of the European Union,
- The Swiss Confederation,
- A member state of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – a party to the agreement on the European Economic Area,
are legitimate in the territory of Poland during their period of validity.
Foreign driving licenses that meet the requirements of the Road Traffic Conventions are binding in Poland. They are legitimate for the duration of their validity period.
However, there is a limitation specified in the Act on Vehicle Drivers. It concerns drivers who obtained a permanent or temporary residence permit in Poland.
In such a case, the foreign driving license is valid for a period of 6 months from the start of the residence. After this period, the driver must exchange the foreign driving license for a Polish one.
For foreign driving licenses issued in third countries, the regulations are different. Any person who has a foreign driving license and has been living in Poland for at least 185 days must exchange it.
Foreign driving license and traffic offence proceedings
According to Polish Constitution: Anyone, being under the authority of the Polish State, shall enjoy the freedoms and rights ensured by the Constitution. This includes equality before the law and equal treatment by public authorities. Therefore, it applies also to traffic offence proceedings.
Regulations do not provide for special treatment of drivers with foreign driving licenses. As a general rule, their liability is identical to any other road users in Poland.
According to the Petty Offences Procedure Code, fines for violation of traffic rules can be imposed through a penalty notice. The penalty notice can be:
- Issued directly by the enforcing officer after the fine has been paid.
- Credited, i.e. issued to the offender with a confirmation of receipt.
- Issued in absentia.
Drivers with foreign driving licence face a so-called cash fine. This type of fine can be imposed only against a person:
- temporarily staying in the territory of Poland,
- not having a permanent habitual place of residence
- not having a permanent place of stay.
The penalty notice becomes legally valid upon settlement with the officer who imposed it.
In turn, the so-called credited penalty notice may be imposed on a person:
- having a permanent habitual place of residence,
- having a place of stay
in the territory of a Member State of the European Union other than Poland.
The penalty notice should contain information on the obligation to pay the fine within 7 days from the date of its acceptance. It should also inform about the consequences of not paying it on time. It becomes legally enforceable upon acknowledgement of receipt by the punished individual.
In both situations, one can pay the fine in a non-cash form, using a card or other payment instrument. The fine is paid upon receiving confirmation of payment from the authorization device.
Foreign driving license in Poland – penalty points
Penalty points collected by drivers with foreign driving licences are recorded in the territory of Poland. They apply only within the borders of the Republic of Poland. Exceeding their permitted limit has consequences. These are the same for Polish citizens and for foreigners.
If a driver with foreign driving license does not have a habitual place of residence in Poland:
- The suspended driving license will be immediately transferred to the relevant district governor. The choice of governor results from the location of the offence.
- The district governor will transfer it to the authority of the country in which it was issued.
On the other hand, if the driver with a foreign driving license has a place of residence in Poland, then the suspended document is transferred immediately to
- the court authorised to hear the petty offence case,
- the prosecutor,
- the district governor.
This must be done no later than within 7 days from the incident.
Having a foreign driving license in Poland may raise doubts as to the legality of driving a vehicle. The possible opportunity for avoiding fines may be also a tricky issue.
Yet, Polish regulations do not provide for special treatment for drivers with foreign driving licenses. Having a foreign driving license will not allow you to avoid a fine in Poland.
Do you need support in the procedure of exchanging a foreign driving license for a Polish one? Contact us – our experts are at your disposal.