WIESBADEN, Germany -- Host Nation police authorities, particularly in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, recently started to enforce a new policy concerning driver's licenses for personnel of the U.S. Forces and their dependents.

According to this policy, the driver is only in possession of a valid license to operate a privately owned vehicle, or POV, in German public traffic if in possession of a valid U.S. driver's license and a valid U.S. Forces certificate of license, commonly referred to as "USAREUR license."

If the U.S. driver's license has expired, the individual is considered to be operating the vehicle without license, regardless of a valid USAREUR license. In Germany, driving without license is a criminal offense.

This new policy is based on a recent unilateral change in interpretation of the German Supplementary Agreement to the NATO Status of Forces Agreement by host nation authorities. The U.S. Forces dispute this new interpretation, and have raised the matter via the U.S. Embassy in Berlin to the German Federal Government. However, U.S. Forces authorities currently have no control over the application of this policy by the German authorities.

U.S. Forces personnel in Germany should be aware of the present situation. If possible, those who have a U.S. state driver's license should ensure it is valid and renewed in a timely manner. Some states offer renewal via mail or online. Military and civilian personnel, as well as family members, should check with the issuing state authorities whether being stationed abroad provides for an automatic extension of their state driver's licenses. If an automatic extension is provided, a hard copy of the rules should be kept available in case of a traffic control by German police.

If the U.S. state license has expired, and an automatic extension is not available, the safest course of action is not to operate privately owned vehicles in German public traffic until the current dispute regarding the validity of expired U.S. state licenses under the applicable international agreements has been resolved with the German Federal Government.

U.S. Forces personnel who have been charged for driving without a license should contact the local legal office for assistance.

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