An increasing number of Indian migrants are being denied requests for exchanging their Indian driver licences with an Australian licence, declaring the Indian licence invalid.
Many Indian migrants in Victoria are being told their Indian driving licence is not an “original document” and that they can’t drive a vehicle in Victoria.
A number of recently arrived Indian migrants have been told to get a learner’s permit as VicRoads, despite a verification of their Indian licences by the Indian Consulate in Melbourne, is refusing to allow them to take a driving test to exchange their licence with a Victorian driver licence.
Parteek Puri who was working as a pizza delivery driver says he had to quit his job because he was left unable to drive after he applied for a Victorian licence.
Mr Puri says he obtained a verification of his Indian driver licence from the Indian Consulate in April and submitted to VicRoads. Four months later, VicRoads told him his Indian licence was an original document.
“The licence you presented cannot be verified as the original document and we can’t confirm that you held a driver licence in your country of origin,” VicRoads told Mr Puri. He has been told to get a learner’s permit as his licence was invalid in Victoria.
Besides a verification from the Indian consulate, Mr Puri’s driver licence details are recorded in the central database of the Indian Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Harminder Singh, a university student in Melbourne has been told he can’t drive on his seven-year-old Indian licence.
“I sent a verification letter from the consulate along with my licence but VicRoads has told me it’s [the driver licence] not original,” he tells SBS Punjabi. “I have now obtained a verification from the issuing authority in Punjab and also a print out of the website of Indian transport ministry showing details of my licence.”
Mr. Singh works as a part-time driver and says VicRoads is being unfair to him.
“I am being told to get a learner’s permit despite having a genuine licence. They can’t just call it fake without properly examining it. The government of India’s database clearly shows it’s there,” he says.
Calling VicRoads refusal of his application “whimsical”, Mr Singh says it impinges on his livelihood as he works as a driver.
“I was hoping to start driving a truck, but VicRoads clearly doesn’t seem to bother to do the due diligence,” he said.
Jasbir Kaur, another migrant from India said VicRoads kept her Indian licence before telling her it couldn’t be verified as an original document. She has also been asked to get a learner’s licence.
She says VicRoads hasn’t given her any reason for their decision.
“I asked them how they tried to verify the authenticity of my licence, whether they contacted the issuing authority, or the consulate or the ministry, but they haven’t said anything on this. They ask me to seek this information through Freedom of Information,” she told SBS Punjabi.
Ms Kaur is on a partner visa and could still drive on an overseas licence if her licence wasn’t declared invalid. She says her inability to drive has not just affected her work but also her family.
“I am a nurse and work through an agency which requires me to work out of different locations. Now my husband has to drop me off at work in the morning, and he has to leave his work early in order to pick me up from my work,” she said.
VicRoads says it works with Consulates and High Commissions in the process where possible for verification of licences based on an applicant’s confirmed overseas driving history.
“While we want to make the transfer process as simple as possible for all applicants, it is important to ensure that an applicant is issued the appropriate Victorian licence relevant to their driving history,” David Shelton, VicRoads Executive Director Registration and Licensing told SBS Punjabi.
It did not reveal the process of its verification of the Indian licences and the reason for declaring them invalid.
Officials at the Indian Consulate say they are aware of many Indian migrants facing this issue.
“Many people have misused the system and exchanged fake Indian licences in the recent past,” an official said on condition of anonymity. He said VicRoads now independently verifies the Indian licences.
“Now they [VicRoads] independently verify all the licences and even showed us some of the fake ones they spotted using their special tools,” he told SBS Punjabi.
Left without a job in Melbourne, Mr Puri is now contemplating to move to South Australia where he is hoping he would be able to exchange his Indian licence and find a job as a driver.
Migrants on permanent visas can drive a vehicle on their overseas licence for six months after they first arrive in Australia. A full overseas licence can be exchanged with a Victorian licence subject to passing a road rules test, hazard perception test and the driving test.