I finally dragged myself off to the DPI today to do my driver's theory test and passed with 30 out of 30. You are given 35 minutes to answer 30 multiple choice questions. I completed the test in 5 minutes and took another 4 minutes to review my answers. You only need 24 out of 30 to pass. What helped enormously was practising the interactive test on the department's website. The real test cost $17.40. I can only do the practical in mid-July when next the examiners are up here from Perth. That costs another $68.30.
So it seems it is true ... if you are here on a 457, which is a temporary visa, you have until the expiry of your existing South African licence to obtain your Australia one BUT if you are here on a permanent visa, you must redo your licence within 3 months of arrival.
It was a good experience reading the road rules book (supplied free by the DPI) as there are one or two weird little differences between SA and Oz driving ... or maybe they are things I just wasn't aware of in SA or had changed since I did my licence in the late 1980s. Eg. you must use your indicator for 5 seconds before turning out of a parked position and you must use your indicator when you intend exiting a roundabout.
For all prospective 457 visa holders from South Africa, please check out Kangaroojack's very sensible and practical advice below. Much appreciated. I agree that particularly if one is going for a PR visa ultimately, one may as well get the test over and done with as soon as possible, plus you have pointed out all the benefits of using your card as an ID document.
Ascertaining what's what regarding one's driver's licence has been yet another lesson in how important it is not to listen to general advice but to find out what applies to your specific situation.
I have confirmed, as advised by the mover, that a South African does NOT have to re-do their driver's licence if they are in Western Australia on a 457 visa (this is a temporary work visa). However, once you become a permanent resident, you have to re-do it within 3 months.
Mmm ... so I have a temporary reprieve until we get our permanent residence visa which is a bit of a relief as 3 months isn't a very long time and those first 3 months are going to be rather busy.
If you are a visitor to Western Australia you may drive on your overseas/interstate licence until it expires. You must carry your licence at all times when driving and comply with any conditions (where reasonable) that are endorsed on the licence.
If you have a permanent residence visa and intend on living in WA you must obtain a WA drivers licence within 3 months of getting the visa. After this period your overseas authority to drive will not be recognised.'
My licence expires in June 2009 so I had better make the effort and get it renewed before we leave. Wish me luck ... not sure what is worse ... Home Affairs or the traffic department!