If you are just visiting UK you should be fine to use your foreign driving license to drive a car in the UK. On the other hand, if you came here and you are a resident (have permanent address, stay at least 185 days a year in the UK and intend to stay for at least 2 more years), you might want to exchange your license to the UK one.
Driving in Great Britain (GB) on a licence issued in a European Community/European Economic Area (EC/EEA) country
A valid community licence issued on the strength of a driving test within the EC/EEA, will allow you to drive in GB for a set period. Alternatively, you can exchange your licence for a British licence. Quick tip: Great Britain (GB) + North Ireland (NI) = United Kingdom(UK) ;)
EC/EEA member countries
Provided your licence remains valid you may drive in GB:
Car, motorcycle driving licence holders (ordinary driving licence):
- Until aged 70 or for three years after becoming resident, whichever is the longer period
Lorry, minibus, bus driving licence holders (vocational driving licence):
- Until aged 45 or for five years after becoming resident, whichever is the longer period
- If you are aged over 45 (but under 65) until your 66th birthday or for five years after becoming resident, whichever is the shorter period
- If you are aged 65 or over for 12 months after becoming resident
In order to continue driving after these periods, you must get a British driving licence.
Driving in Great Britain (GB) on a licence issued outside EC/EEA area
If you are the holder of an ordinary driving licence or a valid international driving permit, you can drive any category of small vehicle (up to 3.5 tonnes) shown on your licence. You will be able to drive for up to 12 months from the time you became a resident or up to 12 months from the date of coming to GB if you are a UK visitor. To ensure continuous driving entitlement a provisional GB licence must have been obtained and a driving test(s) passed before the 12-month period elapses.
Why should you change your foreign driving license to the UK one?
- UK driving license can be used as a proof of identity/signature and/or address. It has similar value to International ID cards, however, you cannot use your driving license as a identification proof in airports and some other places, so make sure you double check if it is accepted or not!
- Most companies offer cheaper car insurance for full UK driving license holders
- You must change your license if you are from EC/EEA member state aged 70 or for three years after becoming resident, whichever is the longer period
- You must change your license if you are from any other country after 12 months of staying in the UK
Things to note
- You will NOT get your old driver license back after you exchange it into the UK one!
- You will NOT need to pass UK test if you are eligible for exchange, you just fill in the form, pay and you can enjoy your new license
- You will NOT be able to change your license back into your foreign one! In most cases you will need to pass a driving test in your home country again
- You will NOT lose your accumulated driving experience on record, your new license will have the original pass date from your old license (great for getting cheaper car insurance)
How to exchange your foreign driving license to the UK one
If you are from EC/EEA member state OR: Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man
- Complete the application form D1, available here or from Post Office® branches
- Enclose original identity documentation confirming your identity
- Enclose one passport sized colour photograph
- Enclose the fee of £50.00, cheque or postal orders made payable to ‘DVLA, Swansea’
- Enclose your current driving licence (this will be returned to the issuing licensing authority)
- Send your completed application to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BT
- Your new driving licence will normally be issued within 15 working days from the day the DVLA receives your application
If you are from Northern Ireland
Same as for EC/EEA, but:
- If you have a paper licence or your name has changed on your photocard licence you will need to enclose original identity documentation confirming your identity.
- No fee is required.
If you are from Gibraltar or a Designated Country
You can only exchange your current driving licence for up to five years from when you become resident, provided your licence remains valid. Follow same procedure as for EC/EAA countries AND note:
Japanese or Republic of Korea driving licences
Your Japanese or Republic of Korea driving licence will need to be accompanied by an official translation. They are available for a fee from:
- The Consulate General of Japan at 101–104 Piccadilly, London, W1V 9FN or 2 Melville Crescent, Edinburgh, EH3 7HW
- The Embassy of the Republic of Korea, 60 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AJ
South African driving licence
Your South African driving licence that is a part of a book of life, will need to be accompanied by a letter of authority from the South African licensing authority. The licence part will be stamped to confirm the exchange and the book will be returned to you. If you are exchanging your South African photocard driving licence, this will be returned to the South African licensing authority.
Canadian driving licence
When exchanging your Canadian driving licence you will only be able to drive automatic vehicles. To be able to drive manual vehicles, you will need to provide acceptable proof from the issuing authority or an approved driving school showing that a manual car test was passed.
Any other country
- You will not be able to exchange your driving licence for a British one, however, you will be able to drive in Great Britain (GB) on your full, valid driving licence for up to 12 months from the time you first become resident
- You will need to stop driving once the 12 months are over
- If you wish to continue driving in GB you will need to get a GB provisional driving licence and sit a theory and practical driving test.
Visiting another country with your UK driving license
You may use your UK licence for driving in other European Community/European Economic Area [EC/EEA] member states. However, you should note that while the minimum age for driving a car in GB is 17 individual member states may apply their own age restrictions for entitlements. Check with a motoring organisation if you want to drive in a non-EC/EEA country. They will advise you whether you need an International Driving Permit.
International driving permit
An international driving permit (IDP) is a formal document issued to visitors to another country which translates details of a driving licence into several languages, enabling foreign authorities to interpret the driving entitlements held, their validity periods and the identity of the holder. They are issued by the Automobile Association (The AA) and Royal Automobile Club (RAC).
To get an IDP, you must be resident in GB, have passed a driving test and be over 18 years of age. The fee for a permit is £5.50.
Now you can use a new interactive tool to check if you can exchange your license to the UK one, just follow the link here.
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