International Driving Licence in UK
14 Oct 2009 at 22:20
If you're driving in Britain, make sure you're on the road legally with our guide for non-GB licence holders…
1. Age requirements
All drivers must meet the minimum age requirements for driving in the UK. Age 17 for motorcars and motorcycles and age 21 for lorries and buses.
2. European Community (EC) driving licences
There is mutual recognition of all European Community/European Economic Area (EC/EEA) driving licences (known as Community licences) throughout the European Union. This means that there is no need for a licence to be exchanged when changing residence to another member state. Holders of valid Community licences may drive all categories of vehicle indicated on their licence until such time as either it expires or the holder reaches the age at which renewal would become necessary under British law, whichever is the sooner. This is age 70, or 45 for passenger carrying or large goods vehicles (vocational) entitlement. The individual Community licence holder must decide whether to exchange their licence for an UK equivalent. Vocational licence holders should register their entitlement with DVLA.
3. Other countries
All holders of valid non-UK driving licences may drive in Great Britain on the strength of their licences. The precise arrangements depend upon their status here, and where their licence was issued.
Visitors may drive small vehicles (motorcycles and vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to 8 passenger seats) for up to 12 months from the date of last entry into Great Britain. Driving is not permitted after this time and they would not be permitted to sit a driving test or obtain a British licence.
New residents may drive small vehicles for 12 months from the date they take up residence here. To continue to drive beyond that 12-month period, they must obtain a British driving licence. They can do this by passing the appropriate British driving test(s) or, if the driving licence is from a country which has been designated for licence exchange purposes, exchanging the licence for a British one.
4. Designated country licences
Holders of driving licences issued in countries that have been designated in British law can if resident in Great Britain exchange their national driving licence for the British equivalent (motorcar and motorcycles only). Designated countries are Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.
Holders of driving licences issued in Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Gibraltar can also exchange vocational entitlement.
5. Time limits for driving in the UK
To continue driving in Great Britain after 12 months you will need to hold a British driving licence either by exchanging a designated country licence or by passing a British driving test.
6. Switching to a provisional British licence
A driver who is required to apply for a provisional driving licence to continue to drive must adhere to provisional licence rules after being resident for more than 12 months.
7. Declaring health conditions
There is no requirement for EC/EEA drivers, resident in GB, to tell DVLA of a medical condition, providing the condition has been declared to the licensing authority in the issuing state. However, you are required to tell DVLA of a new medical condition and you will then be subject to our medical standards. If you have a medical condition that the issuing authority was aware of, and this has now worsened, you are also required to inform DVLA, and would be subject to our medical standards.
In the interests of trade and tourism, a person driving in GB on the strength of a national licence (non EC or non-exchangeable licence), or is a visitor, is exempt from medical investigations.
8. Student drivers in the UK
Students who hold Community licences may drive in Great Britain for as long as their licence remains valid. Students from Community countries who do not hold a national driving licence must be studying in Great Britain for at least 6 months before taking a driving test. Students from countries outside of the EU can who hold a licence from a designated country may drive here for 12 months and as long as the licence is still valid exchange for the British equivalent. Students who do not hold a licence or come from a country that is not designated may apply for a provisional driving licence and then pass a driving test.
9. Taking the British driving test
You will need to be resident in Great Britain to take a driving test here. If you have been living in another EC/EEA country, you must have been resident in Great Britain for 185 days in the 12 months before the date of your driving test.
10. Exchanging a foreign driving licence
To exchange a driving licence issued outside of Great Britain you will need to complete an application form D1 (obtained from the Post Office or ordered on line from DVLA) and return it to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BT together with your national driving licence and the appropriate fee.