The validity of your driver’s license depends on the country where it was issued as well as the planned duration of your stay. In quite a few cases, your existing license from your home country will remain valid for a limited time period, and you’ll be able to legally drive in the UK. Please note that the following information only applies to Great Britain, i.e. England, Scotland, and Wales. There are separate regulations for driving in Northern Ireland, which you can find on the website of the Northern Ireland government services.
The minimum age for driving cars and motorbikes is 17 years (16 for mopeds). If you want to get a vocational license required for driving buses or trucks, please contact the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) for more information. The same also applies if you have any health issues or medical conditions that might interfere with your driving ability.
If the driver’s license you are currently using was issued in a member state of the EU or EFTA, the following regulations apply to you:
As mentioned above, the regulations for driver’s licenses in Northern Ireland are different from the rest of the UK. Still, drivers from Northern Ireland do not have much to worry about. These are your options:
Permits from Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man are not considered fully equivalent to a British license. If your driver’s license was issued there, you have the following options:
The same rules apply if your driver’s license was issued in a so-called “designated country”. In November 2016, the list of designated countries included Andorra, Australia, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Falkland Islands, the Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe.
If your original driver’s license was issued outside of the EU/EFTA and not in a designated country, the following conditions will apply to you:
Regardless of whether you are a tourist or a resident in their first year, if your original driver’s license is not in English it might also be a good idea to get a so-called international driving permit (IDP). Note that you will need to get this in the same country that issued your original driver’s license. This permit includes translations into multiple languages and ensures, in combination with your foreign license, that officials around the world are able to easily identify what types of vehicles you are permitted to drive.
To exchange your license, you must meet the following conditions:
If you are eligible and want to exchange your previous driver’s license for a British one, you need to submit the documents listed below to the DVLA by mail (you will find the address on the application form):
You should receive your new British driver’s license within three weeks. Please remember that you are not allowed to exchange an international driving permit.
Also keep in mind that if your foreign license is only for automatic vehicles and you would like a British license that is valid for manual transmissions as well, you will need to pass an additional driving test.
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