Join now
Log in Join

Need expat info for United Kingdom?

Join InterNations to meet other expats where you live and read more articles like Getting a UK Driving License with relevant information for expats.

Jan-Peter van Tijk

Living in the UK, from the Netherlands

"I wish I'd found InterNations sooner: It would have made my first few month as an expat in London much less overwhelming."

Therese Yeboah

Living in the UK, from Ghana

"For me, the InterNations events are the best part. I attend almost every get-together and always get to know lots of friendly fellow expats."

InterNations - a community of trust

Transport & Driving

Getting a UK Driving License

Exchanging your license for a British driver’s license — or driving licence as it is referred to in the UK — can be quite confusing. There are various regulations which depend largely on your country of origin. We offer a brief introduction to getting a British driver’s license.

 

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.

Original Driver’s License from an EU or EFTA Country

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:  

A Special Case: Northern Ireland

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:

Original Driver’s License from the Channel Islands and Designated Countries

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.

Original Driver’s License from Any Other Country

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.

How to Exchange Your Driver’s License for a British Driving Licence

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.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine