To legally drive in the UK, you may need to exchange your driver’s license for a UK driver’s license.
Moving to the UK and changing your driver’s license is relatively easy for citizens of most countries. You should be able to drive in the country with minimum fuss.
Foreigners moving to Great Britain or Northern Ireland may drive using their existing license if it’s from countries within the European Economic Area (EU plus Iceland, Norway, or Liechtenstein) or a number of other countries that have reciprocal arrangements with the UK. For expats arriving from elsewhere, drivers must take a test before driving on the roads.
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Do you need to exchange your driver’s license in the UK?
To find out if you are permitted to drive in Britain and Northern Ireland on your existing license, a list of countries within the EU can be found at www.europa.eu. The list of countries with which Britain has reciprocal agreements includes: Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe.
Alternatively, you can run through the British government’s step-by-step questions to learn if you must exchange your license. Click on www.gov.uk to find out even more. There are slight differences in the laws governing licenses in Northern Ireland. Further information on exchanging your license in this part of the UK can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk. The Citizens Advice Bureau also offers assistance online and in their local offices.
Information on exchanging your driver’s license in the UK
For extensive information on exchanging your driver’s license, the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have a 16-page booklet with essential information for overseas visitors about driving in Britain. Click www.dft.gov.uk to read it.
Foreigners using their existing driver’s license can do so for a three-year period after their arrival. After three years, however, you must exchange your license for a British one.
To exchange your license, you must have a permanent address in Britain and have lived in the country for at least 185 days of the last year.
How to exchange your driver’s license in the UK
To exchange your license, the process is pretty simple. You will need to complete an application form. This is available online at www.direct.gov.uk/motoringforms or via most post offices. Return it to the DVLA along with your license and the standard £50 fee for exchanging licenses. A list of local DVLA offices is available at www.direct.gov.uk/dvlalocal or by calling 0300 123 1277. The same form can also be used if you need to apply for a provisional license; in Britain and Northern Ireland, this is necessary to take a driving test.
The legal age to drive in Britain and Northern Ireland is 17, unlike many European countries.