To legally drive in the UK you may need to exchange your driver’s licence for a UK driver’s licence.
Moving to the UK and changing your driver’s licence is relatively easy for citizens of most countries and you should be able to drive in the country with minimum fuss.
Foreigners moving to Great Britain or Northern Ireland are permitted to drive using their existing licence if it has been issued from countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) (EU plus Iceland, Norway or Lichtenstein) or a number of other countries that have reciprocal arrangements with the UK. For expats arriving from other nations, drivers will be required to take a test before being permitted to drive 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 licence, 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 are required to exchange your licence. Click on www.gov.uk to find out more. There are slight differences in the laws governing licences in Northern Ireland and further information on exchanging your licence in this part of the UK can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk. If you require further help, the Citizens Advice Bureau offer assistance both online and in their local offices in towns and cities throughout Britain.
Information on exchanging your driver’s license in the UK
For extensive information on exchanging your driver’s licence, the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have a produced a 16-page booklet with all of the essential information for overseas visitors about driving in Britain. Click www.dft.gov.uk to read it.
In summary, foreign nationals who are allowed to drive in Britain on their existing driver’s licences are permitted to do so for a three-year period following their arrival in the country. After three years, you will be required to exchange your licence for a British one.
To exchange your licence, 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 licence, the process is pretty simple. You will need to complete an “Application for a Driving Licence” form (known as a D1), which is available online at www.direct.gov.uk/motoringforms or via most post offices, and return it to the DVLA along with your licence and the standard £50 fee charged for exchanging licences. A list of local DVLA offices is available at www.direct.gov.uk/dvlalocal or by calling 0300 123 1277. The same form can be used if you need to apply for a provisional licence, which in Britain and Northern Ireland is needed to be able to take a driving test.
One point to note is that the legal age to drive in Britain and Northern Ireland is 17, unlike many European countries where you must be 18 to drive alone. Therefore if you are aged 17 and have a full licence from your home country you will be permitted to drive in the UK.