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Driving Licences Abroad


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Driving in Britain


For anyone visiting or emigrating to the united kingdom, the roads can seem a lot different to what you are used to. From driving on the left to speed limits everything could be different. When driving in the UK you will need to know and abide by the driving laws of the UK. Well here's our guide to motoring in the UK.

Driving in Great Britain (GB) as a Visitor or a new Resident


Click here for more information about Driving Abroad

All drivers must comply with British minimum age requirements; generally, these are 17 years for cars and motorcycles, 18 years for medium sized vehicles and 21 years for large lorries and buses.  DVLA Information Leaflet D100 provides further information on GB driving licences and Leaflet INF38 covers driving in GB as a visitor or a new resident; both these leaflets are available at Post Offices.

If your licence was issued by :

  1. European Community / European Economic Area (EC/EEA)

  2. Northern Ireland

  3. Gibraltar and Designated Countries

  4. Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man

  5. All other countries

If you wish to :

  1. Drive in GB as a student

  2. Exchange your licence for a GB licence

  3. Apply for a provisional driving licence

  4. Country Codes


1. European Community / European Economic Area

Licences issued in the European Community and three other countries in the European Economic Area make up two groups that are treated equally.  The full list is :-

EC Countries

Austria Greece Poland
Belgium Hungary Portugal
Czech Republic Ireland Slovenia
Republic of Cyprus Italy Slovakia
Denmark Latvia Spain
Estonia Lithuania Sweden
Finland Luxembourg United Kingdom
France Malta  
Germany Netherlands  


EEA Countries

Visitors

If you hold a valid Community licence and you are visiting Great Britain, you can drive any vehicle for as long as your licence remains valid.  The appropriate full entitlement for the vehicle you wish to drive must be shown on your licence.

Residents

If you have a valid Community licence, this will authorise you to drive in this country for the periods set out below.  Alternatively, you can apply to exchange your licence for a British one at any time.

Provided your licence remains valid you may drive in GB -

Ordinary licence holders
Until aged 70 or for 3 years after becoming resident whichever is the longer period.

Vocational licence holders
Until aged 45 or for 5 years after becoming resident whichever is the longer period.

If you are aged over 45 (but under 65) until your 66th birthday or for 5 years after becoming resident whichever is the shorter period.

If you are aged 65 or over for 12 months after becoming resident.

In order to continue driving after these periods, a British driving licence must be obtained.

Register of Community Licence Holders

Holders of Community licences with vocational entitlement who live in GB must register their details with DVLA.  For further information please contact , telephone number 0870 - 240 - 0009 .

Notifying Health Conditions

The leaflet D100 (available online and at Post Office® branches) will provide more information about the types of conditions that you are legally obligated to notify DVLA.  To visit the "Medical Rules" page, . You must tell us about conditions which existed prior to you coming to live here and which you may have already notified to the authorities, as well as those health conditions you have recently become aware of. In most cases, our rules will be the same as those in other EC/EEA countries although there may be some differences. For example, epileptics who have had attacks in the last 10 years are not permitted to hold a vocational licence in GB.

Taking a driving test 

If you want to take a GB driving test you must be normally resident in Great Britain.  However, if you have moved to GB having recently been permanently resident in another state of the EC/EEA, you must have been normally resident in GB for 185 days in the 12 months prior to your application for a driving test and a full licence.

To take a GB driving test you will need to either :

(i) apply for a GB counterpart licence (D58/2) by completing a D9 (available from Embassies or DVLA) and enclosing your Community driving licence which will be returned to you. The provisional licence document is issued free of charge. However, the appropriate must be paid and your Community licence surrendered in exchange for a GB one when claiming the full entitlement;

or

(ii) exchange your Community licence for the British equivalent and request the appropriate provisional entitlement.

Vehicles which Community Licence holders may also drive in GB

Community licence holders with category B entitlement can also drive certain vehicles in GB, which are exempt from the normal large vehicle driver licensing requirements. These include non-commercial minibuses driven on a voluntary basis, permit minibuses and large vehicles such as agricultural motor vehicles and road construction vehicles. Further details about these vehicles and the conditions that apply to them can be found in the fact sheet "Special Licensing Arrangements For Drivers of Large Vehicles" available from DVLA.

Community Licences issued in exchange for licences from elsewhere


2. Northern Ireland

You can exchange a full Northern Ireland driving licence for a full GB licence or you can use your licence here until it runs out. When it expires you may apply for a GB licence. A Northern Ireland ordinary licence may be exchanged provided it was issued on or after 1st January 1976;  a vocational licence may be exchanged if issued on or after 1st April 1986. You may take a driving test in Great Britain using your Northern Ireland provisional or full licence if this gives the appropriate entitlement.  We cannot register an address in England, Scotland or Wales on to a Northern Ireland licence.

Mutual Recognition of Driving Disqualifications between Great Britain (GB) and Northern Ireland (NI).

Since 11 October 2004 there has been mutual recognition between GB & NI of driving disqualifications. This allows:

Reciprocal provisions came into force in Northern Ireland at the same time as those made in Great Britain.


3. Gibraltar and Designated Countries

Designated Countries are :

Australia

Monaco

Barbados

New Zealand

British Virgin Islands

Republic of Korea

Canada

Singapore

Falkland Islands

South Africa

Hong Kong

Switzerland

Japan

Zimbabwe

Visitors

If you are resident outside the UK, are temporarily in this country and hold full ordinary entitlement you can drive any category of vehicle, up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to 8 passenger seats, shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the date you last entered the UK whether or not you brought the vehicle into GB. If you also hold full entitlement to drive large lorries or buses you are only allowed to drive large vehicles registered outside the GB that you have driven into the country.

Residents

Provided your full licence remains valid, you can drive small vehicles for 12 months from the time you became resident. To ensure continuous driving entitlement a GB licence must be obtained before this period elapses, by exchanging your licence for a GB one. If you do not do this you must stop driving although you may apply to exchange your licence at any time within 5 years of becoming resident.

Motorcycle entitlement from the Republic of Korea is not exchangeable.

Vocational designated licence holders

New residents may not drive medium or large vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles until they have passed the relevant GB driving test.

Gibraltar vocational licence holders can drive for 12 months, and can exchange a valid vocational licence within 5 years of date of residency.


4. Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man

Visitors

Ordinary licence holders

Provided your full ordinary licence remains valid, you can drive any category of vehicle shown on your licence for 12 months.

Vocational licence holders

If you are visiting Great Britain, and you hold a vocational licence issued in Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man, you can drive British registered, or vehicles registered outside GB that you have driven into the country, for a period up to 12 months.

Residents :-

Ordinary licence holders

You may drive in Great Britain for up to 12 months from the time you became resident. To continue driving after that time your licence must have been exchanged for the British equivalent. A licence from one of these countries can be exchanged for a GB one provided it has been issued since 1 April 1991.

Vocational licence holders

If you become resident in GB and you hold a vocational licence issued in Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, you may drive for 12 months and may exchange your vocational entitlement for the British equivalent.


5. All other countries

Visitors

You may drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to 8 passenger seats, provided your full licence or driving permit remains valid for up to 12 months from the date of entering the United Kingdom. However, you may only drive large vehicles which have been registered outside GB and which you have driven into the country.

Residents

Ordinary licence holders

Provided your full licence remains valid, you can drive any category of small vehicle shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the time you became resident.  To ensure continuous driving entitlement a provisional GB licence must have been obtained and a driving test(s) passed before the 12 month period elapses. If you obtain a provisional licence during this period, you are not subject to provisional licence conditions e.g. displaying `L' plates or being supervised by a qualified driver or being precluded from motorways.

However, if you do not pass a test within the 12 month concessionary period you will not be allowed to drive as a full licence holder and provisional licence conditions will apply.

If you do not apply for a provisional licence within the first 12 months you must stop driving and obtain a British provisional licence with a view to passing a driving test. Provisional licence conditions will then apply.

Vocational licence holders

New residents may not drive large vehicles until they have passed the relevant GB driving test. Driving test candidates are required to pass a motor car (category B) test first before applying for provisional entitlement for larger vehicles.

For more information about how to apply for a provisional GB driving licence


6. Driving in GB as a student

Students from a Community Country

Students who hold Community licences may drive cars and motorcycles in GB for as long as their licence remains valid, or until age 70. Those who do not hold a licence must have been studying here for at least 6 months prior to taking a driving test or applying for a full licence.

Students from a Non-Community Country

Students who hold a non-Community licence or an International Driving Permit may drive here for up to 12 months.

Those who hold a licence from a designated country may apply to exchange this for a British one up to 5 years after becoming a resident here (see Section 3). Students who do not hold a licence, or whose licence was not issued in a designated country, will need to apply for a provisional licence and then pass a driving test.

They will be able to take a test and obtain a full licence once they have been in GB for 6 months.


7. How to exchange your licence for a GB licence

To exchange your licence for a full GB one, you should complete an application form D1 (previously D750) and return it to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BT with your licence and the correct fee. If the licence being exchanged is vocational, and the original was issued in Jersey or the Isle of Man, you must also provide a medical report form D4 completed by a doctor. If your vocational licence was issued in an EC/EEA country you need only submit a medical report form if, on exchange, you are 45 years of age or over. This applies even if your vocational licence is still current. Application forms D2 and medical form D4 are available from Post Office® branches or DVLA.

Rules for exchange

The following conditions must be met before a licence can be granted in exchange for a GB one:

South Africa - As there are two types of South African driving licences, the following will apply:-

a The book of life, this is a driving licence and identity document. The licence part of the book will be stamped to say the applicant has exchanged their licence and the book returned to the person. For the book of life to be acceptable for licence exchange the applicant will need a letter of authority from the South African Licensing Authority.

b The photocard licence will be returned to the South African Licensing Authority.

Canadian Licences - Due to information received from the Canadian licensing authorities, it was decided to give all drivers who exchange Canadian licences automatic transmission only.  This can only be upgraded to manual upon presentation of confirmation from the relevant licensing authority of a manual test being passed or a manual test is passed in this country.


8. How to apply for a provisional driving licence

If you are required to pass a GB driving test in order to gain a full British licence you must first apply for a provisional driving licence. To do this you should complete an application form D1 (previously D750), available from Post Office® branches, and return it to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AD with the correct fee.

Once you are in possession of the valid provisional licence, you must comply with the conditions applicable to provisional licence holders.  These are printed on the back of the licence itself.  You may not take a test unless you are resident in this country.  Once you have passed both theory and practical parts of the driving test, you may then apply for your full licence.


9.  Foreign Country Codes

These codes will appear in the "Information codes" section of the driving licence if you have exchanged your licence from any of these countries: -

Australia

AUS

Austria

A

Barbados

BDS

Belgium

B

British Virgin Islands

VGB

Canada

CDN

Cyprus

CY

Czech Republic CZ
 

Denmark

DK

Estonia EST
 

Falkland Islands

FK

Finland

FIN

France

F

Germany

D

Gibraltar

GBZ

Greece

GR

Guernsey

GBG

Hong Kong

HK

 
Hungary H

Iceland

IS

Ireland

IRL

Isle of Man

GBM

Italy

I

Japan

J

Jersey

GBJ

 
Latvia LV

Liechtenstein

FL

 
Lithuania LT

Luxembourg

L

Malta

M

Monaco MC
 

Netherlands

NL

New Zealand

NZ

Norway

N

 
Poland PL

Portugal

P

Republic of Korea ROK
   

Singapore

SGP

   
Slovenia SLO
   
Slovakia SK

South Africa

ZA

Spain

E

Sweden

S

Switzerland

CH

Zimbabwe

ZW

Information courtesy of DVLA

 



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