UK driver's licence

Exchanging your driver’s licence in the UK

Comments15 comments

To legally drive in the UK you may need to exchange your driver’s licence for a UK driver's licence.

Coming 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.

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.

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.

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.

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15 Comments To This Article

  • Amin posted:

    on 6th April 2017, 23:08:31 - Reply

    Hi Guys, the answer is on the Gov website.
    if you have an EU driving licence you can drive in the UK without changing it unless you're over 68yrs old.
    https://www.gov.uk/exchange-foreign-driving-licence/y/yes/car-or-motorcycle/european-union
    Non-eu licence holders can only drive for 12 months in the UK.

  • Mike posted:

    on 11th March 2017, 16:10:09 - Reply

    The driving licence system does not make sense. Even this site talks of changing your licence if you live hear for 3 years etc.
    I am helping a Portugese lady who has worked and lived here for over 10 years.
    She came from an EU country and when you go through the Gov.uk site, she has clearly lived here for at least 185 days, is from an EU country and has a licence for a car, so clearly says she does not need to change her licence until 70 years of age.
    Yet Police insist she does.
    I am phoning DVLA Monday to confirm.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Zoltan posted:

    on 4th March 2017, 20:18:20 - Reply

    Hello!
    I just made a Driving license in Hungary! I would to know, how DVLA will exchange for me my fresh license, or not?! Many thanks!

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Ron posted:

    on 1st March 2017, 16:34:41 - Reply

    Dave, it's not free, it costs
  • Cloughey posted:

    on 17th February 2017, 21:23:33 - Reply

    Bonjour,
    I sent my French driving licence for an exchange to the DVLA few days ago and I just learn than my drinving licence was invalided - not cancelled. Does the DVLA will sent my licence to the French autority, do you think the French autority will tell to the DVLA the problem. Or does the DVLA keep my licence and don't check with the French autority. I fill the form honestly I did not know that I lost my last point.
    Thanks for your help and advice. Regards

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Cloughey posted:

    on 17th February 2017, 21:48:29 - Reply

    Have you got an answer? I have the same problem as you I want to know what they will do with my French Licence. Thanks
  • Cloughey posted:

    on 17th February 2017, 21:49:44 - Reply

    Who will keep safe the driving licence the UK autority or they sent it back to Portugal?

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  • Carol posted:

    on 16th January 2017, 15:07:51 - Reply

    It's not free Dave. Also, some of us, like myself,come from Commonwealth countries and speak English just as well as you :) Don't forget that some of us are here because we married a Brit and that there are plenty of us that work full-time and do not/cannot access any public funds. Immigrants aren't always the stereotype :)
  • dave posted:

    on 9th January 2017, 16:04:19 - Reply

    how is this aloud, how are they aloud to transfer documents free they should be made to do an English test, this will soon change none of you will be driving on these roads in the next coming years
  • robertfam posted:

    on 7th December 2016, 07:25:09 - Reply

    I just read on DLVA website that I need to change my EU Driving License (original from Portugal) to a UK license when I do 3 years of residence in the UK.
    I have called DVLA on the phone just now and the gentleman said that it is not mandatory to do so.

    Do I need to change it or not?Buy Real EU/USA/UK/Canadian Passports,Driver%u2019s License,ID Cards,Visas, USA Green Card,Citizenship(kenhiner600@yahoo.co.uk)

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Toma posted:

    on 21st October 2016, 23:26:58 - Reply

    Hello I sent three weeks ago to exchange documents and driving license I have not received anything that happens please give me an answer..??????

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  • Louie posted:

    on 16th August 2016, 11:59:27 - Reply

    Hello,

    I am a bit confused. I just read on DLVA website that I need to change my EU Driving License (original from Portugal) to a UK license when I do 3 years of residence in the UK.
    I have called DVLA on the phone just now and the gentleman said that it is not mandatory to do so.

    Do I need to change it or not?

    Thank you very much.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • Nicoleta posted:

    on 9th August 2016, 20:45:59 - Reply

    Hi, I know from other people that changed driving license that they sent photos as well; is this up to date or you dont need to send photo now? thank you

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our forums or Ask the Expert service]

  • Johana posted:

    on 15th July 2016, 18:50:58 - Reply

    You can still drive in Portugal with your UK licence. And they will keep safe your original Portuguese licence. You can switch back in few years if you need.
  • Raquel posted:

    on 9th July 2016, 18:26:48 - Reply

    Hello

    I would like to transfer my Portuguese driving license to an UK driving license...however I am afraid to send my license together with the form because I don't know what is going to happen with it...is it going to be destroyed ? Because I will still need it to drive when I go for holidays in Portugal (my country).

    Please help.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]