PA Pool's 'Almost' Definitive Guide for Foreigners Driving in the UK

September 2011

In this guide we have tried to identify the key requirements for foreign residents, visitors and students driving in the UK.  However, it is a vastly complicated issue, determined, not only by age, but also by the country from which a current licence was issued.

We come across far too many instances where carers are driving without the correct licence which could invalidate their or your insurance. So do take the time to check your individual circumstances.

In summary, if you are a visitor, resident or student in Great Britain and still have a driving licence issued in the country you have come from, there are certain conditions that affect how long you can drive, and what you can drive, in Great Britain.

If you hold a valid European Community licence and are visiting Great Britain, you can drive any vehicle if the full entitlement for that vehicle is shown on the licence.  Residents must apply for a British driving licence within 12 months.

Provided your full foreign licence or international driving permit remains valid, you may drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to eight passenger seats, subject to the country of issue.  You will be able to drive for up to 12 months from the date of coming to Great Britain.

However, it’s important to note that an international driving licence is not valid proof of driving entitlement in Great Britain.

As advised by Licence Bureau if you are a carer who drives, or an employer of a carer who drives on your behalf, you must check the UK driving licence eligibility on the Direct Gov website.

Non UK drivers

  • EU/Iceland/Norway/Liechtenstein drivers with current and valid licences can drive in the UK until age 70 or 3 years after becoming a resident, whichever is the longer
  • View Direct Gov link

Non EU drivers with licences issued in the following countries

  • Australia, Barbados, BVI, Canada, Falklands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland or Zimbabwe
  • Must exchange it for a Great Britain licence within 12 months of arrival.
  • View Direct Gov link

Non EU drivers with licences not issued in the above countries

  • Must take and pass a British driving test within 12 months of arrival.
  • However, all drivers must comply with British minimum age requirements.  These are 17 years for cars and motorcycles, 18 years for medium sized vehicles and 21 years for large lorries and buses (probably not applicable to any of our members or their carers!).
  • View Direct Gov link

European Community licences issued in exchange for licences from elsewhere

  • A community licence issued on the strength of a licence from a designated country will be valid for driving in Great Britain for 12 months only and is acceptable for exchange purposes.
  • A community licence issued on the strength of a licence from a non-designated country will be valid for driving in Great Britain for 12 months only but is not valid for exchange purposes.
  • A licence from any country outside the EC/EEA, which was originally issued on the basis of a community licence, will be valid for driving in Great Britain for 12 months only and is acceptable for exchange purposes.  Evidence of the original EC/EEA entitlement must be provided.
  • Holders of community licences with vocational entitlement who live in Great Britain must register their details with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).  For further information you can contact them on 0300 790 6801.
  • View Direct Gov link

Driving in Great Britain as a student

  • If you are a student holding a community licence you may drive cars and motorcycles in Great Britain for as long as your licence remains valid.  If you don’t have a licence you must have been studying here for at least six months before taking a driving test or applying for a full licence.
  • If you are a student holding a non-community licence or an international driving permit you may drive here for up to 12 months.
  • For up to five years after becoming resident, you can apply to exchange your driving licence from a designated country for a British one.
  • If you don’t hold a licence, or your licence was not issued in a designated country, you’ll need to apply for a provisional licence and pass a driving test.  You will be able to take a test and obtain a full licence once you have been in Great Britain for six months.
  • View Direct Gov link

If in doubt, this is a really useful interactive tool provided on the Direct Gov website for driving in the UK.

Download the DVLA Guide...

DVLA Guide to Driving in the UK