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Driving in the UK

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 16 Dec 2020 | comments*Discuss
Driving In The Uk

Newcomers or visitors to the UK who intend to drive while they are in the country should make sure that they familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations for driving.

Minimum Age for Driving on UK Roads

For most types of private vehicles the minimum legal age at which one can drive in the UK is 17. The main exceptions are for less powerful mopeds, where the legal age is 16, and larger motorcycles, where the minimum age is 21. Different rules also apply to larger vehicles and to vehicles designed to carry more than 8 passengers where the minimum age is usually 21.

There are some exceptions to the minimum age requirements including some people with disabilities and people in the armed forces.

Driving Licences

Before learning to drive on UK roads, drivers must obtain a provisional licence from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). Applications are made on form D1 and the fee is currently £50. Forms can be ordered online from the DVLA website or collected from a Post Office. Applications may also be made online.

Drivers using a provisional licence may only drive if accompanied by someone who is over the age of 21 and has held a full driving licence for at least three years. In addition drivers on provisional licences must display learner plates whilst they are driving and are not allowed to drive on motorways.

To obtain a full driving licence all UK drivers must pass both a theory test and a practical driving test. The theory test must be passed before applying for the practical driving test. For holders of overseas driving licences the requirements depend on the nationality of the licence.

Driving in the UK on a European Driving Licence

Drivers who hold a full driving licence issued by a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country may use it to drive whilst visiting the UK. UK residents originating from any of these countries may also rely on their driving licence, but there are time limits.

For cars, mopeds and motorcycles EU / EEA licence holders may drive in the UK for three years, or until they reach the age of 70, after which they will have to exchange their licence for a UK licence. When exchanging a foreign driving licence for a UK licence the foreign licence must be surrendered and returned to the motoring authority which issued it.

Driving in the UK on a Licence Issued by a “Designated Country”

Drivers from Gibraltar and 15 other designated countries may drive in the UK for up to 12 months on a full driving licence issued by their own country. After 12 months residents from these countries must exchange their licence for a UK one. The designated countries include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Drivers who do not exchange their licence after 12 months may not drive legally in the UK. However, they can apply to exchange their licence any time up to five years from when they became a resident.

Different rules apply to drivers from Northern Ireland, who may continue to drive on their licence until it expires. Drivers from Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man may usually drive on their licence for up to 12 months after which time they will have to exchange it for a UK licence.

Driving in the UK on a Licence Issued by Any Other Country

Visitors may drive on their foreign licence for up to 12 months.

UK residents from these countries must apply for a provisional licence and pass a UK driving test within 12 months if they wish to continue driving legally. During the initial 12-month period the usual provisional licence restrictions will not apply. However, if a driving test is not passed within the 12 months the usual provisional licence driving restrictions will apply to the foreign driver.

Other Requirements for Driving in the UK

In addition to having a valid driving licence, all drivers in the UK must have valid insurance: it is a criminal offence to drive in the UK without insurance. Private vehicles which are over three years old will also have to pass a yearly MOT check to prove that they are safe to be driven. Drivers of cars, motorcycles and other vehicles must pay road tax – evidence of which is provided by displaying a valid road tax disc in or on the vehicle at all times.

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Hi, I have been an asylum seeker in UK for two years. I have applied to get driving license recently. They returned my documents and said applicants must be resident in Uk,Your presence in this country on a temporary basis. So I am really confused now. Some of my friends like me they got driving licences. What we can do?
F O - 16-Dec-20 @ 9:06 PM
Why isnt the extension to drive, applied to foreign license holders with provisional license for atleast couple of months, due to the current situation it’s difficult to find a test centre due to lockdowns.
Milo - 13-Dec-20 @ 10:21 AM
I came to the UK In September 2019 and I applied for asylum, I have get the refugee status approval on January 2020. I have valid driving licence from Dubai. The question is allowed to drive in this license for 12 months from the entry date or from refugee approval date? thank you in advance.
A.K - 9-Dec-20 @ 9:28 PM
Hi, I am Asylum Seekers I have ARC card from 1 year and I live some address 12 month can i apply for UK driving license learner.
Al Ali - 22-Oct-20 @ 9:55 PM
hi, i am Asylum Seekers i have ARC card from 1 year can i apply for UK driving license
Al Ali - 22-Oct-20 @ 9:51 PM
hi, i am Asylum Seekers i have ARC card from 1 year can i apply for UK driving license
Al Ali - 22-Oct-20 @ 9:49 PM
Hello, I am asylum seek and i have a two year ARC I have a South African license. Am i allowed to drive in the UK?
Leadz - 15-Oct-20 @ 7:17 PM
Hi yaa.I’m asylum seekers in the UK and I have ARC for two years which is permitted to full time work and I got my provisional driving license as well.Am I allowed to do my theory test and take my practical test?
Jim - 17-Sep-20 @ 5:48 PM
The info about the three year rule on this page is incorrect, this was changed years ago. You can drive on an EU issued licence in the UK until you are 70, with no other time limits.
Emma - 26-Aug-20 @ 7:15 PM
Good day, I've been here since 28 January, I have a south african driving license and i'm an asylum seeker. Can I apply to exchange my driving license. Your help is much very appreciated.
Thechosen - 3-Aug-20 @ 7:16 PM
Hey. I am a asylum seekee. I have ARC card. Can get a driving license to drive in the Uk.
Raja - 19-Jul-20 @ 6:48 AM
Hey, i'm trying to get provisional driving license vbut i don't have settlement status, will that be a problem? Or can i still get the license?
Lizychop - 16-Jul-20 @ 12:29 PM
I want to exchange my non-UK (South African) driving license for UK one. This cannot be done online. The current message on DVLA website is that they not accepting paper applications due to COVID. As I have been in UK now a few days more than 12 months, am I legally still allowed to drive? Is there an exemption seeing as DVLA not accepting applications?
S Smith - 16-Apr-20 @ 12:38 PM
hi, i am Asylum Seekers i have ARC card from 1 year can i apply for UK driving license
lono - 16-Jan-20 @ 1:22 AM
I have visitors visa , valid until 2024, I have passed the uk theory test. When I can take practical test. Physically, how long I have to be here in uk to do practical tests
Rani - 15-Dec-19 @ 5:16 PM
Hi. How i can exchange my Ukraine driving licence online???
Tedi148 - 13-Oct-19 @ 9:05 AM
Hello i have albanian driving license,can i drive in the uk?
Dhionis - 29-Sep-19 @ 3:53 PM
If I'm on a two year youth mobility scheme from Canada with a car and driving. Do I still have to change my license even through I'm only here for 2 years
Cait - 24-Sep-19 @ 2:02 PM
As the three year rule changed? I thought it had but here seems that not? Please can you clarify? Also, any news to what may happen ie can settled status still use their DL from country of origin? Any guidance will help.
HT - 17-Jul-19 @ 2:19 PM
Can my Nigerian husband drive in the uk when he arrives here. He as aNigerian driving licence
Kice - 12-Jul-19 @ 5:21 PM
@Energy - You are eligible to apply for a Driving licence once you have lived in the UK for at least 6 months.
TJ. - 14-May-19 @ 11:47 AM
I have a tier 2 dependent, and I want to get a driving licence. Am I eligible for apply for a driving licence.
Energy - 11-May-19 @ 12:18 PM
Hi,I am a foreign citizen (european-romania) and I think i get a speeding penality in uk.i need to know what happening...the UK will send me the penality in my country where I am living or will ignore me as I am a foreign citizen? Thank you
Blablabla - 12-Apr-19 @ 10:19 PM
Hi, I'm from Morocco I've been in UK for 6 months, and I have a Moroccan Driving licence, can I used it in UK or not.
Logan - 5-Apr-19 @ 4:07 PM
can an asylum seeker rely of a driving licence issued in their former country to drive in the uk - A) pending a decision? B) After being granted leave to stay? or do they need to apply for a GB drivers licence?I have heard that if you claim asylum you give up your past and are no longer classed as a visitor and need to apply of a GB licence in order to drive in the UK.
kd - 19-Feb-19 @ 6:57 PM
Hi I am an asylum seeker . I have a valid South African driving license. Am I allowed to drive provided I have insurance?
Liz - 29-Nov-18 @ 10:47 AM
Hello, I am from Morocco and have been living here for two years with my husband is British citizen, I do not have British citizenship but I do have residence permit. Can I take a theorytest?
Kaoutar - 2-Nov-18 @ 7:57 PM
@Diddy - Asylum seekers cannot apply for a UK driving license.
TJ. - 29-Aug-18 @ 9:23 AM
Hello i am living in the uk last 3 years I’m still asylum seeker please can I know if i am able to process my driving licence? Thanks
Diddy - 29-Aug-18 @ 1:40 AM
Hello I am from România and I have 16 years old! I would like to know if I apply for a driving license in Uk what documents do I need? By the way I live in Uk over 3 years And can someone explain me some information about if I am aloud to drive a car At 17?
Adi - 22-Aug-18 @ 2:18 PM
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