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Driving in the UK

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 3 Aug 2017 | 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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[Add a Comment]
Hi, I m originally from Nepal but my husband is EU we are here since last September but unfortunatlyI just hold my 5 years residence card which is work permit so I wish to apply DVLA but we are not sure the rules that I could apply now or I have to be wait 6 months on date I hold my residence card pleade help us thank you.
Suzi - 3-Aug-17 @ 12:06 AM
Hi I am from South Africa, have done the Theory of the driving Test in South Africa and I have passed it, will that Leaners licence be valid in the UK, so would I be able to do my particle driving test now??
Matt - 1-Dec-16 @ 9:33 PM
Hi...I passed my theory test in Jersey Channel islands..it was a DVLA test. Is it valid in England? Thank you.
Karenza - 1-Oct-16 @ 9:41 AM
Gelo - Your Question:
Hi, I am from the Philippines and will be touring UK with my wife (Britain and Scotland) scheduled on end October. I plan to rent a car especially in my visit to Scotland but I only have a Philippine issued drivers license (fully written in English). Can I use my country issued drivers license to drive in UK? and will Rental company allow me to rent using also this drivers license? Who are our the recommended rental car companies?thank you very muchGelo

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here for more information.
AboutImmigration - 17-Aug-16 @ 9:55 AM
Hi, I am from the Philippines and will be touring UK with my wife (Britain and Scotland) scheduled on end October.I plan to rent a car especially in my visit to Scotland but I only have a Philippine issued drivers license (fully written in English).Can I use my country issued drivers license to drive in UK? and will Rental company allow me to rent using also this drivers license? Who are our the recommended rental car companies? thank you very much Gelo
Gelo - 16-Aug-16 @ 8:43 AM
Hi, I spend my year split between South Africa and the UK (majority of time in UK). Is it possible to hold a driving licence from each of these countries? I read that I could exchange my SA licence for a UK licence, but am not keen to forfeit my SA licence as I might be returning to SA in a couple of years. Any advice?
Jenb - 26-Jul-16 @ 4:55 PM
I am living in UK last 3 years ago. I am an Asylum Seekers. Please let me know how I can get driving licence. Thanks.
Riaz - 23-Apr-16 @ 4:05 PM
I am in UK on Tier 2 ICT visa and want to apply for provisional driving licence. May i know the elligibility and process to apply?
Pank - 10-Apr-16 @ 6:33 PM
Hello, I am a refugee I've been live in the UK over 3 year and I wanna know how to get a driving license with out passport also I've got a my own country's license in here
Tariq - 25-Jan-16 @ 8:55 PM
Hi there i would also like to enquire about getting a uk license under a youth monolity scheme visa just like LELLIS. Is it even possbile to acquire a license?
Chaley - 11-Oct-15 @ 9:03 PM
Kelly B - Your Question:
Hi,I moved back to the UK from Northern Ireland about 8 years ago, I lost my photocard part of my NI licence and never got around to exchanging it for a new one with the DVLA. I've now found some old paperwork from the DVA (NI version of the DVLA) and my licence actually expired in Novenber of 2011.Will I still be able to exchange my NI driving licence for a UK one or will I have to start from scratch as a learner??Many thanks in advance

Our Response:
I'm afraid you will need to contact the DVLA directly regarding this question.
AboutImmigration - 14-Aug-15 @ 12:50 PM
hi there. is it possible to obtain a UK driving license if you are on a visa? I'm from Australia on the 2 year youth mobility visa, I was wondering if it's possible for me to learn to drive here not having any form of license in Australia. Thanks
lellis - 14-Aug-15 @ 1:47 AM
Hi, I moved back to the UK from Northern Ireland about 8 years ago, I lost my photocard part of my NI licence and never got around to exchanging it for a new one with the DVLA. I've now found some old paperwork from the DVA (NI version of the DVLA) and my licence actually expired in Novenber of 2011. Will I still be able to exchange my NI driving licence for a UK one or will I have to start from scratch as a learner?? Many thanks in advance
Kelly B - 13-Aug-15 @ 3:38 PM
Hi,I got a theory test which is pass from guernsey,can I do my practical test in uk as am settle here now,thanks
Isma - 27-Jan-15 @ 10:24 PM
@Sue - I assume you are asking if you can drive abroad on your UK licence. I have included a gov.uk link herewhich will explains the matter further. I hope this helps.
AboutImmigration - 27-Jan-15 @ 1:43 PM
Do the UK driving license rules apply if you only work and live in the UK for only 10/11 months, and then go to home country?
Sue - 26-Jan-15 @ 11:49 AM
@spanish - To qualify for a full UK driving licence you usually have to be resident in the UK. You would have toprove you have passed an appropriate driving test before getting a British licence. The change in law in 2013, means requests to exchange driving licences from outside the EU will only be accepted if the licence holder can prove they passed a driving test in a country where the testing standards are comparable with those in Britain. I hope this helps.
AboutImmigration - 19-Jan-15 @ 11:22 AM
Hello, If you are Spanish and you don't have licence in Spain. Can you get a uk driving licence without be a "citizen" (I think I need at least to be in UK for 5 years). I arrived to Uk 6 months ago and my plan is to stay here, I have my job and my life here, but I don't have driving licence and I read that I need a UK passport to get a UK driving licence. My only option to get a driving licence then (without wait 5 years), is go to Spain and get that there?? Thank you so much
spanish - 16-Jan-15 @ 6:10 PM
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