Which country’s driving licences can be exchanged in the UK?

Which country’s driving licences can be exchanged in the UK?
Do you need to exchange your non-British driving licence for a UK licence? For most people, the driving licence swap process is relatively easy and straightforward, but there are a few important steps that you need to be aware of. 

In this driving advice guide we look at how you can exchange your non-UK driving licence for a British licence. And explain what the rules are for those who live within the EU and beyond. We'll also tell you how long you can drive in the UK with a non-British licence. 

How do I exchange a foreign driving licence to UK?

You will need to be a resident of Great Britain to apply for a UK driving licence. A resident will usually be someone who lives in Great Britain for a minimum of 185 days per each calendar year.

This means that you’ll need to be registered as a UK citizen, have a permanent address in the UK, and not be disqualified from driving in any other country.

After this, you can exchange your D1 application form from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) or collect one from a participating Post Office branch. A D1 form can be downloaded from the DVLA website, too. 

In order to complete the form, drivers will need a passport-sized photograph that meets the DVLA's photo requirements, along with your UK passport or another acceptable form of identification (including a passport from one of the accepted countries).

Furthermore, you’ll need proof of your residency in the UK (household utility bill or a bank statement) and any relevant documents from your previous country's licensing authority verifying your driving history.

Once you have all of this information, complete the D1 form and send it with the £43 fee and any documents you need (including your driving licence and proof of passing your test in a manual vehicle if needed) to the address on the form. Your request will then be processed by the DVLA.

After receiving your new UK driving licence, and once you have your car insurance and breakdown cover sorted, you are ready to drive in the UK.

Exchange EU driving licence to UK

If you have a driving licence in one of the 27 member states of the European Union (EU) or three other countries within the European Economic Area (RRA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway – then you can drive in Great Britain on any vehicle that's listed on your licence until you are 70 years old (which is when your licence expires). However, if you obtained your EU driving licence by swapping it with a non-EU licence then it will only be valid in the UK for 12 months. 

According to advice from the DVLA, if you’re 67 or over when you become resident, you can drive for three years before you will be required to apply for a new licence. 

EU driving licence holders who are a resident of Great Britain can still swap their licence for a UK licence at any time. 

How long can I drive in the UK with a non-British driving licence?

If you live outside of the EU, then you can drive any vehicle listed on your full and valid driving licence for 12 months from when you last entered Great Britain. The same is true if you passed your driving test in Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man - with permission to drive for 12 months from when you last entered the country. 

EU residents with a full driving licence can use any vehicle that's listed on their licence in the UK on a non-GB licence until their licence expires. However, if your vehicle is insured outside of the UK and within the EU, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland, you should proof of insurance or a green card.

How to exchange your driving licence if you passed your test in Great Britain or Northern Ireland but later exchanged it for a non-UK licence

If you are a national citizen of Great Britian or Northern Ireland, but moved abroad and acquired a foreign driving licence, and are now looking to return – then you will need to exchange it for a domestic driving licence.

You can exchange your foreign driving licence if it was issued on or after January 1st 1976.

Unlike from other nations – this is a free service.

Download or order your D1 form through the DVLA website or collect one from your local Post Office, before sending it with the relevant documents, and your new UK driving licence will arrive in the post within three weeks. This may take a bit longer if you have disclosed a medical condition.

Exchange Jersey, Guernsey, or Isle of Man driving licence to UK

For those who are moving to Great Britian or Northern Ireland from the islands of Jersey or Guernsey – or the Isle of Man – then you can exchange your licence for a GB version, if your previous licence was issued on or after April 1st 1991.

This will come with a set charge of £43.

Like the above, you will need to complete your D1 form and send it back to the DVLA.

Exchanging your non-UK driving licence to UK when you are from outside the EU

If you are moving to the UK from outside of the EU then you might need to apply for a licence and take a driving test in the UK.

However, if you are from a ‘designated country or territory’, then there are separate rules.

These include the countries of Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Republic of North Macedonia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe.

Below, we summarise the most important information for the larger nations in this list.

Australia

If you are coming from the land down under, then you can continue to drive in the UK without exchanging your licence for 12 months after becoming resident.

After that year, you must exchange your licence to remain road legal. Drivers can exchange it up to five years after becoming resident. This won’t apply is your Australian licence has expired.

However, to get a UK licence to drive a manual vehicle, you may need to show proof of passing your driving test in a manual vehicle. Drivers from Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, or Victoria will need to do this.

Those that passed their driving test in an automatic vehicle, can only drive an automatic vehicle.

Following the end of the 12 months, you will need to go through the D1 form process and pay the £43 fee.

Canada

Drivers with a in-date Canadian driving licence, can legally drive in the UK for a year after becoming a resident.

Like Australia, you can exchange it up to five years after you become a resident – as long as your Canadian licence isn’t expired.

To exchange your licence, you’ll need to go through the D1 exchange process through the DVLA website and pay £43.

Gibraltar

Residents of Gibraltar looking to move to the UK can continued to drive for a year with their licences before they need to be exchanged through the D1 form.

If you had a licence for just an automatic car, then you can only have a UK licence that allows the same.

New Zealand

Like the nations above, after a year your New Zealand drivers’ licence will need to be exchanged for a UK one.

The process will take three weeks and cost £43.

According to the DVLA, you can only drive manual vehicles if you can prove you passed a manual vehicle test – otherwise, you must drive an automatic.

Switzerland

For Swiss driver’s licence holders, you can drive in the UK for 12 months before needing to exchange it for a UK version.

Unlike the other nations in this list, the DVLA states that this can take up to four weeks to be made official.

Ukraine

When it comes to Ukrainians looking to exchange their national driving licence for a UK version, there are now a few more rules in place.

Citizens of Ukraine can continue to drive in the UK without exchanging your licence for 36 months (three years) after becoming resident.

After that time period you must exchange your licence to keep driving legally in the UK.

Drivers can exchange it up to five years after becoming resident if it has not expired.

If you passed your driving test in Ukraine before December 28th 2021, then you can only exchange your driving licence for a UK licence that allows you to drive automatic vehicles.

However, if you passed your driving test on or after December 28th 2021, and if your current licence allows you to drive manual vehicles, you can exchange it for a UK licence that allows you to drive manual vehicles.

The DVLA instructs Ukrainians that you can’t exchange your motorcycle licence for a UK equivalent. You will need to retake your test here in the UK.

Do you have any questions about getting a UK driving licence? Leave them in the comments below.

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