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Driving licence

driving licence

Many foreigners drive in the UK without a British driving licence, but the consequences in case of involved in an accident or even a speed ticket are definitely not worth the risk. Here is a guide on how and when to obtain a UK driving licence.

EC/EEA licence holders may drive in the UK as long as they have a full valid car licence until they are 70 or for three years after becoming resident here, whichever is the longer period. At the end of this period you must apply for a British licence (no driving test required). You may also apply for a British licence once you have become resident (normally considered to be after 185 days).

Non-EC/EEA licence holders must obtain a full British driving licence within 12 months of their arrival. If you hold a valid full car licence (issued in your country of origin) or an International Driving Permit you may drive a car for up to 12 months in the UK, provided your full licence remains valid. The 12 month period commences on the date you take up residence in the UK or, if you are a visitor, on the date you last entered the UK.

A UK licence must be obtained before the 12 month period elapses to ensure continuous driving entitlement. You must apply for and take a driving test in order to qualify for the full British licence or exchange it if your current driving licence was issued by Gibraltar or one of the countries that the UK has reciprocal exchange agreements. The current list of countries is: Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. To change your driving licence, you must complete the application form D1.

Applying for a British driving Licence. In order to qualify for a full licence you must first apply for a provisional driving licence, which may be obtained immediately by completing a D1 form, and then pass the test. The provisional licence does not allow you to drive by yourself any longer than the original 12 month period. After the 12 month period, you are only allowed to drive if you hold a provisional licence, carry learner plates (L-plates) on your vehicle and are accompanied by a driver with a full licence in the relevant category for 3 years.
Beware that if you take the test on an automatic car, you will only be qualified to drive automatic cars and not manual cars. If you do your test using gears, you will also be able to drive automatic cars.
The test will take the form of a two-part theory test (the multiple choice part and the hazard perception part) and then a 30-minute driving test. Regardless of your driving experience, we recommend that you prepare for the theory test using the relevant book from DSA's Driving Skills series and the Highway Code. It is also advisable to take driving lessons in preparation for the test, especially if you are not accustomed to driving on the left side of the road.

See DirectGov for more information

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