Check someone's driving licence information

Driving in Great Britain as a visitor or new resident

European Community/European Economic Area

Licences issued in the European Community and three other countries in the European Economic Area make up two groups that are now treated equally. See below for a full list of the recognised countries.

EU

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Poland, Italy, Ireland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

EEA

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway.

Holders of a valid Community licence from the EU/EEA countries highlighted above are able to drive as a visitor any vehicle which there is the appropriate full entitlement for as long the licence remains valid. Residents who hold a valid Community licence are authorised to drive up to the age of 70 years or three years after becoming resident whichever is the longer period.

Vocational licence holders that become resident will be able to drive up to the age of 45 or for five years whichever is the longer period. If the vocational licence holder is over 45, but under 65 they will be able to drive up to their 66th birthday or for five years whichever is the shorter period and if over 65 for 12 months after becoming resident. In order to drive longer than these periods a GB driver’s licence must be obtained.

Holders of Community licences with vocational entitlement who live in the GB must by law register their details with DVLA on form D9. Drivers who register will receive their licence back together with a counterpart document. This has the additional benefit of allowing the driver to receive fixed penalty notices rather than have to attend a magistrates court.

To obtain a GB licence the driver must have been normally resident in GB for more than 185 days in the 12 months prior to their application for a driving test and a full licence

Northern Ireland

Holders of a licence obtained in Northern Ireland are able drive in the GB until the licence expires. It can then be exchanged for a GB licence. An ordinary licence may be exchanged provided it was issued on or after 1 January 1976, a vocational licence may be exchanged if issued on or after 1 April 1986. For the purpose of driving tests full or provisional licences are recognised in GB.

Since 11 October 2004, there has been mutual recognition between GB and NI of driving disqualifications. It should be noted that this will allow:

  • Recognition in GB of disqualifications which were imposed under NI jurisdiction
  • Endorsement of GB counterparts issued to NI licence holders. An NI driving licence holder may apply for a GB counterpart by completing form D9. This can be kept with their NI licence and will allow them to avail themselves of the Fixed Penalty Scheme for certain types of offence
  • Revocation of an NI licence in conformity with the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995
  • Revocation of an NI licence on grounds of disability and prospective disability

Gibraltar and other designated countries

The rules for non EU/EEA countries differ, therefore care must be taken when checking the validity of the licence to use certain categories of vehicles on GB roads. Below is the list of designated countries.

Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Zimbabwe. Please note: in March 2016 holders of a Swiss bus and lorry driving licences were able to exchange their licences for British ones.

Visitors

If you are resident outside the UK, are temporarily in this country and hold full ordinary entitlement you can drive any category of vehicle, up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to eight passenger seats, shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the date you last entered the UK whether or not you brought the vehicle into GB. If you also hold full entitlement to drive large lorries or buses you are only allowed to drive large vehicles registered outside the GB that you have driven into the country.

Residents

Provided your full licence remains valid, you can drive small vehicles for 12 months from the time you became resident. To ensure continuous driving entitlement, a GB licence must be obtained before this period ends, by exchanging your licence for a GB one. Failure to do this means you must stop driving, although you may apply to exchange your licence at any time within five years of becoming resident.

Vocational designated licence holders

New residents may not drive medium or large vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles until they have passed the relevant GB driving test. Gibraltar vocational licence holders can drive for 12 months, and can exchange a valid vocational licence within five years of date of residency.

Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man

Any category of vehicle shown on the licence can be driven for 12 months. Although the licence will allow the holder of a vocational licence to drive a British registered vehicle it only allows them to drive a foreign registered vehicles in GB if it was actually driven into the country by them. Since 23 May 2005 mutual recognition of driving disqualifications between Great Britain and Northern Ireland was extended to include the Isle of Man (IoM).

If you are resident in GB and the holder of an ordinary driving licence, you may drive for up to 12 months from the time you became resident. To continue driving after that time your licence must be exchanged for the British equivalent. A licence from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man can be exchanged for a GB one provided it has been issued since 1 April 1991.

If you are the holder of a vocational licence, you may drive for 12 months and may exchange your vocational entitlement for the British equivalent.

All other countries

Visitors

Provided the licence or driving permit remains valid the holder may drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to eight passenger seats. However, the holder may only drive large vehicles which have been registered outside GB and which have been driven into the country.

Residents

If they hold an ordinary licence, they are able to drive any category of small vehicle for up to 12 months from the time they became residents. To continue to drive after this period a provisional GB licence must have been obtained and a driving test passed before the 12 month period has elapsed.

Vocational licence holders are not permitted to drive large vehicles in the GB, unless the relevant GB tests are taken.

Other useful links:

Driving in Great Britain on a non-GB licence

Exchanging a foreign driving licence