Driving in the UK isn’t for everyone and for the most part transport can be had much cheaper or more conveniently via bus or train. In my case however I was living in the UK for 2 years on a Youth Mobility Visa and due to the job I obtained while living there, I needed to be able to drive around. I did some research on what I’d need and come up with multiple answers, so figured I’d share my knowledge and hopefully help someone else in the process.
Visiting the UK
If you arrive fresh off the plane and only plan to visit then you’re all set. Providing you are carrying a full and valid licence (no probationary licences) then you are allowed go driving in the UK for up to 12 months from when you entered the country. Nice and simple without needing to carry international drivers permits and so forth. This is valid for anyone outside of Europe who enters and wants to drive.
Resident in the UK
If you’ve become a resident or living in the UK on a visa like I was that permits you to work then the rules are slightly different. You are still able to drive in the UK for the first 12 months providing you meet the licence requirement mentioned above, but after that its a bit more work.
Here the start date begins from when you were given resident status which for most of us (like me), it will be the start date of your visa and not from when you entered the country last. Before that 12 months is up you’ll need to exchange your foreign licence if you want to keep driving. You actually have up to 5 years to swap your licence over before you have to face having to endure the process of applying for a driving licence. But really if you’ve driven for the first 12 months why would you not swap it over right away?
Exchanging Your Licence
You’ve driven in the UK and now that first 12 months is up and its time to exchange your foreign licence for a UK one to keep driving. Great, providing your from Europe or one of the following designated countries:
Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Faroe Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Zimbabwe
If you’re outside of that criteria then I’m afraid it’s not good news. You will be required to sit a theory and practical test to continue driving. All I can say is I’m glad Australia is still part of the Commonwealth (Sorry America).
To apply to exchange your licence you’ll need to get your hands on a few things:
- A D1 Application For Driving Licence Form which you can request online or pickup from the local post office
- Passport photos showing no smile or teeth
- Valid foreign drivers licence
- A valid Passport with Visa inside
- 50 Pounds to cover the fee
With all that you can ship your application and all the supporting documents above off to the DVLA office and in about 3 weeks you’ll get your passport back and a shiny new UK Driving Licence. Or if your paranoid about your passport you can march yourself into the Wimbledon Office like I did and complete the process in person saving you from being without your beloved passport.
If you’re unsure about the above then the UK Government has some simple to use questionnaires to help pick the right option for you. They are:
Armed with your newly printed UK licence the sky is the limit allowing you to go driving in the UK and all across Europe without worrying about driving permits. I found it also served as an extra security blanket should I find myself without my passport on me in a time of need. Something about having a local ID card vs a foreign one just builds confidence I think.