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.
nomad just a question iam australian and i have a 5 year ancestral visa and live in london for the last 4 years do i need to provide proof of address to apply for my D1 licence or can i just send of the d1 form any help would be great
Hi Stephen, are you applying for the licence or looking to transfer an aussie one? In any case I don’t remember needing to provide proof of address but its been awhile and everything has to go off in the mail now so can’t say for sure.
I tried to exchange my spanish DL, which I passed the test in spain, but I was born in Brazil, and they sent this letter:
“we are unable to grant you a full GB driving licence because this license seems to have been granted in exchange for one from a country outside the european union. ”
Im trying to contact them but have been impossible, and I would like to know why did they return it for that reason? Just because my DL show in place of birth is Brazil ? doesnt mean I passed the test in Brazil.
Please could help me with some advice
Hi Glory, I’m honestly not sure why they’d return it and unsure of how to resolve it sorry. I’ve only ever exchanged my Australian licence and we are still part of the commonwealth so that may be why it allowed.
(Australian here, 1 year in on a youth mobility visa) – Does this mean we have to post off our drivers license plus passport and not have it back at least for 3 weeks? That means we are without identification for all this time – can’t travel, go out to clubs etc where they might check ID..? Bit worrying ..!
Hi Andy, yep thats correct. The only option is to post off your application to have it processed now. I had that concern when I did mine but was lucky that there was still an office in Wimbledon to do it. They’ve since closed up all the offices and all done via the post now.
hi, ive lived in the uk for 3 years now and have dual nationality. I want to exchange my automatic aussie drivers licence for a uk licence, just wondering if you know what the process is in order to get a full english licence?
will i get an english automatic in return and then have to take a test for a full licence?
..is it worth me exchanging my icence or should i just take the practical and theory test instead?
Hi Natalie, I believe the process is the same as just swapping your licence but call up the DVLA to get the right details as I don’t know if the UK have an automatic only licence option.
Hi there, I am resident in the UK now and i can exchange my eu license.
My only question is, can I still drive while i send my actual driving license and wait for the new one?? Or should I stop driving for the 2/3 weeks??
Hi Luca, I believe you can still drive yes but I’d call up the DVLA to find out what you show as proof just in case.
Hi, what is the penalty if I haven’t swapped my Australian licence even though I am a UK resident and I drive?
Hi VMCK, I don’t know I’m afraid but in theory it’s equal to driving unlicenced so guessing a fine or some sort.
I am a UK citizen and have been resident in the UK for 12 months, having moved back here from Hong Kong, where I passed my test 11 years ago. Question I have is if I am sending off to exchange my HK licence for a British one, am I allowed to drive whilst the application is being processed? As you know HK is treated the same as Australia in the DVLA eyes. I have been allowed to drive on a HK driving permit for the first 12 months, but I understand if I now want to continue driving in the UK I need to switch my licence, and this has to be done within the first 5 years of becoming a resident, after passing the first 6 month milestone.
Hi Laurence, when I applied they gave me some paperwork to use as a temporary licence but obviously now that you post everything into the DVLA I am unsure. I’d get in contact with them to be honest and see what your rights are with driving while waiting for the licence to come back.
Hi Nomad, many thanks for providing detailed information on this website. I’m a dual citizen Croatian/Australian and am moving to the UK to work and live there with the Croatian (EU) passport. I have only Australian drivers licence. Can I exchange Australian drivers licence for UK licence if I don’t have visa under the Australian passport?
Hi Patrick, I’d imagine you can but give the DVLA a call to see what they say to be sure.
Would you happen to know the address of the Wimbledon office? I can not seem to locate this anywhere online.
Hi Samara, they closed all offices you now need to call and post off any applications I’m afraid.
Hi I’m heading back to the Uk in a few weeks and i have just been hit with double demerit points over the holiday period. Will these points carry over once i hand in my Australian licence for the Uk one? TIA
Hi Sabrina as far as I know the UK don’t transfer over any driving infringement notices to your Uk licence.
I lost my Australian licence a couple of days ago, I have the form to fill out, i just don’t know whether to go three year or five year, ill be swapping it to a UK one once i get it back
Hi Catherine, when you swap your licence to a UK one you forfeit your Australian licence so I’d opt for the 3 years one to save you a few bucks as you won’t get to keep the time left once you return home its gone.
Hi! Does your Aussie licence get returned to you as well? Or is it a straight exchange..Give up my aus driver’s license for a UK one?
Hi, Do you have to fill out the form before going in? or can you do in once you go into the offices?