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How to exchange a foreign licence for a British one?

After driving around the UK on their foreign licence for some time, expats might have to take action to extend their driving allowance. Depending on where their original licence was issued, some lucky drivers might be allowed to simply exchange it for a British one. That way, no need to pass a driving test again! Confused about how it works? We’ll to guide you through it, step by step. Ready?

For more information on how long you will be allowed to drive in the UK on your foreign licence, you can read our article here!

1. Who is eligible to exchange his foreign licence for a British one?

  • Only United Kingdom residents will be able to exchange their foreign licence for a British one. This means you’ll need a permanent address in Great Britain that you’ve lived in for at least 185 days.
  • European drivers who reach 70 years old. Until their 70th birthday, drivers whose licence was issued in the European Economic Area are allowed to drive on their full valid licence as if they were at home
  • Northern Irish drivers whose licence was issued after 1st of January 1976 are allowed to exchange it at anytime...for free!
  • Are you from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man? The UK will allow you to exchange your licence if it was issued on or after the 1st of April 1991.
  • Licence holders from (most) ‘designated countries’ can drive on their valid licence for up to 12 months. After that, they’ll need to exchange their licence for a British one. They have 5 years from the day they became residents to do so, provided the licence is still valid. Please read below for more details, and exceptions.

A little summary of ‘designated countries”

‘Designated countries’ have exchange agreements with the UK to facilitate the transition to settling, and by extension, driving in the UK. The designated countries are: Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.

Please note there are some exceptions:

  • Even though the Republic of Korea is a ‘designated country’, its citizens can’t exchange their motorcycle entitlement. Unfortunately, they’ll need to take a theory test and motorcycle practical test in the UK.
  • New Zealanders with automatic licences can only drive automatic vehicles. They’ll need to prove they passed a manual vehicle test to be allowed to drive manual vehicles.
  • If you learned to drive in South Africa, you can no longer drive in the UK with an old South African book of life-style licence or letter of entitlement to one, and you can’t exchange these for a UK licence. You must have a new credit-card style licence or a letter of entitlement to one.

If you are still unsure whether you can/need to exchange your licence for a British one, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has a very useful interactive tool to help you with the process - here

2. What you’ll need to do

  • Japanese licence holders will need to provide an official translation of their licence. For more details on the process and how to contact the embassy, please visit the government website here. They can then proceed with the following steps.
  • For all other drivers, the process starts with ordering the D1 form from the DVLA website - here. Even though most pages can be downloaded digitally, you should order the complete form, as some pages include non-printable features, for example a clear plastic window to attach a photo.
  • Then, send the form to the address provided, along with £43 fee and any documents you need (including your driving licence).
    You should receive your new driving licence within 3 weeks.

Wherever your licence comes from, you’ll need an insurance to be allowed to drive on UK roads. Why not choose one that optimises the services offered to foreigners? Visit Marshmallow’s website and get a quote within minutes!

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