Exchanging a Foreign Licence for a UK Drivers Licence

Exchanging a Foreign Licence for a UK Drivers Licence

Now that you have finally settled down in the UK it’s time to exchange your license to a UK drivers license. It’s a pretty easy process to exchange your licence once you’ve been here for over 185 days.

Why Should You Change Your Foreign Driving License To The UK One?

The reason I changed my licence is because I was tired of everyone looking my Australian licence asking is this “valid” when I was buying alcohol, using it as proof of ID and I couldn’t use it as proof of address. The main benefits for you changing your licence are:

  • Proof of Address – One of the benefits of having a UK licence is that it is the most convenient Proof of Address you can have. Before having my licence I needed to carry my passport around when I needed to something at the bank and requiring me to remember in advance with having my UK licence I didn’t need to worry.
  • Cheaper Car Insurance – Most companies offer cheaper car insurance for full UK driving license holders. I recently tested this on confused.com to see whether it was true using VOLVO V60 SE T3 as the car model of choice. The first quote with my Australian licence came to £2924.32 and the second quote using my UK licence came to £937.56. It’s worth making the switch if you are planning to buy a car to save those £££’s.
  • Continue driving in the UK – If you wish to continue driving in the UK you must change your licence after 12 months of staying in the UK on a foreign licence. I waited 3 years before exchanging mine however I don’t really drive in the UK. You can exchange it up to 5 years after becoming resident if it hasn’t expired.

Can You Get A UK Driving Licence On A Visa?

As long as your visa allows you to hold a permanent address in the UK and have lived in the country for at least 185 days of the last year you will be able to get a UK drivers licence. For example:

  • Tier 5 Youth Mobility
  • UK Ancestry
  • Right to Abode
  • Spousal Visa
  • Student Visa
  • And others…

How to Exchange a Foreign Licence for a UK Drivers Licence

The process for exchanging your licence is (note that this is only for England, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland has its own process).

Check If Your Country Has A Reciprocal Exchange Agreements

To exchange your licence your home country must be a ‘designated country’ (countries with exchange agreements with Great Britain), the countries in this agreement 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.

The application does ask which country your licence was issued in and where you passed your test. If you didn’t pass in one of the above countries you will have to complete a driving test. You will be able to drive on your licence for 12 months before requiring to exchange.

Complete driving test (if required)

Countries that don’t have a reciprocal agreement you will need to apply for a UK provisional licence and pass the UK practical test. It’s not required that you take any driving lessons before taking the test but it could be helpful to familiarise yourself with the UK rules.

Check out this handy little tool to see if you can drive in the UK on your non-UK drivers licence.

A Copy of Your Licence or Proof of Entitlement Letter From The Issuing Authority

You need a copy of your drivers’ license or proof of entitlement letter from the issuing authority confirming your licence is valid with all of your details etc. and send that in with your application in the UK. Saves you having to re-order another licence.

When I was in Australia I said my licence was lost and paid for a new one. Plus got a new photo whilst I was at it.

If you passed your driving test in Canada or New Zealand you will need to provide proof that you can drive a manual gearbox if you want a manual license.

Manual or Automatic Licence

Your licence should be switched to the type of licence you had in your home country so in Australia I had a manual licence and when I exchange I also received a manual drivers licences. The same happened when my sister applied, she has an automatic licence and received an automatic licence back.

Order Form D1 From The Driver And Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

D1 Instructions and Form
D1 Instructions and Form

The easiest way to get a D1 form is by ordering it online, otherwise post offices should have copies of the form.

Get A Passport Sized Photo

You will one standard UK Passport size photo to send with your application. Just like a passport the photo is valid for 10 years so make sure you look your best 😊.

Where to get photos? I always end up going to Snappy Snaps for my passport photos as there are so many around. They will ask you what type of photo you require and provide the correct type.

Complete the D1 Form

Simply complete the two page form. If you need any help there is also a guide to support the application.

Send the Application with Your Documentation

D1 form and ID
D1 form, Australian license and biometrics card.

You will need to include:

  • Completed D1 form
  • Passport Photo
  • Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) (if you’re on a visa)
  • Your licence or proof of entitlement letter from the issuing authority
  • £43 fee – As I don’t have cheque book I decided to get a postal order to pay the £43
  • Self-addressed registered post envelops (optional)

If you arrived in the UK on a British passport then you just need to add your passport in the application and you will not need to send your passport off with the application.

Please note: If you don’t provide a self-addressed registered post envelope then your documents will be posted back to you in second class post. DVLA will not compensate for any loss or delay in the return of your documents. I highly recommend paying extra for the registered post envelope for a piece of mind.

How to Pay Via Postal Orders and Checks

For some reason the DVLA only accepts cheques! The easiest way to get one is a postal order from the post office. The cheque will cost 12.5% of the value order which will be £5.37 on top of the £43. Simply go up to the counter, ask for a postal order to the DVLA Swansea and one will be produced with the correct amount.

Alternatively, you can visit your bank or credit union’s branch to request a counter cheque. Make sure you check with your bank branch before you make a trip there and see if counter cheques are available. If you use an online bank like Monzo this option won’t be open to you.

Make sure you add your name and date of birth or licence number on the back of the cheque.

Where should I send the application?

The application should be sent to:
SA99 1BT

I sent mine by registered post and included an addressed registered post envelope so it could be tracked when my documents were returned. Your new UK licence and identity documents will be sent separately.

How long does it take to get a driving license UK?

Allow about 3 weeks for your driving licence to be sent to you. This can take longer if they need to check your health or personal details.

Understanding Your UK Driving Licence and the Codes

On the back of your UK licence there will be a table of vehicles (categories) and licence codes which state what you can and can’t drive.

If you have a standard licence then chances are yours will say something similar to mine. My exchanged licence it says I can drive the following categories and with the associated conditions:

  • AM which is a 2-wheeled or 3-wheeled vehicle with a maximum design speed of over 25km/h (15.5mph) but not more than 45km/h (28mph) if I comply with code 122 (see below).
  • A with restriction of 79 (3) which is motor tricycles with a power output more than 15kW.
  • B1 which is basically a quad bike.
  • B the one we are most likely to drive, a car. It’s exchanged to a full licence, if you had an automatic licence it would say 70, 78 which is restricted to vehicles with automatic transmission.
  • BE I can drive a car with a trailer.

The codes determine what conditions are on your licence. Here is a quick highlight of the codes I think are most common:

  • 01 – eyesight correction, for example, glasses or contact lenses
  • 70 – exchange of licence
  • 71 – a duplicate of the licence
  • 78 – restricted to vehicles with automatic transmission
  • 79 – restricted to vehicles in conformity with the specifications stated in brackets on your licence
  • 79 (2) – restricted to category AM vehicles of the 3-wheel or light quadricycle type
  • 79 (3) – restricted to tricycles
  • 122 – valid on successful completion: Basic Moped Training Course 125 – tricycles only (for licences issued before 29 June 2014).

For more information on the code here.

Video on How to Get a UK Driving Licence as an Expat

More Living in the UK Articles

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This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Hi – just to clarify, do they give you your Australian drivers license back or do they keep that? Thanks!

  2. Hi Tom,
    No, you don’t get your drivers license back. When I went home last I just reported my licence lost so I had two copies and sent one off.

  3. can you get a new australian licence once i exchanged it

  4. Hi Abe,
    Each state has its own rules so you would need to check with your state. When you arrive back in Aus as a permanent residence in Australia you must exchange no later than three months after arrival. As a general guide, you need to prove the following information to swap:

    Proof of an Australian address
    Proof of identity
    Completed eyesight test
    Completed knowledge test (unless exempt)
    Completed driving test (unless exempt)
    Required licencing fee
    Information about any medical conditions that affect the ability to drive


  5. Hi Kat!
    I’m going to the UK in August and plan to get my driver’s license here in Australia before leaving. Can I exchange it within 12 months or maybe not because it will be so recent?
    Extra information: my australian driver license will not be provisional because I already have a full one from my country (Brazil).
    Thank you!

  6. Hi Alisson,
    I have never dealt with a multi-country transfer so I’m not sure if it would be ok. It would state on your license (as far as I am aware) that it was swapped from Brazil.
    You can exchange your license 185 days after you arrive so 6 months time.

  7. Just for info

    The place where you passed your driving test counts.

    If you got your Australian driving licence on the basis of a Brasilian driving licence then unfortunately you would not be able to exchange (unless the UK has an agreement with Brasil at the time of exchange).

    In this case the fact that you passed in Brasil counts over the fact that your licence is Australian.


  8. Thanks Larson, that is super helpful.

  9. Hi Kat,

    Do they provide a provisional license, so that one can drive while they wait for the full license to arrive. I still need to drive for work in England and 3 weeks without being able to arrive at work,l would be a problem.

    Kind Regards

  10. Hi Mary,

    I didn’t get a provisional license when I exchanged my license. Just waited for the hard copy to arrive in the post.


  11. Can I change my Ukrainian driving license in uk

  12. Hi Umar – I would call and check with the DVLA. Kat

  13. Hi Kat, do you know if there is a fast track service over the counter? I’m concerned seeing my passport as I often need it for work… cheers, N

  14. Hi Noni,
    I am not aware of any DLVA centres you can go to exchange your license.

  15. Hi Kat,
    Thanks so much for such a helpful post. On the list of documents you need to submit you’d mentioned the BRP, but not the passport. I’m Canadian here on a visa so do I need to include my BRP and Canadian passport? Thank you!

  16. Hi Audrey, Unless your visa is in your passport than just your BRP card is needed. Kat

  17. Thanks 4 this I followed your guidelines for ILR did it on my own using super priority . Did my biometrics yesterday and got my approval today .Thanks so much u made it all very easy

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