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 I was tired of everyone looking my Australian licence like 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 (not 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.

Complete driving test (if required)

If your country doesn’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 license 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 recieve an automatic licence back.

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

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 you application. Just like a passport the photo is valid for 10 years so make sure you look your best 😊.

Complete the D1 Form

It’s a simple two page form.

Send the Application with Your Documentation

You will need to include:

  • Completed D1 form
  • Passport Photo
  • Passport (if you’re on a UK passport) or 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).

Where should I send the application?

The application should be sent to:
DVLA
Swansea
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 around 3 weeks for your driving licence to be sent to you. This can take longer if we 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 – duplicate of 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.

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