How to pass your driving licence in the UK

If you are a foreigner who has come to live, study or work in the UK, you probably use the Tube, other public transport or a bicycle every day. But of course, an even more convenient means of transport is the car. If you don’t yet have driving experience, or if you have these skills but have a driving licence from another country, then in both cases getting a licence to drive in England is not as difficult as it may seem.

Also, note that unlike other countries, in the UK you can use your driving licence to prove your identity, including at banks, which is a big advantage.

Some jobs in the UK also require a valid driving licence, so obtaining one can open up new job opportunities.

And, of course, having a car gives its owner a lot of freedom for other interesting journeys.

Our article will cover everything you need to get an English driving licence to make your life even more comfortable.

In the UK, the term ‘driving licence’ is commonly used and is most commonly a plastic card with a photograph on it. Unless there are special conditions, it must be renewed every 10 years until the age of 70, and then every three years thereafter.

Also, to begin with, you need to understand that in order to exchange your current driving licence from another country, you need to be a British resident. This means that you have been officially resident in the country for at least 185 days.

EU and EEA nationals

If you have already obtained a licence to drive in one of the European Union or European Economic Area countries, this means you can use it in the UK until you reach the age of 70. When your licence expires, you will be offered a UK driving licence without having to take a test.

There are arrangements between the UK and some states to exchange their driving licence for an English driving licence. This is done for a fee of £43, without the need to take a test. It is possible to continue to use a foreign driving licence for 12 months in the UK.

Residents of Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

You can exchange your driving licence for a UK driving licence for £43. You also have 12 months to use your old licence but remember that no later than five years from the date you became an English resident, it must be replaced. You don’t need to retake the test during this period, and if you miss the five-year deadline, you’ll need to show your driving knowledge and skills to the examiner again.

Citizens of Northern Ireland

The peculiarity is that although Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, it has differences in the system for obtaining a driving licence.

A Northern Ireland driving licence can be used in the UK. When they expire, you can obtain a British driving licence if you wish.

How to change a foreign driving licence in England

On the official website, you need to apply for a special D1 form, attach the required documents along with the original driving licence, pay £43 and send it to the address on the form. Delivery of your new driving licence is usually within three weeks.

Driving licences of other countries

When you have obtained a full driving licence in a country other than those listed above or have an International Driving Permit, you can drive in the UK for 12 months. If, after this period, you plan to continue using your car, you must prepare to take the UK driving licence test during this year. The first thing you need to do is to apply online to the DVLA for a learner’s licence, i.e. your first Provisional Driving Licence.

Temporary driving licence in the UK

If you want to learn to drive in the UK for the first time, you will also need to apply for a provisional driving licence first.

When submitting an application, make sure:

  • your age is at least 15 years and 9 months;
  • you can read the number plate on a car from 20 metres away;
  • it has been at least 185 days since you received permission from the state to reside within the UK borders of England, Scotland and Wales.

You will need to provide proof of identity, such as your passport, and the addresses where you have lived in the last three years. There is a fee of £34 for this application.

Usually, unless further checks are required, you will receive a provisional licence within a week of submitting the online application. You can now take lessons with an instructor, learn to drive and take your driving test in the country. Alternatively, a friend or relative who is 21 years of age or older can teach you. This person must have held a full driving licence for at least three years, but you may not drive on motorways during lessons with them. During training, the front and rear of the car must have special red and white signs in the form of an ‘L’ in the UK or a ‘D’ if you are in Wales.

Theoretical driving test in England

It is possible to take the theoretical test from the age of 17.

The theory test must be booked online on the official website, giving details of your learner’s licence and paying £23. The test itself has two parts, one of which requires you to answer 50 questions in 57 minutes, making no more than seven mistakes – that’s a score of 86 per cent on the test. Then, using a video test, you’ll be tested on how to react in potentially dangerous road situations. In this test, you must score a minimum of 44 points out of 75.  On successful completion of the theoretical course, you will be issued with a certificate that will be valid for two years. During this time, you must pass the practical driving test to avoid retaking the theory part.

Driving test in the UK

You must have lived in England, Wales or Scotland for at least 185 days in the last 12 months prior to the date of the examination.  Northern Ireland provides its own rules for registering for this examination.

Once you realise that you are ready to demonstrate your driving skills, you need to leave an application form on the official website and pay £62. If your car meets certain rules, you can either take the test in it or in your instructor’s car. If you would like your instructor to conduct the test, you will need to provide a specific instructor number.

On the day of the test, you must present your provisional driving licence together with your theory certificate.

To pass the test, you are allowed to make no more than 15 non-serious errors within 40 minutes. You will usually receive your driving licence automatically by post and your licence to drive immediately after the test. Whilst you are waiting for the letter, you can use your driving licence certificate as an authorisation document. Now that you have become a fully authorised motorist in the United Kingdom, all roads and new opportunities in life are open to you.

FAQs about driving licences in England

Can a tourist drive a car in the UK?

Tourists with a full valid driving licence from their home country can use it in England, Wales and Scotland for 12 months from the date of arrival in the UK. This applies to small cars up to 3500kg and motorbikes, while buses and lorries have their own specific requirements. Please note that Northern Ireland has different rules, which you can find out about on the government website.

What does the DVLA do in England?

All drivers and vehicles in the UK are registered with the government organisation, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Through an online application on the website, drivers can renew their licence, make amendments and use other convenient features.

How much does it cost to renew a driving licence in the UK?

When renewing a UK driving licence after 10 years, the cost will be £14 on an online application and between £17 and £21.50 using the Post Office.

If you have reached the age of 70 or this important event is expected within the next 90 days, renewing your driving licence is free of charge. From that age onwards, renewal is required every three years, but you do not need to retake the test.