To qualify for a full UK driving licence you usually have to be resident in the UK. However, special rules for the exchange of foreign licences and for driving in the UK as a visitor or new resident do exist. These rules vary and depend on the country that issued the licence.
European Community and European Economic Areas Countries
Anyone visiting Great Britain from :
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (Eire), Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
can drive using their Community licence for as long as their licence remains valid.
If they become a residents in the UK they can exchange their Community licence for a UK licence or they can continue to use their Community licence for three years or until they reach the age of seventy, whichever is longer.
Vocational licence holders from these countries who do not exchange their licence for a GB one may drive:
- until the age of 45 or for five years after becoming resident, whichever is the longer
- if aged over 45 (but under 65), until reaching the age of 66 or for five years, whichever is the longer
- if aged 65 or over, for 12 months
Gibraltar and Designated CountriesDesignated countries are:
Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Irelands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Cyprus, Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe.
People holding licences from these countries, when visiting Britain, can drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes and with up to 16 passengers seats for up to 12 months, whether or not the vehicle was brought into the country with them. Holders of licences for larger vehicles may only drive vehicles that have been brought into Great Britain from the designated country.
For new residents originating from theses countries slightly different rules apply. They may drive small vehicles for up to 12 months, during which time their foreign licence must be exchanged for a GB one. New residents must also be aware that they cannot drive medium or large goods vehicles or PVCs until they have passed the relevant GB tests. Vocational licence holders from Gibraltar may drive for 12 months and can exchange the licence within five years of residency.
Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man
New residents from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man may drive for up to 12 months and must exchange their licence for a GB one within that period.
All Other Countries
For new residents, so long as their full licence remains valid, any small vehicle shown on the licence may be driven in the UK for up to 12 months. During this time a GB licence must be obtained. Those with vocational licences may not drive larger vehicles without passing the GB driving test for that type of vehicle.