Driver Licence Rules

The information within this section concern all aspects of Driver Licensing in the UK.

With the opening of borders and the growth of the European Union, many companies throughout Europe employ drivers from other member states. This is the introduction of the legislation that governs Non-EC licenses, EC Licences (Community licence or EEA Licence), Exchange Licences and age requirements. 

Non - EC Licences 

Article 2 Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) Order 1975 

Regulation 80 Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999 

A full and valid permit or licence of any non-EC or non-EAA foreign country is valid for: 

  • Visitors- 12 months from last entry to this country as a visitor, or 
  • Residents - 12 months from becoming resident (the 12 months starts from the time the person first took up residence - just because he/she may return to his/her home country on occasions does not reset the clock) 

To drive a motor vehicle of any class (the UK registered or Foreign) which a permit or licence authorises a person to drive except note 1 a medium-sized goods vehicle, a large goods vehicle, a privately-operated passenger vehicle or a passenger-carrying vehicle. 

OR 

Visitors - for a person resident outside the United Kingdom who is temporarily in Great Britain within 12 months from his last entry to this country as a visitor, 

To drive a medium-sized goods vehicle, a large goods vehicle, a privately-operated passenger vehicle or a passenger-carrying vehicle brought temporarily into Great Britain which his permit or licence authorises him to drive 

  • Medium-sized goods vehicles (3.5 -7.5 tonnes), 
  • Large goods vehicles (over 7.5 tonnes), 
  • Privately-operated passenger vehicles (9 - 16 passenger seats not for hire or reward), 
  • Passenger-carrying vehicles (9 - 16 passenger seats for hire or reward or over 16 passenger seats). 

Non-EC licence holders [except those from The Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey see note 1 may not drive UK registered goods vehicles that exceed 3.5 tonnes or passenger vehicles which exceed 9 passenger seats (from 10/08/2004). 

Note 1 - Residents of The Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey may drive any class of vehicle including the UK registered goods or passenger vehicles that their licence permits. 

Visiting forces personnel may use expired licences and may use their permit without a limit of time. A person who becomes a resident may, after 6 months of residence:

  • Apply for a British provisional licence, or 
  • If eligible (see below) - apply for an exchange licence, 

But may continue to use his full foreign licence for the first 12 months. Therefore, during the first 12 months L-plates would not have to be displayed nor other conditions adhered to but after 12 months a UK licence must be held, if this is provisional then all conditions should be complied with. 

EC Licences (Community licence or EEA Licence) 

Full EC (or EEA) licence holders can now continue to use their licence after becoming resident and can supervise others subject to the 3 years / over 21 years age-qualified driver conditions are met. 

An EC licence holder can also apply to be an ADI (approved driving instructor) providing a British counterpart is held. 

Non-Residents (Section 99A (1) Road Traffic Act 1988) 

An EC or EEA licence valid in the member state of issue is valid in this country for a motor vehicle of any class (UK or Foreign registered ) including a medium or large goods vehicle or passenger-carrying vehicle which his permit or licence authorises him to drive without time limitation. An EC licence issued in another EC or EAA country in exchange for a non-EEA licence is valid for driving in GB for 12 months only. 

UK Residents 

Those who take up residence in Great Britain may continue to use their ordinary EC licence which remains valid until their 70th birthday or, if aged 67 or above, 3 years after becoming resident. An EC licence issued in another EC or EAA country in exchange for a non-EEA licence is valid for driving in GB for 12 months only. See Register of Community Licence holders. If a holder wants to drive other classes of the vehicle as a provisional licence holder they can send their licence to DVLA for a counterpart which will then give the same provisional entitlements as a UK licence. 

Vocational licence holders who take up residence in Great Britain must by law register their details with DVLA. 

Vocational, LGV and PCV, licences remain valid until:

  • If under 45 years age - 46th birthday or within 5 years of becoming resident whichever is later 
  • If 45-60 years age - 66th birthday or within 5 years of becoming resident whichever is earlier 
  • If over 65 years age - 1 year after becoming resident 

Register of Community Licence holders 

Holders of Community licences with vocational entitlement who live in Great Britain must by law register their details with DVLA. Drivers of small vehicles may register also if they wish. 

To register, drivers should notify DVLA of their name, address and driving entitlement.  

Drivers who register will receive their licence back together with a UK counterpart document.  

This would enable them to take advantage of the fixed penalty system for road traffic offences instead of having to go to court. 

List of EC and EEA Countries

EC Countries 

AustriaBelgiumBulgariaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkEstoniaFinlandFranceGermanyGreeceHungaryIrelandItalyLatviaLithuaniaLuxembourgMaltaNetherlandsPolandPortugal, RomaniaSlovakiaSloveniaSpainSwedenUK 

European Economic Area (EEA) 

All the EC Countries, plus IcelandLiechtensteinNorway 

The UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020 and immediately entered into an 11-month transition period. During this period, the UK will continue to follow all of the EU's rules and its trading relationship will remain the same. However, it is no longer part of the EU's political institutions - so there are no longer any British MEPs in the European Parliament. The transition will end on 31 December 2020. 

Resident's EC licences can be endorsed by British courts and a counterpart will be issued. Holders are subject to the same medical and, for vocational licences, conduct requirements as a UK licence holder. 

Foreign licence holders, even if they are resident, will not be able to take advantage of endorsable fixed penalty notices unless a UK counterpart or an exchange licence is held and any such notices issued will normally be referred to the courts. 

Exchange Licenses 

If you are a visitor or resident in Great Britain (GB) and still have a driving licence issued in the country you have come from, certain conditions affect how long you can drive, and what you can drive in GB. 

Northern Ireland (NI) 

You can exchange a full NI driving licence for a full GB licence or you can use your licence here until it runs out. When your licence expires you may apply for a GB licence. A NI ordinary licence may be exchanged provided it was issued on or after 1 January 1976. 

A vocational licence may be exchanged if issued on or after 1 April 1986. You may take a driving test in GB using your NI provisional or full licence if this gives the appropriate entitlement. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) cannot register an address in England, Scotland or Wales on to a NI licence. 

Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey 

If you are a visitor in GB and provided your full ordinary licence remains valid, you can drive any category of the vehicle shown on your licence for 12 months. If you are the holder of a vocational licence, you can drive British registered, or vehicles registered outside GB that you have driven into the country, for a period of up to 12 months. 

If you are resident in GB and the holder of an ordinary driving licence, you may drive for up to 12 months from the time you became resident. To continue driving after that time your licence must be exchanged for the British equivalent. A licence from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man can be exchanged for a GB one provided it has been issued since 1 April 1991.  

If you are the holder of a vocational licence, you may drive for 12 months and may exchange your vocational entitlement for the British equivalent. 

Gibraltar and Designated Countries 

GB has reciprocal exchange agreements with Gibraltar and 15 designated countries. 

The designated countries are:

Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands*, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea*, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. 

If you are a visitor in GB and hold full ordinary entitlement, you can drive any category of vehicle, up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to eight passenger seats, shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the date you last entered GB, whether or not you brought the vehicle into GB. If you also hold full entitlement to drive large Lorries or buses you are only allowed to drive large vehicles registered outside the GB that you have driven into the country. 

If you are a resident in GB and provided your full licence remains valid, you can drive small vehicles for 12 months from the time you became resident. To ensure continuous driving entitlement, you must exchange your licence for a GB one before the 12 months end. 

If you do not do this you must stop driving although you may apply to exchange your licence at any time within five years of becoming a resident. 

*Motorcycle entitlement from the Republic of Korea and Faroe Islands is not exchangeable. 

Vocational designated licence holders 

New residents may not drive medium or large vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles until they have passed the relevant GB driving test. Gibraltar vocational licence holders can drive for 12 months and can exchange a valid vocational licence within five years of the date of residency. 

Other Exchanges 

An EC licence issued in another EC or EAA country in exchange for a non-EEA licence from:  

  • A designated country is valid for driving in GB for 12 months only and is acceptable for exchange purposes, 
  • A non-designated country is valid for driving in GB for 12 months only and is not valid for exchange purposes 

International Driving Permits 

International Driving Permits are not exchangeable. 

Age Requirements 

Article 2(4) Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) Order 1975. The minimum age requirements in this country apply to drivers of all vehicles except:

  • Large goods vehicles operating under EC or AETR regulations, (if driven by a person not resident in an EEA State, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey, the vehicle must be brought temporarily into Great Britain) 
  • All other classes of the vehicle with a minimum 21 year age requirement registered in a foreign Convention (non-EC or AETR) country, 

When the minimum age requirement of 21 may be reduced to 18 years providing the holder is a non-resident and holds a suitable certificate of competence. 

The following should assist in giving guidance and further information, please use the links below. 

For information about Driving Licences visit https://www.roadriskmanager.com/driving-licence-checks/