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How to exchange an international driving licence for a British one

June 7, 2022
3 min read

So, you’ve been living in the UK for a while and now you’re ready to swap your international driving licence for a British one. But how do you do that? 🤔 We’re here to guide you through the process, step by step….

1. Who can exchange a foreign licence for a UK licence?

  • Only United Kingdom residents can exchange their foreign licence for a British one. That means you’ll need a permanent address in Great Britain that you’ve lived in for at least 185 days.

  • European drivers who are 70 years or older will need to exchange their international licence for a British one. Until their 70th birthday, drivers whose licence was issued in the European Economic Area are allowed to drive on their full valid licence as if they were at home.

  • Northern Irish drivers whose licence was issued after 1st of January 1976 are allowed to exchange it at anytime... for free!

  • Are you from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man? The UK will allow you to exchange your licence if it was issued on or after the 1st of April 1991.

  • Licence holders from designated countries can drive on their valid licence for up to 12 months. After that, they’ll need to exchange their licence for a British one. They have 5 years from the day they became residents to do so, as long as the licence is still valid. 

Designated countries 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.

There are a few exceptions with designated countries: 

  • Even though the Republic of Korea is a designated country, if you're from the Republic of Korea you can't exchange your motorcycle licence without taking a theory test and a practical motorcycle test in the UK.
  • New Zealanders with automatic driving licences can only drive automatic vehicles. If you've moved to the UK from New Zealand, you'll need to prove that you passed a manual vehicle test to be allowed to drive manual vehicles in the UK!
  • If you learned to drive in South Africa, you can no longer drive in the UK with an old South African book of life-style licence or letter of entitlement to one, and you can’t exchange these for a UK licence. You must have a new credit-card style licence or a letter of entitlement to one.

If you’re still confused about whether you can or need to exchange your licence for a British one, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has a very useful interactive tool to help you with the process, here.

2. How do I exchange my foreign licence? 

If you’re a Japanese licence holder, you’ll need to provide an official translation of your licence. For more details on the process and how to contact the embassy, please visit the government website here.

You can then follow the same steps as all drivers to get your UK licence:

  • Exchanging your international licence starts with ordering the D1 form from the DVLA website, here. Even though most pages can be downloaded digitally, you should order the complete form as some pages include non-printable sections.
  • Once you’ve filled it in, send the form to the address provided along with the £43 fee and any documents you need (including your driving licence)
  • You should get your new driving licence sent to your address within 3 weeks after applying! 🤞

Remember, to drive in the UK you’ll need car insurance. Here at Marshmallow, we save international drivers who’ve moved to the UK up to 45% on their car insurance. You can get a quote in just 4 minutes 55 seconds, here