Non-UK licences - can you drive on a foreign driving licence?

The rules around driving licences for non-UK can be bewildering. Our guide will help you stay the right side of the law

South African driving licence

Your right to drive in the UK on a non-UK driving licence will be dependent on where you currently live, which country issued your licence in the first place and which kinds of vehicle your licence entitles you to drive. There are different rules for non-residents, both from the EU and from other countries, and for residents who hold EU licences or licences for other countries. 

Here we’ll run through the various scenarios and explain what your non-UK driving licence entitles you to drive on UK roads. 

Visitors to the UK from the EU and elsewhere

The rules are easy for visitors to the United Kingdom who don’t live here. If you don’t have a permanent UK address, you’re entitled to drive any small vehicle (defined as a car or motorcycle) for 12 months from when you last entered the country. Obviously, this is only allowed if you have the relevant entitlements from your home country where the licence was issued. 

Driving Abroad: your holiday guide

If you have a valid European driving licence, you can also drive any type of vehicle listed on it beyond the standard ‘small vehicles’. Those from outside of the EU have different rules around driving buses and lorries: you can only drive them here if the vehicle is foreign registered and you’ve actually driven the into the UK yourself.

UK residents with non-UK licences

Once you are considered a UK resident, the rules are a little more complicated. You’re classed as living here if you have a permanent address in Great Britain that you’ve lived in for at least 185 days.

As a rule of thumb, everyone is entitled to drive according to the validity of their home country’s licence for 12 months from when they became a resident. After that there are different requirements depending on which country issued your driving licence.

EU licence holders living in the UK

For drivers from the European Union or European Economic Area it is simple once you become a UK resident – although this may change after Brexit if there is no deal. Currently, you can drive in Great Britain on your licence for as long as it is valid.

If you are younger than 67 years old when you become a resident, you can drive on your EU licence until you’re 70. If you are older, you can use it for three years.

When your European licence expires, you are entitled to swap it for a British one. The only exception is if you got that EU licence by exchanging it for another (non-EU) country’s – for example you got a licence in France by trading in your original US licence.

It’s currently not clear how this situation will change after Brexit, so it is advisable to keep an eye on the news for further information. We’ll update our guides as the information becomes available, and the official UK government site will also be a good source of information.

Non-EU licence holders living in the UK

If your driving licence was issued by a country outside of the EU, your eligibility to drive in the UK depends on where you passed your driving test. 

If you came from a country which has an agreement with Britain, you can drive here for 12 months from when you became resident. After this, you can apply to have your licence exchanged for a UK licence by filling in a form and a paying a small fee (currently £43) without having to pass any further tests. 

The countries benefiting from this arrangement are listed in the table below...  

 

 

 

Andorra

 

 

Australia

 

 

Barbados

 

 

British Virgin Islands

 

 

Canada

 

 

Falkland Islands

 

 

Faroe Islands

 

 

Gibraltar

 

 

Guernsey

 

 

Hong Kong

 

 

Isle of Man

 

 

Japan

 

 

Jersey

 

 

Monaco

 

 

New Zealand

 

 

Republic of Korea

 

 

Singapore

 

 

South Africa

 

 

Switzerland

 

 

Zimbabwe

 

 

 

For any country other than those listed above, you can drive in Great Britain on your full, valid driving licence for 12 months from when you became resident. After that year is up, you’ll need to apply for a British provisional licence, become a learner again and pass the theory and practical driving tests to continue driving.

If you are planning a road trip to FranceItaly or Spain then read our helpful guide here...

Most Popular

New Vauxhall Astra prototype review
Vauxhall Astra prototype - front
Vauxhall Astra

New Vauxhall Astra prototype review

A new Vauxhall Astra is on the way and we've driven a prototype ahead of its official arrival
14 Jun 2021
Illegal car modification hotspots revealed
Volkswagen Polo exhaust
News

Illegal car modification hotspots revealed

Gloucestershire has the highest proportion of illegal car modifications, with altered number plates the most common breach
14 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai production begins in Sunderland
Nissan Qashqai - front static
News

New Nissan Qashqai production begins in Sunderland

Nissan will offer every school child in the North East of England a place on the Nissan Skills Foundation course to mark 35 years of manufacturing in …
14 Jun 2021
New hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender prototype in development
Land Rover Defender
Land Rover Defender

New hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender prototype in development

The Land Rover Defender FCEV prototype will be assessed for off-road and long-range zero-emission motoring
14 Jun 2021
New SsangYong Korando e-Motion breaks cover with electric power
SsangYong Korando EV
Electric cars

New SsangYong Korando e-Motion breaks cover with electric power

The new SsangYong Korando compact electric SUV will be on sale later in 2021, says the financially stricken South Korean manufacturer
15 Jun 2021
SsangYong J100 to get tough in the electric SUV sector
SsangYong J100 electric SUV
SsangYong

SsangYong J100 to get tough in the electric SUV sector

The tough looking electric mid-size SUV is slated for production next year and will be joined by a pick-up model
15 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
New Renault Arkana 2021 review
Renault Arkana - front
Renault Arkana

New Renault Arkana 2021 review

Does an eye-catching coupe-SUV body give the new Renault Arkana the edge over other mid-size SUVs? We find out...
16 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021