Driving licences

Driving in Britain as a visitor or foreign resident

Driving licences

All foreigners with driving licences issued outside of the UK are allowed to drive in the UK for 12 months without obtaining a British driving licence.

If you have a driving licence issued within the European Economic Area (all EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), you can drive within the UK for as long as your licence remains valid.

If you have a driving licence issued in one of the so-called ‘designated’ countries (listed below), you need to exchange your licence for a British license to be able to drive in the UK for more than 12 months.

The designated countries are: Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.

If you hold a driving licence issued by any country not listed above, then you will need to pass a British driving test in order to continue driving in the UK beyond the initial 12-month period.

Converting your licence

Foreigners who are permanently resident in the UK and are not required to pass a British driving test (as explained above) may exchange their licence for a British licence. To do so you need to collect an application form (known as a D1 form) from any British post office and send it to the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA):

DVLA,Swansea SA99 1BT

Any further information you might need about driving in Britain is available on the DVLA’s website: www.dvla.gov.uk .

Check out this useful infographic which is an introduction to driving in the UK .

Further reading

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Other comments

  • Xerous Filo, 10 July 2008 Reply

    British Citizens living in Canada

    I've just emmigrated to Canada. I had to surrender my U.K licence. When I come & visit every year where do I stand with the Canadian licence after I have lived away for more than 12 months?

  • john clulow, 09 October 2009 Reply

    john clulow

    I am an expat living in thailand for the last 15 years. I have a thai driving licence but no uk am I entitled to drive in the uk for 1 year

    • Garry 29 Nov 2011, 05:26

      Thai Licence

      You need to obtain an International driving permit from Bangkok to drive in the UK legally on your Thai licence.

  • Nat, 11 January 2013 Reply


    That was really helpful. I was looking for ages trying to find a concise answer around permanent residents of the UK living here for longer than 12 months and wanting to convert their licence without having to do the test again. To my relief it's a simple change over!