Driving In The UK On a Foreign Licence

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If you have a licence from Europe and want to drive in England, you must comply with the local motoring laws and be over the age of 17 for cars and 21 for lorries and as long as the vehicle you want to drive is on your European licence, then it will pose no problems when you come to the UK. Some countries in the EU however tend to drive on the right side of the road, so when you come to the UK you may find it harder to adapt to. If you rent a car in Britain, you can also get a satellite navigator to help with route planning instead of using a paper map and the good news is that some EU countries also let you download the England map onto your own satellite navigation system.

Exchanging EU licence for UK licence

If you have a valid European Community (EC)/European Economic Area (EEC) licence and become a resident of the United Kingdom, then you have the right to exchange your licence for a UK one. You will be able to drive on your foreign licence until you are 70 though should you decide not to get a British licence.

Non EU licences

If you are not from an EC/EEA or designated country, then as a resident you can drive upto 12 months on your foreign licence but will have to apply for a provisional licence and do a theory test and practical test to obtain a UK driving licence after the 1 year has elapsed. This is because non EU countries have different road regulations that are not widely used here in the UK so you cannot just exchange your licence for a UK one.

Visitors to Great Britain

If you're just visiting the UK and you come from an EC/EEA country, then you can drive here as long as your licence remains valid. However if you come from any other country, then you can drive on UK roads for only 12 months from the date you last entered the United Kingdom.


As a student with an international driving permit or non community licence, you can drive for a maximum of 12 months here. However if you come from a designated country, you may be able to exchange your current licence for a UK one. And for those coming from the EC/EEA, you are allowed to drive until the age of 70.

If you need to get a UK licence and sit the test, it may be worth taking a handful of lessons to just have an idea of the UK standards of driving. Manoeuvres, driving style and speed limits may also vary from your country of origin so you may want to take this opportunity to pass first time round before they make it harder for EU and foreign nationals.

10 years ago, if you came from a country other than the EU, you may still drive in the UK but you would need to apply for a permit. Nowadays this policy seems to not exist anymore and in most cases you can drive on your foreign licence for up to 12 months before it becomes invalid and you need to apply for a UK licence.

If you rent or buy a car in the UK on a foreign driver's licence, you will still need to make sure you have insurance cover for at least third party as this is a legal requirement. Failure to have adequate insurance cover could lead to severe fines and prison sentence and that's the last thing you want to happen.

gices Level 6
I'm a Software Developer and the co-founder of Clever Dodo. Born in Mauritius and now living in the UK, I usually blog about fitness, music, spirituality and driving topics to pass on my knowledge.

6 Replies

sharis2010 Level 1

Driving in the UK on a youth mobility visa

I moved to the UK recently on a youth mobility visa (2 years) and I would really like to drive. However, I learnt that I can't trade in my licence for a British one since I am not considered to be a permanent resident. Is there some kind of car insurance I can get even just to drive a friend's car? Could I own a car?

[Migrated from previous topic 11494 dated 10 Oct 2010]

samgriffiths Level 1

I think you only have to be considered a resident not a permanent resident. Resident definition for driver license means you have to normally live in the UK for 180 days per year. Offical residency is not required. You can drive on your license for 1 year if its from one of the non eu designated countries such as NZ, Australia, Canada etc

[Migrated from previous post 2268 dated 01 Apr 2016]

gianni60 Level 1

Can I insure a foreign car with italian number plate in the UK without changing the number plate?

The car at the moment is in Italy and I will go and get it, will it be possible to insure it without changing the number plate? the car is a Volvo 40

[Migrated from previous topic 11734 dated 16 Dec 2010]

JamesP555 Level 1

Yes, But you have to pay a small payment to keep that Number plate. I know why you would want to keep it anyway, The GB plates are terrible. Nice car mate, Go for it.

[Migrated from previous post 1519 dated 03 Feb 2011]

anonymous_2 Level 1

My friends live in italy and are driving their van over to the UK in march, can I drive it in the UK on their insurance? Or do I need to insure myself? I have been told the van has italian insurance that covers anyone who is driving it, does this apply here?

[Migrated from previous post 2128 dated 24 Sep 2013]

mickey59 Level 1

How can l insure a car with foreign plates in the UK?

I need a foreign car insurance policy. Where can I get one?

[Migrated from previous topic 11263 dated 27 Jul 2010]

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