If you have a driving licence issued outside the UK and plan to stay here for more than 12 months, you may find the rules governing your entitlement to drive somewhat complex. Additional requirements need to be understood if you have to obtain motor insurance.

Read our guide to driving in the UK with a non-UK licence – and make sure you stay within the law.

I already have a licence - am I allowed to drive in the UK?

Any person with a valid driving licence issued in their country of origin is permitted to drive in the United Kingdom for at least 12 months. After this period, you will need to exchange your documents for a UK licence, or pass the DVSA’s UK driving test.

Bear in mind to drive a car legally in the UK you must be at least 17 years old – and at least 21 years old to drive a lorry or a bus.

If you have a European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) licence

Holders of a licence issued in EU/EEA nations can drive in the United Kingdom until the document expires. You won’t need to retake your test or exchange your driving documents. But once you turn 70, or three years after you become a UK resident (whichever is the longer of the two), your licence will expire.

I exchanged my non-EU licence for an EU licence – where do I stand?

You're permitted to drive in Great Britain for a year, before you will need to take and pass the DVSA driving test. If you do not take the test, you will not be allowed to drive.

I have an exchangeable international driving licence...

You're allowed to drive in the United Kingdom for a year if your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man or a ‘designated country’.

What's a designated country?

Designated countries are those whose driving test standards are considered comparable to those of the UK. These 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.

Once the 12-month period has elapsed, you can exchange your licence for a UK licence without having to sit the DVSA test. However, you must do this within five years of obtaining UK residency.

I have a non-exchangeable international driving licence...

Even if your licence was issued in a non-EU/EEC/designated nation, you are nevertheless permitted to drive in the United Kingdom for one year. You will then need to apply for a provisional UK licence, then sit and pass the DVSA driving test in order to continue driving. Lessons are not mandatory, but could be useful in ensuring you pass first time.

What if I have an international driving permit...

You do not need this to drive in the United Kingdom, but if your original licence does not feature an English translation you may find it useful in proving to the authorities that your licence is valid.

What if I only have a non-UK provisional licence?

In this situation, you must apply for a provisional UK licence to drive in the UK. You can then take the test after six months.

What about motor insurance?

Whether you are staying in the UK long-term or just for a few days, you are required by law to have car insurance. A hire car will include insurance cover in the fee.

The three types of UK car cover are:
  • Third party (only covers damage to other vehicles and property – not your own)
  • Third party, fire and theft
  • Comprehensive

What if I bring my own car to the UK and it has been insured overseas?

You should automatically have third party cover. Check with your insurer to make sure.

Is it expensive to get UK motor cover with a non-UK licence?

If you do need to obtain UK car insurance and you have a non-UK licence, you may well find it extremely costly to take out cover.

Many cover providers ignore any no claims bonuses accrued overseas, even if you have driven for many years in your own country without any incidents.

It’s a good idea to exchange your licence for a UK licence as soon as is permissible. For those with a non-exchangeable international licence, you will eventually need to take the UK’s DVSA driving test. This can be done once you've lived in the UK for six months.