Expat Magazine

British Driving Licence Matters

By Expatmum @tonihargis
A few weeks ago I wrote about the nice man at the National car rental desk who told me I should have relinquished my old paper British driving license (license, if you're in the States) years ago and on no account was I to show it to the police should I be stopped. I must admit it gave me quite a shock and I immediately logged on to the DVLA (Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency) web site for clarity. Alas, as it pertains to Brits abroad, it wasn't all that clear. I therefore e-mailed the help people and this morning received a reply.
So here, for Brits abroad who may be wondering about their status, and for the few remaining Brits who still have a paper licence, is the low down:
For Brits resident in the UK:
  • the old pink paper licences are still legal. Having no photo, you are therefore not required to update them every so often. 
  • Your eligibility to drive ends when you are 70, whether you have the paper or plastic type of licence, and you will need to reapply for entitlement. This is usually given for three years.
  • If you have a plastic licence, you will need to renew it every ten years as the photo will no longer be valid (There is an expiration date on the front of your license.)
  • If you move, you need to give your change of address to the DVLA 
  • Although old paper licences are still valid, the DVLA encourages you to update to a plastic one.
  • In addition, the European Union requires member states to issue driving licences in card format so if you're popping over to the Continent, you should have the plastic type of license.

For Brits abroad:
  • If you move to another country, you don't need to inform the DVLA of your change of address.
  • Although the DVLA web site states that you must be a resident of the UK to apply for a driving licence, it has little information on what happens if you obtained your license legally and then moved abroad. It doesn't state anywhere that your license is no longer valid, nor does it require you to relinquish it
  • Furthermore, the nice DVLA person tells me - "As a visitor you may drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to 8 passenger seats, provided your full USA license remains valid for up to 12 months from the date of entering the United Kingdom. However, if you were to return to Great Britain as a resident in the future an application can be made to reissue your British license if it has expired.  As there is no exchange agreement between America and Great Britain you are not required to return your driving licence."
  • So, it appears the car rental guy was wrong. My British license is fine, although my current US license is actually all I need to drive in the UK for up to 12 months. (Which reminds me, mine expires this September - Sigh..) And I don't need to hand it in to anyone. 
Good job I didn't throw it away.Hope this has helped at least one other person.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog