The rules around driving in the UK with an international licence are really confusing. You need to make sure you’re not using the roads illegally otherwise you can recieve hefty fines, or even go to prison. Insurers also take into account what type of licence you have and it does have an impact on how much you pay for your car insurance. In some cases insurers won't accept certain types of licences, so again it is important that you check with them what they do and don't accept.
Do I need car insurance if I have an International licence?
Yes, you do! Car insurance is a legal requirement in the UK, even if you’re only planning on driving occasionally. Having a UK licence normally means that you will be able to get slightly cheaper insurance than if you hold a licence issue din the EU or further afield, so it's worth having a look at using a UK licence.
EU licence holders:
You can drive in Great Britain using your original licence until it expires.😊
If you hold a full licence issued in a country within the European Union you are extremely lucky. There is no need to exchange it or retake your driving test. Like all other licences in the UK - it will expire when you turn 70, but if you’re 68+ when you become a UK resident you can drive for three years. After this time you must exchange your licence.
Some other lucky international licence holders!
>You can exchange your licence for up to five years after becoming a UK resident (if it hasn’t expired) without having to retake your driving test.
You can drive in the UK for up to 12 months on a driving licence issued in a ‘designated country’. What is a designated country you ask? A designated country includes: 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 and Zimbabwe. After this 12 month period you must exchange your licence to keep on driving in the UK.
Other international licence holders:
You can drive on your current licence for 12 months. After 12 months you need to get a UK licence by completing a driving test in the UK 😞.
If your licence was not issued in the EU or in a designated country, then you have the worst deal. You can drive any category of small vehicle (motorcycles, cars, vehicles up to 3,500kgs such as vans, or with up to eight passenger seats) in the UK on your original full, valid licence for 12 months after you become a resident. If you want to carry on driving in the UK after this point, you’ll need to apply for a UK provisional licence and then pass the UK driving test. You’re not required to take any driving lessons in the UK before taking the test, but you might find it helpful to get familiar with The Highway Code and brush up on your driving skills.
How to exchange your foreign driving licence for a UK one:
Order the application form (D1) from the DVLA and send the form with the required documents (including your original driving licence) to the address on the form. Your new UK driving licence should arrive within three weeks.
Help I'm still confused!
If you are still confused about what you should be doing with your licence, The DVLA has an interactive tool so you can check if you can exchange your licence to a UK one. You can find that here.