Driving License and Other Legal Requirements for Foreign Drivers in UK

To drive a car in the United Kingdom, drivers are required to hold a driving license issued by either the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA, for residents of Wales, England and Scotland) or Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA, for residents of Northern Ireland). The credit card-sized license issued is a European driving license, which allows the bearer to drive in all 32 member states of the European Economic Area (EEA). Conversely, any citizen from the 32 EEA countries is also allowed to drive a vehicle in the United Kingdom using a similar driving license, which is identified using a colour photograph and a unique 16-character number.

Foreign visitors from outside of the EEA may use their existing licenses issued from their country of origin for a period of 12 months from the date when they first enter UK. After one year (with the exception of American citizens), they are required to apply to exchange their licenses. The license exchange form is available from most Post Office branches and all MOT Test Centres. Applicants will be required to attach proof of identity, proof of residency and a recent passport-sized photograph with their application to the DVLA or DVA. No fees are incurred for exchanges.

Owing to the fact that American driving licenses are issued and administered by individual states (and states are constitutionally prevented from entering into treaties with foreign governments), Americans are required to directly apply for a British driving license and take a driving test if they intend to drive beyond the first year of residency in Great Britain. The application fee is currently at £62.50.

Other Legal Requirements