Provisional License

Before you begin driving practise you’ll need to obtain a provisional license. This allows you to drive supervised by an instructor or anyone who is 21 or over and has had at least three years’ experience as a qualified driver. Provisional licenses are issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).


When To Apply

You can get a provisional license to drive a car at 16 but you must be 17 before you start practising.

If you are receiving disability living allowance you can start a year earlier; so you can apply for your provisional license from within three months of your 16th birthday but must be 16 before you start practising or take the practical test.


How To Apply

You can apply online if you have a current, new style passport (the signature and the photo will be on the same page) and can pay the £50 fee by one of the accepted credit or debit cards. If you apply by post you’ll need to complete a D1 application form which you can get from the Post Office or you can order from the DVLA.

See more information about licenses here and in particular the leaflet titled Driver Licensing Information INS57P for general info (PDF file).


Foreign License Holders

European Community (EC) and European Economic Area (EEA)

If you are resident in the UK but hold a full driver’s license issued from a country within the EC/EEA you can use your license until it expires or you reach 70, whichever is the sooner. If you want to take a UK test you must have been resident for at least 185 days of the 12 months preceding your test date.

If you wish to exchange your license for a UK one you can do so at any time but you must surrender your EC/EEA license.


Designated Countries

If your license originates from a country outside the EC/EEA area but is one of a group of designated countries (see list below) you can drive for one year during which you must exchange your license for a UK equivalent. If you do not, you must stop driving, but you may still exchange your license within five years of becoming resident. If you fail to exchange within the five years, you must apply for a UK provisional license and assume normal UK learner status.

List of designated countries:

Gibraltar and 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.


Non-designated Countries

If the country of origin is not one of those designated you can use your license for one year, after which you must apply for a UK provisional license and assume normal UK learner status.


Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and Isle Of Man

If you hold a license from one of these countries, slightly different arrangements apply. Click on the link below for more information.



If you are visiting and have a full license from another country, you can use it for up to one year after the date of your arrival. This is valid for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with a maximum of eight passenger seats.


More information about driving in the UK with a foreign license or exchanging one.