The United Kingdom (UK) is made up of Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland.
In the UK there are two different government organisations responsible for driving licences and vehicle registration. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) covers Great Britain, and the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) covers Northern Ireland.
Visa holders should make sure they are aware of the rules of the road, called The Highway Code, and the Legal obligations of drivers before they drive in the UK, as driving offences in the UK can cause visa complications.
Driving without a licence, or on an overseas driving licence after more than 12 months, invalidates insurance. Driving without a licence and/or without insurance is a criminal offence.
Fines and penalty points cannot normally be issued at the roadside for those with overseas driving licences, so a traffic offence could end up in court, which could affect future visa applications as any traffic offences and/or penalties must be listed.
Below is some information on driving in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) on an overseas driving licence, although visa holders who wish to drive in the UK should always check if they can drive on their overseas driving licence.
General rules are as follows:
- Those who hold a full, valid EU driving licence can drive in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales).
- Those with a driving licence from one of the ‘designated’ countries listed below can exchange their licence for a GB licence within five years, but can only drive in GB on their original (non-GB) licence for up to 12 months after they arrive.
- Those with driving licences from other countries must pass a GB driving test before applying for a GB licence, and can only drive in Great Britain on their overseas licence for up to 12 months after they arrive.
Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Zimbabwe
There are similar, but different, rules for driving in Northern Ireland.
Full information on Driving licences is found on the GOV.UK (Great Britain) and nidirect.GOV.UK (Northern Ireland) websites.