Press release

Law on driving licence exchange tightened to improve road safety

New driving licence exchange rules announced by Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond.

Foreign drivers must prove they have passed an appropriate driving test before getting a British licence under tough new rules announced today (15 January 2013) by Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond.

An inconsistency in the law meant that previously some non EU drivers were able to exchange their licence without proving that the necessary standards to drive in this country had been met.

The change in law means requests to exchange driving licences from outside the EU will only be accepted if the licence holder can prove they passed a driving test in a country where the testing standards are comparable with those in Britain.

Stephen Hammond said:

The UK’s roads are amongst the safest in the world, thanks in part to the rigorous standards demanded by our driving test. By closing this loophole we will not only make Britain’s roads even safer, but will help tackle fraud and level the playing field for British drivers who spend time and money learning to drive at the standard required in the UK.

It is obvious to everyone that drivers who have not been through a rigorous driving test will not be as safe as those who have. This change in the law will mean we can be sure that any foreign drivers exchanging their licence here have already passed a test of a similar standard to ours.

All driving licences issued by an EU state allow that driver to drive in any part of the EU and there is no need for them to exchange their licences.

This does not apply to drivers outside Europe but arrangements are in place with 15 countries that allow drivers to exchange their licences for a GB one. They do not need to take any additional driving tests as DVLA recognise that the licence they hold proves that they have already met the appropriate standards to drive in this country.

But because of an inconsistency in the law, some foreign drivers were able to exchange a licence with another overseas country with which DVLA have an exchange agreement, and then subsequently swap it for a GB one. This meant that DVLA could not be sure that the driver had met the appropriate standards to drive in this country before exchanging their licence.

The law will now make clear that the licence to be exchanged will only be issued on the basis that the driver has met the appropriate standards to drive in this country.

Notes to editors

The change in law came into force on 11 January 2013.

Driving licences issued by countries in the European Union and three other countries in the European Economic Area are treated equally. Drivers from the following countries are able to exchange their driving licences for a British licence:

  • Andorra
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg,
  • Malta,
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • UK

DVLA also has reciprocal arrangements in place for the following countries:

  • Australia,
  • Barbados
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Canada
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Korea
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • Zimbabwe

Driving licences from these countries will be exchanged for a full British licence providing the driver took and passed their test in one of these countries or an EU/EEA member state.

Press office

DVLA Press Office
Longview Road
Morriston
Swansea

SA6 7JL