Vehicle documents drivers need to legally cross international borders in a UK-registered vehicle.
When you drive a goods vehicle from one country to another, you must make sure that you have certain documents on board.
This guide provides information about the documents you will need as a driver to make sure that your vehicle is legally able to cross international borders.
Vehicle registration documents
If you take a UK-registered vehicle out of the country for less than 12 months, you must take documentation to show that you are authorised to possess the vehicle. This means you must carry the original Vehicle Registration Certificate (V5C) with you.
If you have not received the V5C certificate, or the original has been lost, stolen or defaced, you can download the application for a vehicle registration certificate (V62).
If you take your vehicle out of the UK for more than 12 months (permanent export), you must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) by completing the purple section, part 11 (V5C/4) of the VC5. It’s important that you take your registration certificate with you as you may have to hand it to the relevant authority when the vehicle is registered abroad.
If your vehicle is hired or leased, the supplier company is unlikely to let you have the original VC5. Instead you can apply for a Vehicle on Hire Certificate (VE103). This certificate is authenticated proof of permission from the owner to take the vehicle abroad. A Vehicle on Hire Certificate is valid for one year and you can buy one from motoring organisations such as:
- Automobile Association (AA)
- British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA)
- Fleet Transport Association
- Royal Automobile Club (RAC)
- Road Haulage Association
Vehicle insurance documents
The basic EU legal requirement is third party vehicle insurance. This covers injury to other people, including your passengers, damage to or loss of other peoples’ property resulting from an accident caused by you. It doesn’t cover any costs incurred by you as a result of an accident.
Third party, fire and theft provides the same cover as third party but also includes fire damage and theft of the vehicle.
Fully comprehensive provides the same cover as third party, fire and theft and additionally covers any damage to your vehicle.
Every motor insurance policy issued in the EU must provide the minimum insurance cover required by law in any other EU country.
In many countries, even those within the EU where a UK insurance certificate is acceptable, you may be asked to produce a Green Card. The Green Card is not an insurance cover. It simply provides proof, in those countries where the Green Card is valid, that the minimum third party liability cover required by law in the visited country is in force.
If your insurers aren’t able to issue a Green Card, you can find alternative suppliers on the MIB website. The MIB operates the Green Card system in the UK.
Insurance for goods in transit
In some countries, you may need to produce a certificate of insurance for the goods carried to avoid paying a premium. See the guide on moving goods by road.
It’s also important to ensure that the risk of goods being damaged, delayed, perished, lost or stolen in transit is properly managed. See the guide on transport insurance.
Goods vehicle operator’s licence
To transport goods abroad in an HGV for hire or reward you must have a standard international operators licence.
This allows you to carry goods both in the UK and on international journeys. The licence comes into force once the fee has been paid and the licence documents are issued. Providing the 5 yearly renewal fee is paid and there are no infringements, the licence lasts indefinitely. Identity discs are also issued and must be displayed in each specified motor vehicle. The identity discs show the:
- operator’s name
- vehicle registration mark
- operator’s licence number
- disc expiry date
- type of licence
A valid Community Licence is required for all hire or reward operations in or through EU countries. They have replaced the need for community permits, bilateral permits between member states and permits for transit traffic through the EU. They do not replace permits for travel to or through non-EU countries, where these are still required. Only operators and hauliers who hold standard international licences can request Community Licences.
The guide to Being a goods vehicle operator contains further information on goods vehicle licensing. DVSA is the authority which deals with operator licensing applications.
Vehicle tax and nationality signs
If you use a vehicle to transport goods abroad you may have to pay a vehicle tax in the countries you drive through. Some countries have an agreement with the UK that means that registered goods vehicles are exempt from this tax.
At the moment the following countries charge visiting foreign goods vehicles to use their roads:
Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Jordan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
You can find out more about the vehicle tax agreements between the UK and other countries in the guide on international authorisations and permits for road haulage.
You can find out more about the costs of vehicle tax in the Vehicle tax rate tables guide.
Nationality sign or GB sticker
All vehicles registered in the UK must display the international registration letters GB on the rear of the vehicle when taken temporarily abroad.
UK registered vehicles displaying Euro-plates (a circle of 12 stars above the national identifier on a blue background) don’t need to fix a GB sticker to the rear of their vehicle when driving in EU countries. In non-EU countries, a GB sticker must still be displayed on the rear of UK-registered motor vehicles, caravans or trailers.
Most motoring organisations and many tour operators will supply GB stickers.
In addition to the Euro symbol or GB sticker, drivers and keepers of vehicles registered in Great Britain are also permitted to voluntarily display national flags and certain identifiers on their number plates.
Help with goods vehicle documentation
The following organisations can help with vehicle documentation to ensure that the vehicle can be legally driven across international borders.
Government organisations and agencies
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) - provides information and advice on controlling risks in the workplace to ensure the protection of people’s health and safety. View details of the requirements of the carriage of dangerous goods on the HSE website.
DVSA - a government agency that provides a range of licensing, testing and enforcement services. Find out how to contact DVSA.
DVLA - facilitates road safety and general law enforcement by maintaining registers of drivers and vehicles, and collects car tax. Find out how to contact the DVLA.
The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) - access a list of insurance brokers, authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority on the BIBA website.
MIB - operates the Green Card system in the UK. Find out about the Green Card system on the MIB website.
Automobile Association (AA) - find out about driving abroad on the AA website.
RAC – find out about driving abroad on the RAC website.
The British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA) is the trade association for the vehicle rental and leasing industry in the UK. Find the index of vehicle rental and leasing topics on the BVRLA website.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) represents the transport interests of companies moving goods by road, rail, sea and air. Find out about the freight industry on the FTA website.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) provides advice, information and business services for the haulage industry. Find out about the haulage industry on the RHA website.
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