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Complete Guide to Renewing Your Photo Driving Licence

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 20 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Driving Licence Photocard Renewal Photo

In theory, renewing your UK driving licence is routine. Before the expiry of your photocard driving licence or your old-style all-paper driving licence, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) sends a renewal form. You complete the form and follow the instructions that come with it. This apparent simplicity is not always borne out by the facts. According to DVLA figures, for example, two million photocard driving licences are out of date. Furthermore, to judge by the comments we receive, not everyone sees the process of renewal as straightforward.

Failing to Renew

I was recently stopped by the police for speeding. The police asked to see my driving licence, which I gave them. I was genuinely surprised when they told me it had expired and I faced a fine for not renewing it. I thought I didn't have to renew it until I'm 70. I'm confused. Can you give me any advice?

Although a paper counterpart driving licence has an expiry date that matches the holder's 70th birthday, you have to renew a photocard driving licence every 10 years. It is an offence to:

  • Fail to surrender the photocard driving licence to DVLA after this time
  • To fail to produce a new photo

Fine for Not Renewing

The police recently summonsed me to court for motoring offences, one of which included a failure to renew my photocard driving licence. I was expecting a £1,000 fine for the latter - at least that's what a friend who works at a solicitor's told me - but I got a penalty of £100 instead. Can you tell me why?

DVLA recommends a fine of up to £1,000 for a failure to surrender a photocard driving licence on expiry. However, the police have discretion about the level of any fine. According to government figures, from 2010 the police have intercepted around 734,000 drivers with an expired photocard driving licence. These drivers have paid fines totalling £41 million. The average fine is £55.86.

Avoiding a Fine

The best way to avoid a fine is to renew your photocard driving licence on time. Check the date given at "4b" on the front of your photocard. This is the date of expiry.

I have just realised my photo UK driving licence expired last month. I had no idea it needed renewing. Can you tell me what's the best and quickest solution please?

If your photocard driving licence has expired, you should complete the renewal process without delay. The quickest way to do this is online on the DVLA website.

DVLA advises that the time you have to wait for a renewal licence is approximately two weeks if you apply online. When you apply by post or at a post office, you could wait three weeks.

How Do I Get My Photo to the DVLA Using the Online Service?

You can only renew online if you have a passport that is less than five years old (e.g it is less than five years since you last renewed it). The DVLA uses the photo stored with your passport for you new photocard. (So if you don't want your passport photo on your driving licence, this is not the route to take!)

When renewing online, you will also need to be able to pay by credit or debit card and you'll have to have your national insurance number and current driving licence number with you.

Confusion Over Licence Types

If you have an old-style all-paper driving licence you don't need to renew it until you are 70. You then apply for a photocard driving licence.

Since 1998, new drivers have received a photocard driving licence and a paper counterpart driving licence rather than an old-style all-paper driving licence.

The main difference between the photocard driving licence and the paper counterpart is that the counterpart lists endorsements.

The paper counterpart driving licence is not the equivalent of the old-style all-paper driving licence. In fact, DVLA is abolishing the paper counterpart driving licence in 2015.

I have an old-style paper licence. Do I need to apply for a new-style photo licence? I am driving abroad later this year and never had a problem with the paper licence before.

There is no legal obligation to change an old-style all-paper driving licence to a new photocard driving licence until you are 70. The old-style all-paper driving licence is valid abroad although in some countries you may also need an IDP (International Driving Permit).

Even so, if you wish to change an old-style all-paper driving licence to a photocard driving licence before you are 70, you can do so. You will have to pay a fee, though.

Renewing at Age 70

I'm fast approaching 70 - too fast! And I'm under the impression I have to re-take my driving test when I hit the big seven o before I can renew it. This seems totally unnecessary. I'm still a competent driver. Is it true I have to sit another test?

If you are in good health and otherwise allowed to drive, you do not have to take a test when you reach 70. But you must renew your driving licence at age 70 and every three years thereafter.

Moving Abroad

Like many other people, you may live or work abroad. While abroad, your UK driving licence could expire.

My wife's driving licence is out of date. We moved to Cyprus shortly before it expired and we do not have a permanent address in the UK. How can we renew the licence?

If you do not have a permanent address in the UK, the following rule applies.

You can only renew your driving licence if you normally live in the UK. "Normally live" means you must reside in the UK for a minimum of 185 days in each calendar year.

Returning to the UK

Many people have concerns about how they can renew their UK driving licences when they return to Britain. The circumstances for each situation vary but some common rules apply.

I have been living overseas for the past six years and plan to return to the UK in the near future. However, my UK driving licence expired in March 2012. I have a valid Omani driving licence. Can I drive using that until I get a new British licence? Or can I renew my licence online just before I return to the UK? I have no UK address yet.

You cannot apply online for a new licence from DVLA before returning to the UK. Once back in the country, however, you can use an Omani licence for the time being and re-apply for a UK licence when you have a permanent UK address.

I am a British Citizen and passed my driving test originally in Jersey in the Channel Islands. I moved to Ireland five years ago and had to exchange my licence for an Irish (EU) licence. I have since relocated to the UK and have just realised that my Irish licence expired at the end of 2010. I now want to exchange my Irish licence for a UK licence and wonder if this will be accepted, given that my Irish licence has expired.

You can exchange a driving licence issued in an EU country such as the Republic of Ireland for a UK licence. You should do this within the first year of living in the UK. The EU driving licence does not have to be current.

I am a British citizen and have been living in the USA for the past 13 years. My British licence lapsed ten years ago and I have been driving on a US (Oklahoma) licence since then, which includes car and motorcycle. My question is this: if I returned to the UK in the near future, would I have to take another driving test for car and motorcycle? At the time of writing I am 80 years old.

It is not possible to exchange a US driving licence for a UK one although you can drive for a year in Britain on an American licence. If you have a lapsed UK licence, you can apply for renewal without taking another driving test. When returning to the UK, a driver's age does not matter except that you have to renew your driving licence every three years after 70.

New Driving Licence Rules from 19 January 2013

I'm told that the EU has introduced changes to driving licences from January 2013. I'm a car driver and a British citizen. How do these changes affect me?

The EU Third Directive on driving licences became law on 19th January 2013. The law introduced the following changes.

  • The number of categories on the back of the photocard driving licence has increased.
  • The minimum age requirement that applies to some categories has changed.
  • Lorry, bus and minibus drivers must meet new requirements when renewing their driving licences.

The new rules do not mean that you have to apply for another photocard driving licence. When you renew your licence on expiry you receive the new-style photocard.

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[Add a Comment]
My photocard licence will expire soon. I still have the paper copy, can I just let the photocard licence lapse and start using the paper copy again ?
Coco - 20-Oct-17 @ 5:03 PM
Thanks for your answer.Just on Question 3.... Yes we can apply for a standard renewal but the question was......if we do not apply for the full renewal first time around, can the extra entitlements be applied for at a later stage, when my health has improved, without having to take the extra tests? thanks!
Milestones - 10-Oct-17 @ 9:19 PM
Milestones - Your Question:
I am applying to renew my licence for the second time, at the age of 73. Being a 'Grandads' licence, it contains the entitlement to B1/D1.Question 1: I'm told that to renew as a standard licence without entitlements I can do this online but to retain the B1/D1 I will need a medical. Please confirm. No issue if requiredQuestion 2: I have a bad back currently and am awaiting some cortisone injections. My doctor advises that if he has to prepare a medical certificate and it contains a reference to a bad back, then this is a condition the DVLA can refuse the full renewal. Is this true?Question 3: If question 2 is correct, is it possible to apply for the standard renewal licence and then apply later for the entitlements to be added back on, without having to take any extra tests?thanks!

Our Response:

(1) Yes you need to provide a medical certificate for the D1 category (not the B category as far as we know).
(2) The guidance on medical conditions is lengthy and some of it is at the discretion of medical professionals. Please see the Guide to professionals assessing fitness to drive here
(3) We think you can still apply for a standard renewal.
YourDrivingLicence - 10-Oct-17 @ 3:02 PM
I am applying to renew my licence for the second time, at the age of 73.Being a 'Grandads' licence, it contains the entitlement to B1/D1. Question 1: I'm told that to renew as a standard licence without entitlements I can do this online but to retain the B1/D1 I will need a medical.Please confirm.No issue if required Question 2:I have a bad back currently and am awaiting some cortisone injections.My doctor advises that if he has to prepare a medical certificate and it contains a reference to a bad back, then this is a condition the DVLA can refuse the full renewal.Is this true? Question 3: If question 2 is correct, is it possible to apply for the standard renewal licence and then apply later for the entitlements to be added back on, without having to take any extra tests? thanks!
Milestones - 9-Oct-17 @ 1:28 PM
Sazza - Your Question:
We lived in Netherlands for 3 years and have just returned back to the U.K. a month ago. We moved back to our previous home and have found out that my wife's licence expired in 2015. Tried to renew online, stated that we lived at our current address for a month (same address as on the expired licence) and previous to that lived in Netherlands. We then entered passport details (only renewed 2 years ago) and submitted NI number as well. It came back saying we couldn't renew online. Had already spoken to DVLA and followed their instructions. HELP!

Our Response:
It might be easier apply by post or via the post office if the online system is not accepting your application.
YourDrivingLicence - 5-Sep-17 @ 11:30 AM
We lived in Netherlands for 3 years and have just returned back to the U.K. a month ago. We moved back to our previous home and have found out that my wife's licence expired in 2015. Tried to renew online, stated that we lived at our current address for a month (same address as on the expired licence) and previous to that lived in Netherlands. We then entered passport details (only renewed 2 years ago) and submitted NI number as well. It came back saying we couldn't renew online. Had already spoken to DVLA and followed their instructions. HELP!
Sazza - 3-Sep-17 @ 1:51 AM
Jo - Your Question:
I have just renewed my Photocard Driving Licence because it's 10 years old.Do I have to return my counterpart Driving Licence with my old Photocard even though my name or address hasn't changed?

Our Response:
You don't usually have return the paper part, just your old photocard.
YourDrivingLicence - 18-Aug-17 @ 2:47 PM
I have just renewed my Photocard Driving Licence because it's 10 years old. Do I have to return my counterpart Driving Licence with my old Photocard even though my name or address hasn't changed?
Jo - 17-Aug-17 @ 2:45 PM
Andy - Your Question:
I am a British citizen living in Texas with a valid British drivers license that expires in April,2018.My brother lives in Weymouth.Do I need to update my photo and if so how is the best way to go about doing this ?Can I do it on line or do I need to make a trip over to England.Thank you,George Thacker.

Our Response:
You can only renew your licence if you are resident in the UK.
YourDrivingLicence - 17-Aug-17 @ 12:57 PM
I am a British citizen living in Texas with a valid British drivers license that expires in April,2018. My brother lives in Weymouth.Do I need to update my photo and if so how is the best way to go about doing this ?Can I do it on line or do I need to make a trip over to England. Thank you, George Thacker.
Andy - 16-Aug-17 @ 3:35 AM
Mooz- Your Question:
I need to renew my licence but I don't have a passport, what do I do?

Our Response:
You can apply by post or at a post office, see the government information here
YourDrivingLicence - 8-Aug-17 @ 12:54 PM
I need to renew my licence but I don't have a passport, what do I do?
Mooz - 6-Aug-17 @ 10:59 AM
Donny - Your Question:
I have just applied for a new photo driving licence on line ,do I have to send my old paper driving licence back before I get my new one.As we are going abroad in September and I will need it as I will be driving abroad

Our Response:
You'll still receive your new one licence if you don't send your old one back first.
YourDrivingLicence - 2-Aug-17 @ 12:23 PM
samj - Your Question:
I just recieved my renewed uk drivers license in the mail. Do I need to cutup and send the expired back? If so, what is the address?

Our Response:
You need to return your old driving licence to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1ZU.
YourDrivingLicence - 2-Aug-17 @ 11:56 AM
I have just applied for a new photo driving licence on line ,do I have to send my old paper driving licence back before I get my new one.As we are going abroad in September and I will need it as I will be driving abroad
Donny - 30-Jul-17 @ 7:19 PM
I just recieved my renewed uk drivers license in the mail. Do I need to cutup and send the expired back?If so, what is the address?
samj - 30-Jul-17 @ 11:53 AM
KT - Your Question:
I'm English and my drivers license is up in October. I live overseas. Have done for many years. My license is on my parents address at the moment. Can I re-apply and use that address? Or would I get into trouble as I don't actually live there. I live in Saudi and Bahrain and need my license.

Our Response:
Since you live in Saudi/Bahrain, you apply for a licence there. You can re-apply if you ever come back to the UK
YourDrivingLicence - 25-Jul-17 @ 11:31 AM
Hbarry - Your Question:
I have a 2-part UK licence with photocard. I now live in France and my photocard part has expired. While I apply for a new (French) driving licence, is my current UK licence still in order, seeing as the paper part is up to date? Also, will I be able to hire a car in the UK with my current licence, while my application for a new one is being processed?

Our Response:
You can only apply to renew a UK licence with a UK address. If your UK one has expired you will (as you have already done) have to apply for a French licence. Your UK licence may still be accepted by a hire company in the UK, you should contact individual hire companies to find out.
YourDrivingLicence - 24-Jul-17 @ 11:00 AM
My driving licence was due to expire in a few weeks and I renewed it paying £14. New licence has arrived today and is only valid for 7 months when I will be 70. Do I have to renew all over again then or will they send me a new licence, and how much will it cost. Seems rather unfair to have to pay twice in such a short space of time.
Denny - 22-Jul-17 @ 10:26 AM
Hi I just renewed my driving licence online. During application it said I have to return my old licence. I did not write the address and now can not find anywhere. Can you tell me the address where to send the old licence back. Do I need to cut the licence into four pieces. Thanks.
pinku - 21-Jul-17 @ 6:15 AM
I'm English and my drivers license is up in October. I live overseas. Have done for many years. My license is on my parents address at the moment. Can I re-apply and use that address? Or would I get into trouble as I don't actually live there. I live in Saudi and Bahrain and need my license.
KT - 18-Jul-17 @ 10:28 AM
I have a 2-part UK licence with photocard.I now live in France and my photocard part has expired.While I apply for a new (French) driving licence, is my current UK licence still in order, seeing as the paper part is up to date? Also, will I be able to hire a car in the UK with my current licence, while my application for a new one is being processed?
Hbarry - 17-Jul-17 @ 12:42 PM
I am a British Citizen resident in Australia and return to UK for three months or do every year.I am nearly 70 and about to renew my U.K. Driving license.I have an address so always use in the UK. I am concerned on the renewal form that I have to acknowledge the statement that I am "resident in the U.K.".Is it an offensive in my circumstances therefore to renew my U.K. License?
Wises - 11-Jul-17 @ 6:32 AM
Hi, I have been driving with an Automatic Licence for 5 years now, and I passed my Manual driving test on the 16th June 2017 and so, handed over my old licence to the examiner who sent it off to DVLA, aware that my licence expires on the 17th July 2017, so hoped I would have back in time for me to renew the photo on it. After 3 weeks of waiting patiently, on the Saturday morning I found a letter from DVLA saying that they had been advised that that I had recently passed my cat B driving test but that I had to renew my licence with a photo that is a current likeness of me and that if I fail to renew I could face a fine of £1,000. With the letter I was also sent a D1 Form which I promptly completed with a postal order of £17 as requested and sent it all off this morning to them, with an explanation as to why I can't supply them my current licence (as they currently have it). Now after reading all of that (I do apologise, but I felt I needed to give you all a clear picture of the pickle I've found myself in) my question is this: Can I still drive my car if my licence expires, which it will, while it is with the DVLA being renewed? I've tried searching all over for an answer, but no one seems 100% certain. I have kept the receipt for the postal order of £17. If anyone can truthfully answer my question with helpful advice, I would be extremely grateful.
Rache - 10-Jul-17 @ 11:58 AM
Hannah - Your Question:
I currently live in Japan and plan to leave in August 2018. I'll be living in the UK for maybe 3 weeks before I move overseas again, this time to Korea.My licence expires in March 2019. What's the best thing to do? Should I renew my licence during those 3 weeks in the UK? The address on my licence is my dad's house and I do not plan to change it.

Our Response:
If you want to retain your licence you need to have a UK address when you re-apply. We can't find any specific information that says how early you can apply for a renewal although you can apply to change the photo on your licence whenever you want.
YourDrivingLicence - 6-Jul-17 @ 2:30 PM
I currently live in Japan and plan to leave in August 2018. I'll be living in the UK for maybe 3 weeks before I move overseas again, this time to Korea. My licence expires in March 2019. What's the best thing to do? Should I renew my licence during those 3 weeks in the UK? The address on my licence is my dad's house and I do not plan to change it.
Hannah - 6-Jul-17 @ 2:14 AM
lofty - Your Question:
Applied to renew my driving licence on the 5th oct 2016 because I had reached the age of 70yrs wanted to keep the categories that was already on my licence completed all the medicals and sent off had a letter back from the DVLA that they had all the information that was needed have still not received my licence it is now the 18th june 2017 and still waiting after several phone calls and e.mail still being told I am in a queue can you tell me if there is anything else I can do is it right that I will have to stop driving after 12months of applying.

Our Response:
You shouldn't have to stop driving because of a delay that is not your fault. If there are issues with the medical the DVLA should inform you as such. You would be better to call them and ask what the situation is regarding driving while your licence is away.
YourDrivingLicence - 20-Jun-17 @ 10:46 AM
applied to renew my driving licence on the 5th oct 2016 because I had reached the age of 70yrs wanted to keep the categories that was already on my licence completed all the medicals and sent off had a letter back from the DVLA that they had all the information that was needed have still not received my licence it is now the 18th june 2017 and still waiting after several phone calls and e.mail still being told I am in a queue can you tell me if there is anything else I can do is it right that I will have to stop driving after 12months of applying.
lofty - 18-Jun-17 @ 11:07 AM
I have an all paper licence. If I pay now for a photo card licence will I have to pay again when I move house in c.4 months time ?
Sharky - 16-Jun-17 @ 6:29 PM
Amy - Your Question:
If I need to renew my photo on driving licence do I need to send ID such as my birth certificate in with the form again if I've already sent it in when issued my 1st provisional??

Our Response:
No you shouldn't need your birth certificate especially if you have a current, valid passport, as the DVLA will use this for the photo.
YourDrivingLicence - 13-Jun-17 @ 12:10 PM
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