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Complete Guide to Renewing Your Photo Driving Licence

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 3 Apr 2020 | 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 According to DVLA figures, for example, two million photocard driving licences are out of date.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]
Hi,has there been a time extension out on the licence renewals?The online system isnt working and theres no information on it to say that it's out of service or anything like that.However it does say that the paper forms arent being processed at the moment (understandably). Any info regarding this would be appreciated, Thanks
K O'Neill - 3-Apr-20 @ 12:52 AM
I havemedical a 2 yr licence which needs renewed I have completed the renewal forms to apply for it Nothing medically has changed since my last application so i should be good to go but the paperwork doesn't highlight for Medical licence renewal applications if your old licence should be enclosed with the forms Can someone please advise should my old licence about to expire be enclosed in the application for the new one Thanks for any help J
j - 2-Apr-20 @ 1:30 PM
I have a 2 yr medical driving licence i need to renew nothing medically is changed so I'm ok to renew it but notes etc enclosed don't seem to ID specifically Medical renewals to highlight whether the old licence which os about to expire should be enclosed with the application for the replacement can anyone shed a light please ?
Ji - 2-Apr-20 @ 1:25 PM
I'm 82 my licence ran out Sunday can I renew it as the Web site keeps saying no
Boo boo - 17-Mar-20 @ 6:37 PM
My photo driving licence runs out next week. I haven’t received any form or reminder about this happening. It was just by chance I saw the date on it. Where is the reminder form?
Cb1234 - 17-Mar-20 @ 3:53 PM
Is it possible that a Driving licence can have a future issue date? For example, today is 28.02.2020 but the issue date on my licence is 05.03.2020. How can this happen?
andreou.n - 28-Feb-20 @ 8:06 AM
DVLA great thieves If you have 28 days left for your driving licence to expire , your new one will start on the day of process what a scam with the CROWN ?? on top of their letters just shows who is involved not to forget theincompetentgovernment
Geo - 30-Jan-20 @ 10:16 AM
You used to be able to send in a photo you had taken yourself, now this involves a trip to the city as all of the local post offices do not have the facility to do this SO damned annoying that you don't care about those of us who live in rural areas
Linda Wilson - 8-Jan-20 @ 9:34 AM
My UK driving licence due to expire this year.Does anyone know how far in advance I am able to apply for renewal please, thank you.
LisaD - 4-Jan-20 @ 2:17 PM
I would like to apply for my driving licence on line. But I am not computer user. Struggling to negotiate your application form.
Mr Blue - 28-Dec-19 @ 11:45 AM
I live in Australia and my uk Iicence card will expire next year. I use an Australian licence here. When I return to the uk to reside in the future what can I do to renew the uk licence which would have expired, surely I dont need to resit the test?
Sing - 14-Dec-19 @ 10:06 PM
The first thing to notice about renewing your licence is the hoops this agency puts you through while gathering data they pass on to others. The Driving license system has been sold off via our corrupt politicians. It is in the hands of an agency which was of course financed by bankers. This needs to be reversed, the scam for buying a photo license every ten years must be stopped. Lobby political parties, take this service back into an honest public service and put these current DVLC workers back where they belong, in a queue at the jobcentre.
You have no need to - 12-Dec-19 @ 2:12 PM
I dont have an up to date passport and the nearest post office that does this is 35 miles away. if i have the forms and get a new photo can i do the process of doing all this and sending it to them?
sudd - 9-Dec-19 @ 9:11 PM
Tried to renew driving licence twice online. Put in passport number (issued this year) but it refuses to accept it saying passport is out of date. Rang DVLA who said wait a couple of hours and try again. Have done so but keep getting the same message. Really annoyed as this means I now have to do a paper form. As DVLA has only notified me 4 weeks before the expiry and it can take up to 4 weeks to get the licence I now have the extra hassle of doing this in the Christmas period when queues at the post office are impossible
Lilli55 - 9-Dec-19 @ 5:41 PM
My partner has a out of date driving license but only just noticed can he still travel to Belfast with it on Monday as need to get there for a funeral this is so stressful atm not what I needed
Jade1234 - 8-Nov-19 @ 12:41 AM
Hi i have an irish passport but have lived in the uk since i was 4. Can i renew my uk driving licence on line?
Jess - 5-Nov-19 @ 10:20 AM
Can I renew my UK full driving license 6 months before it expires?
Kay - 1-Nov-19 @ 7:45 PM
My driving expires in 10-03-20. I will be away from the UK for a period of starting in November 2019. I will return a month after the the license expires. Can I renew license now or should I wait until I return to UK.
kennyc - 6-Oct-19 @ 9:38 PM
I have lived in Thailand for a number of years and have a thai driving licence, my UK licence expires November (2019) this year and I will be 70 1stDecember, my passport has 3 years before renewal can I renew from Thailand or do I have to apply in the UK also can I drive on my thai licence if my uk licence has expired
arthur - 24-Sep-19 @ 8:30 AM
I need to renew my hgv license at 60 and have include a new photo, what has to accompany the signature?
Col - 20-Sep-19 @ 7:15 PM
Need advice on returning to UK with a expired driving licence.
Zo - 9-Sep-19 @ 11:19 AM
I left the UK in 2003 to live in South Africa.My British Drivers licence lapsed some years ago which I would like to renew.Kindly advise if this would be possible?My British Passport was renewed this year
Nina - 2-Sep-19 @ 1:29 PM
Hi I have a photo provisional licence which is out of date, how do I renew
Wend - 12-Aug-19 @ 5:33 PM
Trying to renew driving licence online. Put in passport number (got passport December 18) but it refuses to accept it saying can't find passport photo. Why for goodness sake after 8 or 9 months is this not possible. So frustrating.
Wb - 5-Aug-19 @ 7:47 PM
I had my 70thbirthday in July 2019 but my license is valid until 2020 can I still drive. I have received no application forms from the DVLA MA
Jimmy - 22-Jul-19 @ 6:53 PM
I have recently received a new passport (one week ago) and assumed I would be able to update my driving licence picture online. However when I went through the rather lengthy process of doing this, the software reported that my picture could not be found! My question is how long does it take for my passport picture to be available online for the above purpose?
Gaz - 20-Jul-19 @ 3:33 AM
My husband and I have a paper license, been living at the old address over 30 odd years. We have now moved house how do I apply for a new license?
Pammy - 18-Jun-19 @ 7:12 AM
I am EX-Gurkha solder and Nepalese Nationality. I live in out of UK now and I didn't have information every 10 years photo ID license. My photo ID driving license expired 2017. I would like to know how to renew photo ID driving license. And also how to change address. Because I am not going back to UK few years. Regarding payment, can I pay by VISA or Master credit card? And can I use postal delivery by DHL or postal service? I await your kind reply. Regards.
YB - 15-Jun-19 @ 12:12 PM
I originally had an old style paper licence which I lost over 10 years ago. I then got a photo ID licence which expires in 4 weeks. in the intervening 10 years I happened to find the old paper licence again, is the old paper licence still valid or do I need to apply for a new photo ID licence
flae - 28-May-19 @ 1:48 PM
I need to get my license back cause somebody please email me and inform me how to do this. I have sent numourse emails but had no reply
Stany - 27-May-19 @ 6:39 PM
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