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Is it Compulsory to Have a Photo Driving Licence?

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 24 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
Driving Licence Photocard Licence Europe


I was told at an airport check-in desk that my old style paper driving licence was no longer valid ID, and that it is, in fact, illegal to not have a photo-licence.

Is this true?

(A. Bates, 12 February 2009)


Paper driving licences are no longer issued as new or replacement driving licences after the European Union ruled that all driving licences should be in the form of a photocard driving licence that features a photograph of the licence holder and his or her signature. Whilst the government advice is to exchange your paper licence for a photocard one, if your paper licence has not expired, it should accepted throughout the EU (for example if you need to hire a car).

Applying For a Photocard Driving Licence

You can find the D1 application form at many Post Office branches, or alternatively it is available from the DVLA form ordering service (which you can find details of on the DVLA website). If you choose this option, you will need to provide evidence of your identity and a passport photograph of yourself, along with the fee of £20.00. These documents should be sent to the DVLA address in Swansea or via the premium checking services that can be found at local DVLA offices and certain Post Office branches.

If you prefer to Apply for Your Photocard Driving Licence online, you can do so on the DVLA website by downloading the application form. This option requires you to be able to pay the £20.00 fee by credit/debit card. You do not need to send a passport photograph if you apply online, as the DVLA uses the Identity and Passport Service to do so. If this is not possible though, you will need to apply by post or in person (see the above paragraph) instead and provide the relevant documentation. You will need your passport number handy during the application process, as this is used as confirmation of your identity.

Receiving Your Photocard Driving Licence

In most cases, you should receive your photocard driving licence within around three weeks of your application being received by the DVLA. If any medical or personal details need to be verified, it can take slightly longer than this.

You are allowed to drive in the period before your photocard driving licence arrives, as long as you have previously held a UK driving licence, have been ruled fit to drive on medical grounds (you haven't been refused a driving licence because of a Medical Condition and are not likely to be refused a driving licence on medical grounds when your application is processed) and haven't been disqualified from driving.

Why are Photo Licences Needed?

The photo was licence was introduced in Britain following an EU directive to make driving licences consistent across the European Union. It means that your driving licence will be recognised all over Europe, but it also has some other benefits:
  • There is a lower risk of someone trying to impersonate you with a photo licence
  • The photo helps indicate the age of the licence holder. For certain types of vehicle this is useful, but it's also useful as proof of ID/age
  • It reduces the chances of duplication (ie. a person holding more than one licence)
  • It helps the DVLA maintain an accurate database of licence holders

Extra Info...

What many people do not realise is that your photocard driving licence must be renewed every ten years take a look at our article Renewing Your Photo Driving Licence Every 10 Years for more information.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi, I haven't driven in about 5 years, and would like to start again very soon. My photo card license expired in August 2013, and I have totally forgotten about it and not renewed it as I haven't been driving. Can I renew my license now without risk of being fined?
ClareF - 24-Jun-17 @ 3:43 PM
I've been living abroad for quite sometime and now wish to return to the uk. I have a truck licence, coach licence, car licence, all done in the uk but my motorcycle licence was done abroad. I'm 50 in may so I need a medical to get my licence back as i was told by DVLA that my licence expires in may on my birthday, but i won't be returning until around July August time. Will I lose my truck and coach licence because I've renewed them to late or can I do a medical in july/august and get everything back. Thankyou
Mushroom - 20-Apr-17 @ 5:01 AM
Typical mess. I had to check if I could still drive as my photo ID on my driving license had expired. I had to pay £30 plus the cost of a new photo. It isn't all that clear that you can still drive on a driving license that has the photo ID expired. If you have no medical problems or that you do not anticipate any problems with renewal then you can still drive on an "expired Photo ID " license. Not everybody knows this - my car insurance didn't really know and wouldn't confirm that I was OK to drive.As they couldn't comment on my fitness to drive. Then they relented after I said I was fit to drive. So when they send you a renewal notice, it's not your license that's expired....it's your PHOTO that has expired....but they'll let you drive as they take an age to send you the " up dated Photo" License....clear as mud.
freddwarf - 29-Mar-17 @ 3:12 PM
i have a complex situation with my licence i wasn't aware because honestly i never look at it and its been so long that a my driving licence had to be renewed and b the bigger problem that it is still in my single name , i hadn't realised that it wasn't changed , what do i do ??
nat - 4-Nov-16 @ 3:09 PM
maggie may - Your Question:
After moving, the tedious task of informing banks , utilities , schools etc was down to me and for some reason I forgot my driving licence.That was 5 years ago. After a random conversation I scrutinised the tiny print on the photo card part of it and discovered my misdemeanour.So I researched on line and my fate appears to be a £1000 fine, and re-taking my test !This for me is a dilemma. If I apply online they will realise that I am 5 years late. At this point what will they choose to do ? I would like to think that forgiveness would be preferable to retribution but I'm not usually lucky in these type of situations.

Our Response:
If you apply to renew now, you should be alright; it's if you get caught without one that you'll be penalised.
YourDrivingLicence - 2-Sep-15 @ 1:56 PM
After moving, the tedious task of informing banks , utilities , schools etc was down to me and for some reason I forgot my driving licence. That was 5 years ago.After a random conversation I scrutinised the tiny print on the photo card part of it and discovered my misdemeanour. So I researched on line and my fate appears to be a £1000 fine, and re-taking my test ! This for me is a dilemma ....... If I apply online they will realise that I am 5 years late .At this point what will they choose to do ? I would like to think that forgiveness would be preferable to retribution but I'm not usually lucky in these type of situations.
maggie may - 30-Aug-15 @ 7:15 PM
great found the answer good thanks saved me some money
hirsty - 28-Jun-15 @ 5:45 PM
@Allieblue73. No you need to do this by post if you're changing your name (eg after marriage). Ask for a D1 pack at your local post office.
YourDrivingLicence - 5-May-15 @ 10:31 AM
Hi there, I have the old style paper licence, I have moved house AND got married, I tried to complete the form online but it didnt seem to give me the option to change both.I will be happier once I have this all updated but I dont know how to go about it or how much it will cost, can anyone help please? Thanks.
Allieblue73 - 27-Apr-15 @ 2:53 PM
@tubbs. Yes you need to swap your paper licence for a photocard licence before you can get your DQC.
YourDrivingLicence - 23-Apr-15 @ 12:48 PM
do commercial drivers of tachograph vehicles need to swap their old style licences for photocard licence as well as completing their compulsory CPC training?
tubbs - 21-Apr-15 @ 6:11 AM
i have the old style paper driving license and penelty points are going to be added, can i insist to have my paper license back?..dont wont to have to have photo one which i dont need to change until im 70
charlie - 23-Dec-14 @ 1:23 PM
The original question asks 'Is a non-photo-card driving licence illegal?' The answer is NO! It is not illegal, an there is no compulsion to change it. You MUST inform DVLA of any other changes (Name, Address, and any points added) but they need not be informed of any other details! To change to a photo-card licence is your own choice.
Nebulous Thrug - 8-Nov-14 @ 4:19 PM
@charlie. Your paper licence is in addition to the photocard...so you will need to apply for a photo licence and your existing driving licence remains the paper counterpart. You can apply only easily if you have a passport (they use the photo from that). If not you will need to apply by post or at the post office.
YourDrivingLicence - 29-Sep-14 @ 11:53 AM
So, when exactly do you need to change your paper licence for a photocard? is it after the expiry date of the od one?
charlie - 26-Sep-14 @ 7:04 AM
Thanks for the info @champagedrinker.
YourDrivingLicence - 19-Sep-14 @ 10:15 AM
The original question was about checking in, I'm assuming for an internal flight. My understanding is that it's not the paper bit they were objecting to, as the lack of photo. You need photo ID, the driving licence photo card, is something they accept (they don't care about what you're entitled to drive). As far as I know, all airlines accept photo cards, and passports for ID, some accept other things too (eg NUS cards) However, for car hire, they're more interested in what you're entitled to drive. Personally, I've never had problems with paper licence for the driving bit & passport for ID. I did, however get an international driving ID thing from the PO, (£5) just in case for hiring a car in Canada. Chap in Avis was happy.
Champagne drinker - 18-Sep-14 @ 7:10 AM
@ed. You do not need to pay for a change of address on your driving licence.
YourDrivingLicence - 17-Sep-14 @ 11:38 AM
So my wife files for divorce and I move in with parents pay £20 for change of address and new photo license BUT I only plan on staying a year at the most till I get my own place sorted then I take it I will have to pay another £20 DAYLIGHT ROBBERY YOU LOT SHOULD WEAR MASKS
Ed - 15-Sep-14 @ 12:46 PM
realise my driving licence has expired. I am 81 what steps do I take to renew?
clanfield17 - 12-Sep-14 @ 2:15 PM
@mickyjames - the admin is not just for the production of the plastic card but for checking your ID and the validity of the licence etc. We guess they've decided that in the grand scheme of things £20 every 10 years is not a huge amount.
YourDrivingLicence - 11-Sep-14 @ 12:33 PM
Why should i have to pay £20 for a new photo driving licence when i earned my licence and paid to earn it like normal ? also i do not want to update my licence as the picture looks the same and no details have changed. This is a scam by the government to con more money from the people. beside to make one of them plastic card licences it would cost less than £5 so where does the other £15 go ? Outrageous !
MickyJames - 10-Sep-14 @ 4:27 PM
ReApplying for driving licence online have just applied online for mine and you have to return your old photo licence and paper one as well both cut in half.
DavyBoy - 8-Sep-14 @ 8:31 PM
@ballyvilla2014. Yes but the photocard part of your licence will need renewing by now.
YourDrivingLicence - 2-Sep-14 @ 11:45 AM
hello, i would like to find out if i can still renew my pcv entitlement as it's almost 5 years since it expired,having reached 45 years of age in 2010 and i didn't have the funds for my medical,does this mean i will have to retake the pcv test.hope you can answer my question.many thanks
banjaxed - 24-Aug-14 @ 11:18 AM
I Have only ever had one paper licence,I never gave it much thought ,I was recently married so i needed to change my name, I thought this was free as there was no new paper ones now why do i have to pay £20.00 for a photo one that i have not ever had when all i wanted was a name change on my paper one.?
PaulPauls - 8-Aug-14 @ 4:04 PM
I am 65 with the old style green driving licence without photo IDENTIFICATION. I am off to California on holiday and intend to hire a car. Would this licence be acceptable with a passport. Thanks
JohnD - 6-Aug-14 @ 7:37 PM
Hi I've applied to renew my driving licence online, and now I'm required to cut my old licence in half and send it to DVLA. Do I need to send the papaer counterpart as well as the photocard? Or is it just the photocard that's being replaced?
Jane - 6-Aug-14 @ 5:19 PM
Hello, I hope someone is able to help with my query.I moved to Germany in 1989 and exchanged my Full UK Driving Licence for a German one.I've since returned to the UK and am now faced with a problem.I have gained points on my Driving Licence after a speeding offence and have been told I need to renew my German LIcence and apply for a UK one.This is long overdue and I'm happy to get it done, but it isn't simple.My name changed when I married in Germany and I was issued with a German Marriage Certificate, which I've had translated in to English - but I have since lost the original documents (both marriage Certificate and translation) although I have photocopies of both. Can I apply for a duplicate of the German Marriage?if so, from where?Any idea how long this will take?I would then have to get it translated again, which takes more time. Would it be easier to change back to my maiden name, since I'm now divorced?? I would be grateful for any advice!
Jane99 - 29-Jul-14 @ 8:10 AM
Just hired a car in Spain for the 3rd time this year using my old green paper licence and had no issues.Had a puncture on the motorway and was helped by a couple of friendly 'Mossie' policemen who asked to see my paperwork.They also had no problems with my old driving licence. Why? because the UK has 2 types of driving licence and which one you personally have is dependant on when you were issued itI agree that its unfair that some people may pay up to £80 over the same period that others will not pay anything and if some naff bank manager refuses to accept your paper licence as proof of who you are then do what a friend did a few years ago when it happened to them.They told the manager to immediately close the account and give them their balance over the counter there and then.When he refused she gave him one last chance to check his facts with a higher authority at head office before she did something that would make him look stupid.He again refused to do anything so she reminded him about what she said then dialled 999 and told the police she was in the bank and being robbed!Apparently his face was a picture.18 Policemen later after accepting a rollicking for wasting police time she then said to the manager that he was welcome to join her outside with the press who had turned up or he could wait until after she had told HQ about the press report that would appear tomorrow.The end result was an apology from Head Office and the manager himself and a £50 gesture for her trouble
weeyin - 18-Jul-14 @ 1:05 PM
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