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I Exchanged a Foreign Driving Licence for a UK One: A Case Study

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 10 Jun 2014 | comments*Discuss
I Exchanged A Foreign Driving Licence For A Uk One: A Case Study

Some countries are allowed to participate in a straight-forward driving licence exchange, but the process for Americans who move to the UK is a little different. The theory and practical tests for example, must be passed before a UK driving licence will be granted. Melissa Mulder was issued with her UK driving licence in August 1998, and shares her experiences of the process in this article.

Applying For a New Driving Licence

As an American who had already held a US driving licence for several years prior to her arrival in the UK, Melissa was not required to apply for a provisional driving licence before she could sit both the Theory and the Practical Driving Test. She still had to pass these tests however, to receive her UK driving licence. Individuals with a US driving licence are now required to apply for a Provisional Driving Licence before taking the tests.

Taking UK Driving Tests

As she was moving from the US (which is not a designated country for licence exchanges), Melissa had to take the same theory and practical driving tests that new drivers in the UK are required to take in order to get her driving licence. Melissa says, “I remember that the theory test was being introduced around the time that I was applying for my UK driving licence, so I had to sit in a classroom full of teenagers to sit the theory test”.

Driving Lessons

Before taking the practical driving test, Melissa opted to take a one-off driving lesson to make sure that she was fully prepared for taking the test on UK roads. She was soon glad that she did so as there were some significant differences that could have resulted in her failing the test:

“Although I had been driving for fifteen years in the US and Malaysia, I decided that taking a UK driving lesson would be worthwhile so I asked a driving instructor to run me through the necessary manoeuvres that I would be asked to do for the practical test. It was a surprise to me that UK Driving Instructors actually instruct and test pupils on reversing around a corner, which is considered to be a dangerous manoeuvre in the US as far as I know”.

Country Differences

Having already passed driving tests in her native country, Melissa admits to feeling somewhat annoyed that she could not simply exchange her foreign driving licence for a UK one. She says, “I found it frustrating, and I couldn't believe it when I failed the practical test on my first attempt for 'driving with undue caution' because I didn't speed up enough when joining the expressway! Somewhat ironically, I could drive away from the test legally as my US licence was still valid in the UK for twelve months after my arrival”.

Time Length of Application

Despite the fact that Melissa already had a driving licence (albeit a foreign one), her application for a UK driving licence took roughly the same length of time as it would for a new driver who is applying for their first UK driving licence: “It was no quicker because I had a US driving licence beforehand”.

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@Rocy. Yes you can apply straight away. If you have a full licence valid in your own country you can drive any type of small vehicle shown on your licence for up to 12months from the time you started living in Great Britain but you must pass a GB driving test before the 12 month period ends. More information can be found here
YourDrivingLicence - 11-Jun-14 @ 9:58 AM
I am Venezuelan with a Venezuelan driving license, and moved to the UK in December 2013. How long do I need to wait to apply for the Provisional License? Can I do it straight away?
Rocy - 10-Jun-14 @ 12:09 PM
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