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Driving in the UK with an EU Licence

Driving in the UK with an EU licence

Sometimes, the rules surrounding driving licences issued in different countries can seem confusing. However, while you might have encountered complicated legislation in the past, driving in the UK with an EU licence is really straightforward. We explain the rules below.

Don’t forget, though, your licence isn’t the only thing you’ll need to think about when driving in the UK. Make sure to take a look at our comprehensive guide to the differences between driving in Europe and the UK before you arrive.

The rules surrounding driving in the UK with an EU licence

Romanian driving licence

For standard EU car and motorcycle driving licences, you can drive in the UK either:

  • Until you’re 70 years of age
  • Or, for 3 years after becoming resident in the UK, if you become a resident when you’re aged 67 or over.

After this, your licence will expire and you’ll have to exchange it for a British one.

It’s also worth noting that this rule does not apply to drivers who got an EU licence by exchanging a licence from a non-EU country. If this applies to you, you’ll only be able to drive in the UK for a period of 12 months. You’ll then need to apply for a UK driving licence.

To double check that your licence will be valid for driving in the UK, you can use the government’s non-GB licence checking tool. You can also check out our article covering which countries’ licences are valid in the UK.

If you find you need to take your test once again to drive in the UK, be aware that there are differences between the process of learning to drive in Britain and driving tests in Europe.

Exchanging your EU licence for a Great British one

Thankfully, if you’re a permanent resident of the UK and want to exchange your EU licence for a UK one, the process is very easy. Simply follow the steps on the government website. Alternatively, check out our guide to exchanging your foreign driving licence for a UK driving licence.

It costs £43, and should take around 3 weeks.

Driving an EU-registered car in the UK

A left-hand drive Abarth 500
A left-hand drive Abarth 500. Photo © El Caganer (cc-by/2.0)

As well as being able to drive in the UK legally on your EU licence, it’s also possible to drive an EU-registered car in the UK, with some conditions.

Firstly, you have to be visiting the UK temporarily.

Secondly, the vehicle needs to be taxed and registered in its country of origin.

Finally, you can only use the vehicle for a period of up to 6 months. This could be all at once, or it could be multiple periods over the course of 12 months.

There are certain exceptions to these rules which mean that you could drive your EU-registered car in the UK for longer. To qualify for this extended period, you need to normally live outside the EUbe in the UK for a set period as a student or worker, and be claiming relief from VAT and duty.

If you need to drive your vehicle in the UK for more than 6 months of the year, or if you’re coming to the UK to become a resident here, you’ll need to tax and register your car with the relevant authorities.

Importing your car to the UK

Cars being transported

Importing your EU car to the UK can be somewhat of a complicated process. The procedure you need to follow is this:

Firstly, tell HMRC that your car has arrived in the UK.

Then, you may need to pay VAT and duty on the vehicle. HMRC will advise you on how much this will be.

Next, you’ll need to make sure your vehicle conforms to UK safety and environmental standards.

Once your vehicle has passed the relevant tests, you’ll be able to register and tax the vehicle with the DVLA. From this point onwards, you’ll need to display UK registration plates.

As you can tell, this could wind up being quite a lot of effort! So, unless you’ve got a passion for paperwork, it’s probably worth cutting your losses and buying a car here.

Do you know the penalties for using your phone while driving a car? Or have you always wondered why the waiting times for driving tests are so long? The PassMeFast Blog is your first port of call for advice on any aspects of driving law, driving tips, the driving practical test, and much more.

By Ben Scott

Ben's had a keen interest in all things driving from a very early age, so is perfectly placed to offer you all the advice you need. When he's not behind the wheel you'll either find him stuck deep into a novel or riding his bike.

20 Comments

  1. Reply

    Liam Bates

    Hi if I have points on my Romanian license and swap it for a UK license will my points carry over?

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi Liam,

      Under EU law, it is possible for driving offences to be prosecuted cross-border. However, to my knowledge, this only applies to fines and custodial sentences, while points systems remain separate in each country. As such, I don’t believe that your points would carry across in this instance. However, it may be worth contacting the DVSA to check.

      Hope this helps!

      Andy

  2. Reply

    Walty

    Can I exchange my Portugal driving license to permanent UK license.
    I am resident of UK living e Scotland for 3 years & has is on pre Settled status .
    Will I be in position to get it

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi Walty,

      It should be absolutely fine for you to exchange your licence. You only need to have been a resident in the UK for 185 days to be eligible for a British licence, so, as you’ve been here for 3 years, you’re definitely eligible.

      To exchange your licence, you’ll need to order form D1 from the DVLA, complete it, and return it, paying a fee of £43.

      Hope this helps!

      Andy

  3. Reply

    paula

    Advice please
    UK national & now UK resident
    long time EU resident with EU license – been resident in UK for more than 12 months!
    Just realised I need to exchange my license
    think I might have a problem, any tips please

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi Paula,

      Provided you passed your test in the UK, EU, or EEA, there shouldn’t be a problem here. You should still be able to drive on your EU licence, provided it’s still valid, or to exchange it for a British licence.

      The only issue would be if you first passed your driving test in a non-EU country, then exchanged it for an EU licence. In that case, you may need to retake your tests in the UK.

      If you have any more specific details that could help me to answer your question, please let me know.

      Hope this helps!

      Andy

  4. Reply

    Izzy

    Advice please, how do I check if there are any points on a Romanian Driving Licence?

    I have to check regularly our employees points level and use the gov site to check UK licences but this is the first time I’ve been asked to check a Romanian one.

    Any help would be much appreciated.

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi Izzy,

      To my knowledge, there’s no mutual recognition of penalty points between different countries. As such, if the driver had points on their Romanian licence, this wouldn’t carry over to the British points system.

      If they have been driving in the UK, and received points here, then the DVLA would create a driving record exclusively for the purpose of displaying their points. It would likely be easiest to get in contact with the DVLA to ask about this.

      Hope this helps.

      Andy

  5. Reply

    id

    Hello , DVLA changed my car license from B (romanian) to english license as B and A , why is this posible ? I’ve taken only car test in Romania .Thank you .

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi id,

      I’m not quite sure why you would have automatically been granted a category A licence. There are certain circumstances where a driver may receive automatic entitlement to a category AB licence, but not a category A licence, as far as I’m aware. Your best bet may be to contact the DVLA directly.

      Hope this helps.

      Andy

  6. Reply

    Carlos

    Hi Andy, I’ve finished my full motorcycle (A) license in Portugal last year and have the cat B also.
    I have applied to excahnge them for the UK license. Do you have any knowledge if I’ll have to do a CBT, or will I be allowed to drive any motorcycle straight away like with my portuguese license in the EU?
    Thanks

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi Carlos,

      If you passed your motorcycle test in Portugal, then you’ll be able to exchange your licence for a UK one. You shouldn’t need to complete a CBT course.

      Hope this helps!

      Andy

  7. Reply

    Mads

    Hi Andy, I hold an EU driving license that is due to expire on the 8th of November 2020, Can you please advice on what to do next. Can I just fill out a D1 form to replace my license? I’m currently residing in the UK, I arrived here on January 2019 from EU country. Please advice, Thank you!

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi Mads,

      All you should need to do to renew and receive a UK licence is to send the DVLA form D1 along with a £43 fee and any relevant documents. Be aware that the process may take longer than usual due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Hope this helps,

      Andy

  8. Reply

    Hannah Przybylak

    Hi there,
    My Spanish partner arrived in the UK 31/07/20 and has an EU licence, he is 28 with no driving convictions. Assuming he can transfer to UK licence with no further tests? A D1 form to complete? The only reason I would like it transferred to UK licence is that to insure him on my car (1.6 Vauxhall Astra) at the moment, it would cost me £3500.00 with my current insurer, more than the car is worth! Plus the contractor he works for would like him to be able to drive the works vehicle. Could you kindly advise on what the best options are as we will visit his family in Spain as and when it is possible too. Many thanks Hannah

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi Hannah,

      Assuming that your partner passed his test in Spain, then he’ll be able to exchange his Spanish licence for a UK one by sending off the D1 form and the relevant fee. Do be aware, however, that Spain may impose additional rules on drivers holding a UK licence after the end of the Brexit transition period, which may impact you when visiting your partner’s family.

      Hope this helps.

      Andy

  9. Reply

    Eva

    Hi Andy

    Do you know of any benefits/drawbacks of having the UK driving licence as opposed to the EU driving licence in case of getting a ticket, e.g. for speeding or driving on the red light? Folks on the internet say that with the UK licence you can just accept the points and pay the fine, while if you have an EU licence you will have to go to court.

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi Eva,

      You won’t necessarily have to go to court just because you have an EU licence. If you receive a speeding ticket, you might instead be able to accept the points and pay a fine, or be offered a course. However, this is dependent on having a UK address. For further information, visit Ask the Police.

      Hope this helps

      Andy

  10. Reply

    Relu

    Am trimis la schimbat permisu și nu mia venit cât durează cum pot lua legătura cu cei de la dvla un numar

    1. Reply

      Andy Boardman

      Hi Relu,

      Your licence may take longer to arrive because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. To contact the DVLA, call 0300 790 6801.

      Hope this helps,

      Andy

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