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Get Your UK Driver's License

Getting a UK driving license is important for many reasons and the following is designed to help you understand the process and requirements. When you come to live in the UK, you can use your US license or a US International Driving Permit (IDP) for one year, starting ‘on the date you arrived with intention of taking up residency'. After one year, you are driving illegally and your Motor Insurance may declare your coverage void, so take this requirement seriously.

The comprehensive websites of dsa and dvla both provide extensive information on the process. It is recommended you thoroughly review this note along with the websites to fully understand the process.

The full process to acquire a UK license takes 3-6 months, so plan accordingly:
1. Apply for a UK Provisional License
2. Book a Theory Test appointment, study and take the test.
3. Book a Practical Test appointment, practice and take the test.

FYI: EC, Canadian and EEA licenses are valid with the option to exchange them for a UK license. Obtain a Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVLA) form reference D100 form a Post Office for more specific information.

A Provisional License is an interim license issued to you by the DVLA. It does not entitle you to drive after your one year, but registers you as a “Learner” and entitles you to schedule a Theory Test and Practical Test.

You can apply for the Provisional License by mail or in person if you have a UK passport. Get a form, reference D1, from a Post Office, and complete to obtain a ‘first Provisional Licence'.

US passport holders are required to use the mail-in process. You must send the form and a passport photo endorsed and signed on the back by a ‘person of good standing' who has known you for two years, e.g. a minister, a police officer, a doctor, a school teacher. You also need to mail your passport along with the application fee.

This option may not be feasible, given the timeline or if you are unable to get a suitable person to sign your photo. Therefore, you may attend a Driver and Vehicle Registration Office in person to have your application approved and forwarded with your original documents on to the DVLA.

The nearest DVLA Office is a two-minute walk from Wimbledon Railway Station and the full address is Connect House, 137 Alexandra Road, Wimbledon, SW19 7JY. Opening hours are 9:30am to 4:00pm Monday to Thursday and 9:30am to 3:30pm on Friday. On the third Wednesday of each month, they open at 10:30am. The telephone number is 0870 600 6767.

Take the following:
1. Passport (with Work Permit/Visas)
2. Birth Certificate and Marriage Certificate
3. 1 x color passport photo
4. Application fee to be paid by check
5. Application forms completed and signed

Once your provisional license has arrived, you can book the Theory Test. Book your test via the telephone at 0870 0101 372 or the dsa website. The current fee for a Theory Test is £20.50. Have your Provisional License and credit card handy.

The Theory Test is a computerised ‘touch-screen' test, where the minimum pass mark is 30 correct answers out of 35 questions, plus a Hazard Perception Test, which monitors your reactions to video footage of developing hazards.

To prepare for the Test, you should get an up to date Highway Code book, a book with current DSA Theory Test Question Bank and a CD-ROM simulating the Hazard Perception Test. Buy these in most book stores or borrow from a friend.

Once you pass your Theory Test, you can book the Practical Test using the same phone and website resources provided in Step 2. The current fee for this test is £39.00 for weekdays and £48.00 for weekend and evening tests. Have your Provisional License, Theory Pass Certificate and credit card handy. You will need to specify if you are licensing for a manual or automatic transmission. An automatic license is for automatic transmissions only, whereas a manual license can drive both gear types.

The driving test is taken with a DSA Observer who scores your performance while driving on local streets and executing basic maneuvers. The test is about 40 minutes and includes driving through typical roundabouts, pedestrian crossings, etc. You will be asked to perform two or three basic maneuvers: a 3-pt turn, back around a corner and parallel park (reverse parking) behind a car, but not between two cars.

You are strongly encouraged to make the investment and take driving lessons from a licensed instructor. These instructors will teach you UK driving rules and coach you on how to take the actual test. Lessons are typically £25.00 each. Instructors are best found through personal references.


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