To qualify for a full UK driving licence you usually have to be resident in the UK. However, special rules for the exchange of foreign licences and for driving in the UK as a visitor or new resident do exist. These rules vary and depend on the country that issued the licence.
European Community and European Economic Areas Countries
Anyone visiting Great Britain from:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (Eire), Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
can drive using their Community licence for as long as their licence remains valid.
If they become a residents in the UK they can exchange their Community licence for a UK licence or they can continue to use their Community licence for three years or until they reach the age of seventy, whichever is longer.
Vocational licence holders from these countries who do not exchange their licence for a GB one may drive:
If you hold a licence from Northern Ireland you can use it to Drive In Britain until the licence runs out. Alternatively it can be exchanged for a full GB licence.
Gibraltar and Designated Countries
Designated countries are:
Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Irelands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Cyprus, Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe.
People holding licences from these countries, when visiting Britain, can drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes and with up to 16 passengers seats for up to 12 months, whether or not the vehicle was brought into the country with them. Holders of licences for larger vehicles may only drive vehicles that have been brought into Great Britain from the designated country.
For new residents originating from theses countries slightly different rules apply. They may drive small vehicles for up to 12 months, during which time their foreign licence must be exchanged for a GB one. New residents must also be aware that they cannot drive medium or large goods vehicles or PVCs until they have passed the relevant GB tests. Vocational licence holders from Gibraltar may drive for 12 months and can exchange the licence within five years of residency.
Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man
Visitors from here can drive any category of vehicle shown on their licence for a period of 12 months. Vocational licence holders from Jersey or the Isle of Man can drive large vehicles for up to 12 months. If the vocational licence was issued in Guernsey, only vehicles that have been imported temporally can be driven.
New residents from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man may drive for up to 12 months and must exchange their licence for a GB one within that period.
All Other Countries
Visitors can drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes and with up to 16 passengers seats, provided that their original licence is still valid. With large vehicles only those that have been registered outside Great Britain and that have been drive into the country may be used.
For new residents, so long as their full licence remains valid, any small vehicle shown on the licence may be driven in the UK for up to 12 months. During this time a GB licence must be obtained. Those with vocational licences may not drive larger vehicles without passing the GB driving test for that type of vehicle.