To drive legally in the UK a driver must be at least 17 years old and have a valid licence of a category appropriate to the vehicle being driven.
Visitors over 17 years of age, with a valid driving permit issued elsewhere in the world, may drive a passenger vehicle in the UK for up to 12 months.
After 12 months, some foreign licences remain valid for use in the UK for a limited period; some may be exchanged for a UK licence; some cease to be valid and a full driving test must be taken for a British licence (GB) to be issued.
A valid driving licence issued anywhere within the European Union (EU), or European Economic Area (EEA), may be used by the licence holder until the age of 70, or for up to three years from the time they become resident in Great Britain (whichever is longer).
After three years it must be exchanged for a GB licence. EU licences can only be renewed in the country in which the holder is resident. If a driver holds a licence from another EU country and renews it in Britain, it will be converted to a UK licence.
Note: An EU/EEA-issued licence may not be exchanged for a GB licence if it was issued in exchange for an original licence not on the "designated countries" list.
Penalty points given for driving offences made during the three-year period are recorded by the DVLA and listed against the driver's name. Drivers may be disqualified from driving if they accumulate 12 penalty points within three years.
A licence issued in one of the 15 countries with which Great Britain has a reciprocal licencing agreement may be used for 12 months and then exchanged for a GB licence of an equivalent category.
The 15 designated countries are:
Although the designated country licence is only valid for the first 12 months, it may be exchanged at any time within five years of the licence-holder becoming resident in the UK. However, after the first year the driver may not drive until that is done.
A licence issued by any other country is valid for use for one year. To continue driving, a full driving theory and practical test must be taken for the issue of a GB licence.
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