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