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Applying for a UK Driving Licence

Even though the UK’s public transportation system is ranked as one of the best in the world, you may have decided to get a UK driving licence.

Having a UK licence can help in terms of employment as many companies prefer or require a licence. A driving licence also opens up a number of self-employment and freelance opportunities.

The steps to obtaining a driving licence in the UK are fairly straightforward, even though at first glance the process can appear to be a bit cumbersome.

The Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the DVLA, has the task of issuing and tracking all UK driving licences.  The agency is located in Swansea and most of the steps in obtaining a licence are completed online.

Types of Licence

There are a number driving licence types, or ‘entitlements’. Before applying for an entitlement it is usually necessary to obtain a standard (Type B) licence. The most commonly held driver’s licences are:

  • Provisional – Allows a driver to operate a moped, motorbike or car. Minimum age is 15 years 9 months.
  • Motorcycle – Motorcycles are covered by 3 classes of licences. An AM is available at age 16 and is for vehicles with a speed of less than 45 kmh. A1 licences are for light motorcycles of 125 cc or less; the driver must be at least 17. An A2 license covers vehicles up to 35kW for drivers who are at least 19. An all-encompassing A license, including those with sidecars, is issued to drivers 24 or older. Quad bikes and tricycles are covered by a B1 license; drivers must be at least 17.
  • Cars – In order to drive most cars, and some minibuses, a B licence is needed. These are issued at age 17. Larger vehicles and those with trailers require a C or D licence.


In most cases, you need to obtain a provisional licence first and build from there. A full driving licence is issued after the successful completion of several tests and after all required documentation is submitted.

Provisional Licence requirements

In order to be issued a provisional licence you must meet the following criteria.

  • Be at least 15 years and 9 months old.
  • Be able to read a number plate from at least 20 metres away
  • Verify your identity. For those who hold a valid UK biometric passport is it only necessary to provide the 9 digit passport number with their application. Otherwise it will be necessary to provide the original of one of the following identity documentation. Copies, including certified copies are not acceptable. If the documents will be needed for travel or other purposes within a month it is best to postpone the application.
    • A valid current passport. (European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) nationals without a current passport must provide a visa showing they have permission to live in the UK.
    • A biometric residence permit
    • An  EEA or EU national identity card
    • A travel document.
  • Provide residence information that covers the past 3 years.
  • Provide a National Insurance number (if known)
  • Pay the £34 fee with a credit or debit card.

The application is submitted online at the DVLA website. The application uses the applicant’s Government Gateway ID. If they do not have one it will be issued as part of the application process.

The provisional licence will generally arrive in one week.  Documents are returned separately and can take up to several weeks. Those who wish to have their documents returned by special delivery need to include a self-addressed prepaid special delivery envelope.

Special documentation and identity verification documents are required for those who have changed their name or gender since the time the original documents were issued. The information along with the necessary forms can be found on the agency’s website.

Obtaining a Full Driving Licence

You need to have a full driving licence to drive a motorcycle, car, bus, coach or lorry.

In order to obtain a full driving licence it is necessary to pass a theory test and a practical driving test.

Driving Theory Test

You must have a provisional driving licence in order to take the driving theory test.

There are two parts to the theory test:

  • Multiple-choice questions concerning driving practices and regulations.
  • A video test designed to test your ability to spot hazards on the road.

You have to pass both parts and both tests must be taken at the same time. The cost for taking the test is £23. The DVLA and other agencies provide practice tests online.

Practical Driving Test

The practical driving test can be taken once the theory test has been successfully completed. The cost of the test is £62.

You book the practical driving test online at the DVLA website. All of the information needed to successfully pass the test can be found by checking the national standard for driving cars section on the DVLA’s website.

The practical driving test is required for cars, lorries, buses, coaches and motorcycles.

The practical test will focus on two aspects:

  • Show that you can drive safely in different road and traffic conditions
  • Show that you have an understanding of The Highway Code. This is determined by the tester observing the way you drive.

One you have passed the practical driving test you can apply for a full driving licence.

The DVLA provides practice tests online. However, many people choose to attend one of the licenced driving schools found throughout the UK. The schools are especially helpful in preparing and submitting the required documents. They also offer practical driving practice and test study guides.


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