Driving in Northern Ireland (NI) on a licence issued in a European Economic Area (EEA) country
All drivers must comply with Northern Ireland's minimum age requirements. These are 17 years for cars and motorcycles, 18 years for medium sized vehicles and 24 years for large lorries and buses.
Visitors from the European Economic Area (EEA)
If you hold a community licence issued in a member state of the EEA and are visiting Northern Ireland (NI), you can drive any vehicle provided your licence is valid and it shows the appropriate full entitlement for the vehicle you wish to drive.
If you have a valid community licence, you may drive in NI for the period set out below. Or you can exchange your licence for a NI one at any time.
As long as your licence is valid you may drive in NI until aged 70, or for three years after becoming resident, whichever is the longer period. This applies to car and motorcycle driving licence holders (ordinary driving licence).
Lorry, minibus and bus driving licence holders (vocational driving licence) can drive:
- until aged 45 or for five years after becoming resident, whichever is the longer period
- if you are aged over 45 - until your 66th birthday or for five years after becoming resident, whichever is the shorter period
- if you are aged 65 or over - for 12 months after becoming resident
In order to continue driving after these periods, you must get a NI driving licence.
Community licences issued in exchange for licences from elsewhere
A community licence issued on the strength of a licence from a designated country will be valid for driving in NI for 12 months only and is acceptable for exchange purposes.
A community licence issued on the strength of a licence from a non-designated country will be valid for driving in NI for 12 months only but is not valid for exchange purposes.
A licence from any country outside the EEA which was originally issued on the basis of a community licence, will be valid for driving in NI for 12 months only and is acceptable for exchange purposes. Evidence of the original EEA entitlement must be provided.
Register of community licence holders
Holders of community licences with vocational entitlement who live in NI must register their details with Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA). For further information phone 0845 4024 000.
Notifying health conditions
You must tell DVA about all medical conditions which existed before and after you came to NI even if you have already notified the authorities.
In most cases the rules will be the same as those in other EEA countries although there may be some differences. For example, epileptics who have had attacks in the last 10 years are not permitted to hold a vocational licence.
Taking a driving test
If you want to take a NI driving test you must be a resident in NI. If you were recently a permanent resident in another EEA country, you must have been in NI for 185 days in the year before you apply for a driving test and full licence.
To take a NI driving test you will need to exchange your community licence for the NI equivalent and request the appropriate provisional entitlement.
Vehicles which community licence holders may also drive in NI
Community licence holders with category B entitlement can also drive certain vehicles in NI, which are exempt from the normal large vehicle driver licensing requirements. These include non-commercial minibuses driven on a voluntary basis, permit minibuses and large vehicles such as agricultural motor vehicles and road construction vehicles.
Further details can be found in the fact sheet 'special licensing arrangements for drivers of large vehicles' available from DVA.