Exchanging your foreign driving licence
If you are the holder of a foreign driving licence and want or need to change to a Northern Ireland (NI) driving licence there are certain conditions that need to be considered when applying.
Applying for the exchange of your foreign driving licence
If you want or need to change your driving licence for a NI driving licence, you must complete the application form DL1 that is available from the main Post Office® branches, local vehicle licensing offices or MOT centres.
You will need to enclose original documentation confirming your identity, a passport style colour photograph and appropriate proof of residency (see 'identity documents and photograph criteria' link below for further details). Send your completed application and the appropriate fee to:
Coleraine County Hall
If your vocational licence was issued in a European Economic Area (EEA) country you need only submit a medical report form if, on exchange, you are 45 years of age or over. This applies even if your vocational licence is still current. Medical form DLM1 is available from local vehicle licensing offices, MOT centres. Or you can phone DVA on 0845 4024 000.
Rules for exchange
The following conditions must be met before a licence can be granted in exchange for a NI one:
- you must be normally resident in NI and have a permanent address here
- if you are a community driving licence holder applying for a NI driving test at the same time as exchanging your licence, you must have been resident in NI for at least six months prior to taking your test
- licences from the designated countries must be current at the time the application for exchange is received at DVA. If your driving test was not passed in the designated country that issued your current driving licence you may not be able to exchange, please contact DVA for advice
- licences from the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands are acceptable for exchange if issued after 1 April 1991; those issued in any EEA country may be valid for exchange even if they have expired but must be supported by a Letter of Entitlement from the issuing authority which they have obtained within the last 3 months
- when exchanging a licence from a designated country in order to obtain a NI driving licence which confers entitlement to drive vehicles with manual transmission, DVA must be satisfied that the driving test was passed in a vehicle with manual transmission - otherwise the NI licence will be restricted to vehicles with automatic transmission
- you must surrender your foreign licence which will be returned to the issuing authority
- international driving permits are not exchangeable
- test pass certificates are not exchangeable except for those issued in Great Britain or Gibraltar when the test was passed within two years of the date of the licence application
- Japanese licences must be accompanied by an official translation, available for a fee from the Consulate General of Japan at 101-104 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7JT or 2 Melville Crescent, Edinburgh, EH3 7HW
- Republic of Korean licences must also be accompanied by an official translation, available for a fee from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, 60 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AJ
- motorcycle licences from the Republic of Korea and Faroe Islands are not exchangeable
Exchanging licences from designated countries
Northern Ireland (NI) will exchange the equivalent of Category B (car) and Category A (motorcycle) driving licences issued by the following 13 designated countries: Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Provinces and Territories of Canada*, Falkland Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, Singapore, South Africa**, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.
The following two countries are also designated for the exchange of the equivalent Category B (car) but not Category A (motorcycle) driving licences: Faroe Islands and Republic of Korea.
*Canadian driving licence
It is not possible to determine from driving licences issued by the Provinces and Territories of Canada that the driving test taken to obtain them was taken in a car with manual transmission. The NI driving licence issued in exchange for a licence from Canada will therefore restrict the applicant to driving vehicles with automatic transmission only, unless documentary evidence is submitted which proves that the driving test was taken in a vehicle with manual transmission.
**South African driving licence
South African driving licences can only be exchanged if they are in the new style credit card format.
Also, the following rules apply:
- the South African licence and photgraph must be valid - since 18 March 2009, if the photograph has expired the application will be rejected
- licences must be exchanged within five years of being resident in Northern Ireland
- other types of licences issued in Transkei, Ciskei, Venda, KaNgwane, KwaNdebele, Gazankula, Lebowa and Bophuthatswana are not acceptable for exchange
- if you only hold a letter of entitlement from the South African Driving Licence Authority, this must show an expiry date and be valid for six months from the date of issue
If you are exchanging your South African photocard driving licence, this will be returned to the South African licensing authority.
Return of supporting documents
The driving licence fee includes return of your supporting documents (where applicable) by second class post. If you would like your supporting documents returned by secure delivery, please supply an appropriate pre-paid special delivery envelope.
Please Note – DVA will not provide compensation for any loss or delay resulting from the use of second class post.