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The photocard driving licence explained

All driving licences issued by Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) are now issued in EU format - a plastic photocard and a paper counterpart. Old format style licences are still valid and will be updated gradually as they are renewed and replaced.

Changes from 8 June 2015 in GB to the paper counterpart of driving licences do not affect driving licences issued by DVA in NI. NI licences still require both the plastic photocard and paper counterpart.

Why photocard licences?

Photocard licences were introduced as a result of an EU directive requiring all member states to issue driving licences in a card format which contains the licence holder's image and signature. There are many benefits that photocard driving licences offer, including:

  • allowing member state licence holders freedom to move around many European countries
  • a more secure format which reduces the opportunity for misrepresentation
  • ensuring that the person obtaining a provisional licence, taking the test and obtaining a full driving licence is one and the same
  • a cut in impersonation at driving tests
  • ensuring that the person obtaining the licence is old enough to do so
  • minimising the chances of a person holding more than one licence, either by accident or design

Front of the licence


front of current full licence


picture of current provisional licence

Your personal details (1, 2 and 3)

Fields 1, 2 and 3 of your photocard licence record your surname, first names, date and place of birth.

Date of licence issue, photo expiry, issuing authority (4)

The date shown in 4a is the date the photocard was issued. 4b shows the date the photocard must be renewed. The authority that issued the licence is shown in 4c. In Northern Ireland this is DVA.

Driver number (5)

Your unique eight digit NI driver number.

Holder’s photograph (6 – not numbered, found on left side of card)

The new photocard licence has a black and white photo. This is because the laser technology used to burn the image onto the card producing a black and white photo is more secure. A colour photo will still need to be provided with your application to be stored on your driver record.

Holder’s signature (7)

This is digitally reproduced and burned into the photocard from the signature you provided on the application form.

Holder’s address (8)

This shows the driver’s permanent address in Northern Ireland.

Entitlement categories (9)

The letters in capitals show the categories of entitlement covered by the European Community Directive. National categories are shown in smaller letters.

Back of licence


Picture of the back of the current full licence


picture of the back of the current provisional licence

Pictogram entitlement categories (9)

These illustrations are representations of types of vehicles in those categories shown.

Valid from (10)

The earliest date from which a driving category is valid from

Valid to (11)

The date until which a driving category is valid to

Information codes/restrictions (12)

The code numbers printed in this area show what, if any, restrictions there are

Not used (13)

Other security features

The driving licence also has tactile (raised) surfaces, tactile engraved text, changing colours, as well as complex background designs.

Previously issued NI photocard driving licence

Photocard driving licences have been issued since 1 April 1999. All licence types stay valid until their date of expiry shown at section 4b.

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