Advice on foreign driving licences in Northern Ireland

If you are a visitor, resident or student in Northern Ireland and still have a driving licence issued by the country you have come from, there are certain conditions that affect how long you can drive and what you can drive in Northern Ireland.


Provided your full licence or international driving permit remains valid, you may drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to eight passenger seats for up to 12 months from the date of coming to NI.

However, you may only drive large vehicles which have been registered outside NI and which you have driven into the country.


If you are the holder of an ordinary driving licence (car, moped, motorcycle entitlement) and provided your licence remains valid, you can drive any category of small vehicle shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the time you became resident.

To ensure continuous full driving entitlement you must obtain a provisional NI licence and pass a driving test(s) before the 12 month period elapses.

Up until 12 months you are not subject to normal provisional licence conditions, for example; displaying 'L' plates, being supervised by a qualified driver or not being allowed on motorways.

If you don’t pass a test before the 12 month concessionary period has elapsed, you will lose entitlement to drive as a full licence holder. The normal provisional licence conditions will apply, and you will have a restricted period of one year from the date you pass your driving test.

New residents who hold a vocational licence (minibus, bus, lorry entitlement), must not drive large vehicles until they have passed the relevant NI driving test. Driving test candidates are required to pass a motor car (category B) test first before applying for provisional entitlement for larger vehicles.

Driving in NI as a student

If you are a student holding a community licence you may drive cars and motorcycles in NI for as long as your licence remains valid.

If you are a student holding a non-community licence or an international driving permit you may drive here for up to 12 months.

If you hold a driving licence from a designated country you may apply to exchange it for a NI one up to five years after becoming a resident here.

If you do not hold a licence you will need to apply for a provisional licence and pass a driving test. You will be able to take a test and obtain a full licence once you have been in NI for six months.

International driving permits

Valid international driving permits, also known as convention permits, must comply with the formats prescribed in international legislation. Permits must be in booklet form, with white inside pages translated into multiple languages.

International driving licences

Neither the United Nations nor any of its subsidiary bodies issues or authorises the issue of international driver licences. An international driving licence is not valid proof of driving entitlement in NI.

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