Exchanging your foreign driving licence
If you hold a foreign driving licence and you want or need to change it to a Northern Ireland driving licence, there are certain conditions that you need to consider when applying.
Licence exchange applications
EU/ EEA, UK Group 1 licence still valid
If your EU/ EEA driving licence is still valid, you do not need to exchange it at this time. You may continue to drive until your licence expires. An EU/ EEA driving licence may be exchanged even if it has expired.
EU/EEA Group 2 licence still valid - driver under 65
If your EU/ EEA driving licence is still valid, you do not need to exchange it at this time. You may continue to drive until you reach the age of 66 years, or for a period of five years from the date you became resident in the United Kingdom, whichever is the earlier, if your licence is still valid. An EU/ EEA driving licence may be exchanged even if it has expired.
If your exchangeable driving licence is still valid, you do not need to exchange it at this time. You may continue to drive for a period of one year from the date you became resident in Northern Ireland, if your driving licence is still valid. An exchangeable licence can be exchanged within a period of five years from the date you became resident in Northern Ireland. Your exchangeable licence must be valid at the time of exchange.
Driving licences from other countries which are exchangeable
Northern Ireland will exchange driving licences issued by the following countries on a like for like basis:
- Great Britain (including Jersey, Guernsey and Isle Of Man)
- EU/ EEA countries
- Czech Republic
Northern Ireland will also exchange driving licences issued by Gibraltar and 21 designated countries. The designated countries are:
- British Virgin Islands
- The Provinces and Territories of Canada
- The Cayman Islands
- Provinces and Territories of Canada
- Falkland Islands
- The Faroe Islands
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Principality of Monaco
- The Republic of Korea
- The Republic of North Macedonia
- South Africa
- The United Arab Emirates
Motorcycle entitlement from the Faroe Islands, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of North Macedonia, Taiwan and Ukraine is not exchangeable.
Motorcycle entitlement from the Cayman Islands and the United Arab Emirates is limited to small motorcycles (category A1).
Designated country licence exchange
To make sure you have continuous driving entitlement you must apply for a Northern Ireland licence within 12 months of the time you became resident in Northern Ireland. If you do not do this you must stop driving until you are issued with a Northern Ireland licence, although you may still exchange your licence within five years of becoming resident.
Australian driving licence
Some Australian driving licences do not show whether the driving test was taken in a car with manual transmission or automatic transmission.
If you are issued a Northern Ireland driving licence in exchange for a licence from the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania or Victoria it will restrict you to driving vehicles with automatic transmission only. That is unless you can give documentary evidence to prove that the driving test was taken in a vehicle with manual transmission.
Canadian driving licence
A Canadian driving licence does not show whether the driving test was taken in a car with manual transmission or automatic transmission.
If you are issued a Northern Ireland driving licence in exchange for a licence from Canada it will restrict you to driving vehicles with automatic transmission only. That is unless you can give documentary evidence to prove 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 photograph 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.
Ukrainian driving licence
Ukrainian driving licences issued before 28 December 2021 do not show whether the driving test was taken in a car with manual transmission or automatic transmission
If you are issued a Northern Ireland driving licence in exchange for a licence from Ukraine it will restrict you to driving vehicles with automatic transmission only. That is unless you can give documentary evidence to prove that the driving test was taken in a vehicle with manual transmission.
If you are able to provide proof of your test pass after you have been issued with a Northern Ireland licence, you can apply to have the automatic transmission restriction removed free of charge.
Vocational designated licence holders
If you are a new resident you may not drive medium or large vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles until you have passed the relevant Northern Ireland driving test. If you hold a Gibraltar vocational licence you can drive for 12 months and can exchange a valid vocational licence within five years of date of residency.
Applying for the exchange of your foreign driving licence
If you want or need to change your driving licence for a Northern Ireland driving licence, you must fill in the application form DL1 that is available from the main Post Office branches. If you are exchanging a Swiss licence with entitlement to drive goods vehicles or passenger-carrying vehicles, you must use application form DL1.
You will need to include original paperwork confirming your identity, a passport style colour photograph and suitable proof of residency (see 'identity documents and photographs' link below for further details).
Send your filled in application and the right fee to DVA driver licensing at the address at the link below:
- Driver & Vehicle Agency - driver licensing
- Identity documents and photographs
- The cost of a driving licence
You can find notes to help you fill in the DL1 application form at the link below:
If your vocational licence was issued in an EU/ EEA country or Switzerland you will need to include a medical report form if, at the time of your application, you are 45 years of age or over.
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
- licences from the designated countries must be current at the time the application for exchange is received by DVA
- if your driving test was not passed in the country that issued your current driving licence you may not be able to exchange it. You should contact DVA for advice
- licences from the designated countries must be exchanged within five years of being resident in NI
- except in the case of licences issued in Switzerland, DVA do not exchange any bus or lorry entitlements from licences issued in a designated country - this also applies if you passed any lorry/ bus tests in a designated country
- licences from the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands are acceptable for exchange if issued after 1 April 1991 - those issued in any EU/ 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 two months
- when exchanging a licence from a designated country to get 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 - or 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 come with an official translation, available for a fee from one of the Consulates below
Consulate General of Japan
2 Melville Crescent
Republic of Korea licences must come with an official translation from the:Embassy of the Republic of Korea
60 Buckingham Gate
You may have to pay a fee to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea for this service. Translations from other sources are not acceptable.
- Taiwanese licences must come with an official translation, available from the Taipei Representative Office below
Taipei Representative Office
50 Grosvenor Gardens
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, you must send the right size pre-paid special delivery envelope.
DVA will not give compensation for any loss or delay resulting from the use of second class post.