Probation period and who it affects
If you have just passed your first driving test you will be 'on probation’ for two years. If you reach six or more penalty points in that time, you’ll lose your licence. Then, you’ll have to apply and pay for a new provisional licence. This means you’ll be a learner driver again.
This applies to all drivers and motorcyclists who have passed their driving test in:
- Northern Ireland
- Great Britain (GB)
- European Economic Area (EEA) countries
- Isle of Man
- Channel Islands
- countries in the European Union
This doesn't apply if you have held a full driving licence for two years. For example, there isn’t another probation period if you already have a full car licence and pass a test in another category, like lorry. But you need to have passed both tests in one of the countries listed above.
Foreign driving licences
The probationary period and penalty point rules also apply if you exchange a foreign driving licence for a Northern Ireland licence and then pass a further driving test in Northern Ireland.
How you get penalty points
You get penalty points for all sorts of driving-related offences, such as speeding or driving dangerously. The penalties for traffic offences are set out in the Highway Code.
Penalty points on your provisional licence
You can also get penalty points on your provisional licence before you pass your test. These points last for three years. If you reach six points before you’ve taken your test, your provisional licence won’t be taken away. But if you get any more points within two years of passing your test, you will lose your licence.
What happens if you lose your licence
If you lose your licence you must first apply for a provisional licence. A provisional licence means you must:
- display L plates on the front and rear of your vehicle
- drive under the supervision of a qualified driver who is at least 21 and has held a full licence for at least three years
- drive at a speed not exceeding 45mph
- not drive on a motorway
You must not drive on any public road in Northern Ireland without a licence. If you drive without a valid licence, or disobey the conditions of a provisional licence, you face a penalty of up to £1,000.
If you don’t have a valid licence, your insurance will be invalid. You’ll need to tell your insurance company immediately if you lose your licence.
Getting your full driving licence back
To regain your full driving licence you must reapply for a provisional driving licence, pass the theory and practical driving tests again and claim your test pass. You’ll need to:
- complete ‘Application for a driving licence’ DL1 form, available from MOT test centres or main Post Office branches
- tick the 'new licence after disqualification' box in section 4
- pay the fee (see ‘renewal after disqualification’ on the cost of a driving licence)
- post the DL1 form to:
Pass the theory and practical driving tests
You’ll need to pay for and re-sit the theory and practical driving tests.
Claim your test pass
After passing your driving test, you’ll need to upgrade your provisional driving licence for a full one.
Your driving entitlement
Full entitlement to drive all categories of vehicle you previously held on your driving licence will only be reinstated when you pass a test in any one of your previously held entitlements. If you successfully pass a test for entitlement to a category you have not previously held, you’ll get a full driving licence for that category only.
After passing your retest
It’s important to remember that passing the retest doesn't remove the penalty points from your driving licence. In most cases, penalty points stay valid on your licence for four years from the date of the offence.
Appealing against the withdrawal of your driving licence
You can only appeal against the conviction that led to you getting the six penalty points. Contact the convicting court for advice on how to appeal.