Differences between NI and GB licences
Changes made to the format of the Great Britain driving licences from 8 June 2015 have no affect on licences from the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland. NI licences are still made up of two parts, a plastic photocard and paper part which is known as the paper counterpart.
A car, motorcycle or tractor driving licence will expire (when the date at 4B on the plastic card part of your driving licence has passed) every 10 years, unless you have a driving licence that has been medically restricted. There are also exceptions for drivers over 60 and for lorry and bus drivers. More about this below under the heading: 'Exceptions'.
You'll get a renewal notice
About two months before your licence expires the DVA will send you a renewal notice called 'Application for Renewal of a Driving Licence' (DL1R). This will be posted to the address held in their records, so it is important that you tell the DVA when you change address:
Apply early to get your new driving licence before your existing licence expires. Applications where the driver has declared a medical condition may take longer to process.
If you have sent in a valid application before your existing licence expires, you can continue to drive and in that case you should not need to contact the DVA to check progress.
The earliest you can renew
The DVA will accept applications for renewal driving licences up to two months before they are due to expire, giving you time to plan ahead and make sure that your licence is ready in good time for example for a planned trip such as a holiday.
Once you've got your renewal notice, you can apply to renew your car, motorcycle and tractor driving licence online at the link below. During the process you'll be asked to provide a digital photo of yourself. By following the digital photo guidelines at the link below, you'll avoid your application being delayed:
The benefit of renewing online is that you'll get your driving licence much sooner than if you renew by post.
Or, renew by post
You can renew your car, motorcycle and tractor driving licence by post.
You will need to:
- fill in the DL1R that you received from the DVA in the post
- include the right fee
- if your name has changed since you received your last driving licence then send original identity documents to confirm this – such as your passport in the name by which you are known or birth and marriage/ civil partnership certificate or deed poll – a deed poll is a legal document that proves a change of name
- include a new passport type colour photograph - see the new rules below in the next section
- send it all to DVA Driver Licensing
Guidance notes for when you fill in the DL1R form.
New photo rules when you renew by post
The rules for printed passport type photographs have changed as follows:
- if your appearance has not changed since you got your last driving licence, you can send in a passport type photograph without certification which means without a signature from an authorised person
- but if your appearance has changed significantly since your last driving licence you will need to send in a passport type photograph that is certified, which means you must get an authorised person to sign the back of your photograph
Getting the photograph signed
Follow the link below to find out who can sign your photograph, this is under the heading 'Who can sign your photo':
Printed photograph guidelines
Guidelines for printed passport type photos that are posted together with the driving licence application form can be found at the link below:
The renewal notice (DL1R) you receive from the DVA to remind you to renew your licence will tell you how much your licence renewal will cost. You can also get details about the fees for different types of driving licences including details of how to pay at the following link:
Be aware that there are unofficial websites offering online driver licensing. Ignore these.
If you don't receive a renewal notice (DL1R)
The DVA send out reminders to renew your driving licence as a courtesy but are not required to let a driver know that their licence is due to expire.
If, for any reason, you don’t receive the renewal notice (DL1R) from the DVA, you can apply online below:
- Renew your driving licence online
- or use the DL1 Driving Licence Application form - this form is available from Post Offices or MOT test centres. You’ll also need to include a new passport type photograph.
Driving before new licence arrives
Once the DVA has received your valid application, you can drive before you receive your new licence as long as you:
- have held a Northern Ireland or Great Britain driving licence issued since 1 January 1976 or hold another exchangeable licence - explained at the following links: GBR, Jersey, Guernsey, IOM, Gibraltar driving licences and Exchanging your foreign driving licence
- have made a qualifying application for a licence
- aren't disqualified from driving
- haven't been refused a licence for medical reasons or for failing to follow the DVA medical enquiries
- wouldn't be refused a licence for medical reasons (if in doubt, check with your doctor)
- keep to any special conditions which apply to the licence
When to expect your licence
The DVA aims to process your licence within 10 working days of receiving a completed application. This may take longer if your health or personal details have to be checked. Allow at least four weeks for your driving licence to arrive before contacting the DVA.
If your driving licence has not arrived six weeks after you made your application, contact DVA Driver Licensing.
If you do not tell the DVA within eight weeks that your licence has not arrived, you will have to apply for a duplicate licence and pay the relevant fee.
Return of supporting documents
The driving licence fee includes the return of your supporting documents (where applicable for applications done by post) by second class post. If you would like your supporting documents returned by secure delivery, include a pre-paid Royal Mail Special Delivery envelope.
The DVA will not provide compensation for any loss or delay resulting from the use of second class post.
The DVA cannot guarantee to return your documents by a set date, for example, a holiday.
Drivers over 60
Drivers over 60 whose licences expire before their 70th birthday, will be issued a licence valid until age 70 or for a period of three years, whichever is the longer. A fee applies, even if the period granted is for the minimum of three years.
Renew your driving licence at 70 plus
If you drive a lorry, bus, minibus
The licence categories for driving a lorry, bus or minibus will be valid for a maximum of five years, up to age 65. At age 65 and over, the maximum is one year.
You must tell the DVA if you’ve ever had, or presently suffer from a medical condition that may affect your driving.
Licence lost, stolen or damaged
If your licence has been lost, stolen, defaced, or damaged you can make an application for a replacement at any time:
Driving on holiday
Thinking about going on holiday and hiring a car? If so, check that your driving licence will be valid well before you are due to travel.