Apply early to get your new 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 Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland (NI) to check progress.
To help make sure your application is valid, please see the checklist below under 'Applying to DVA'.
Changes made to the format of the Great Britain driving licences effective from 8 June 2015 have no effect on licences from the DVA in NI. Northern Ireland licences are still made up of two parts, a plastic photocard and paper part which is known as the paper counterpart.
Applying to DVA
The DVA will send you a form called 'Application for Renewal of a Driving Licence' (DL1R) about two months before your licence expires. This will be sent to the address held in their records, so it is important that you tell DVA when you change address:
Apply by post
You will need to:
- fill in the DL1R form and include the right fee
- for lorry or bus licences only - return your photocard driving licence and paper counterpart
- include a new passport type colour photograph - see the new rules below the next bullet point
- send it to DVA Driver Licensing
The new rules for passport photos 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 photo that is certified, which means you must get an authorised person to sign the back of your photo
The following link explains who can sign your photo, this is under the heading 'Who can sign my photo?'
If your name has changed since you received your last driving licence you will need to give documentary evidence of the change of name such as:
- your passport in the name by which you are known
- or birth and marriage/civil partnership certificate
The evidence you provide must show a clear link between the name on the identity document and your present name. Photocopies of the documentary evidence are not acceptable.
Please remember to be alert to unofficial websites offering online driver licensing. You cannot apply for a Northern Ireland driving licence online.
Renewing without a DL1R form
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 reminder application form, you can 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.
Return of supporting documents
The driving licence fee includes the return of your supporting documents (where applicable) by second class post. If you would like your supporting documents returned by secure delivery, include a pre-paid Royal Mail Special delivery envelope.
Please note - DVA will not provide compensation for any loss or delay resulting from the use of second class post.
DVA cannot guarantee to return your documents by a set date, for example, a holiday.
When to expect your licence
DVA aims to deliver your licence within three weeks of receiving a completed application. In addition, this may take longer if your health or personal details have to be checked.
Driver Licensing 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.
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.
If you do not receive your licence
If your driving licence has not been delivered after six weeks you should contact DVA Driver Licensing.
If you do not tell the DVA within eight weeks that your licence has not arrived, you must apply for a duplicate licence and pay the relevant fee.
Driving before your licence is returned
Once DVA has received your valid application, you can drive before you receive your 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 link below
Driving on licences from Great Britain, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle Of Man, Gibraltar or Designated Countries
- 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 comply with 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
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.
If you drive a lorry and/ or bus
The licence categories for driving a lorry or bus 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.