Canadian Driving Licence in UK

If visiting or intending on becoming a UK resident whilst obtaining a full and valid Canadian driving licence, this section explains whether you licence is valid in the UK and if it can be exchanged for a GB licence.

Canada is one of the UK’s designated countries which means that holders of a full and valid Canadian driving licence can drive in the UK.

Great Britain residents and visitors
Canadian driving licence holders who are either visiting Great Britain, or have become GB or UK residents can drive in the UK for up to 12 months on their Canadian driving licence.

Canadian driving licence holders who are resident in the UK will need to exchange your Canadian driving licence for a UK licence after 12 months of becoming resident to continue driving.

The DVLA allows five years to exchange your licence from when you first became a resident of the United Kingdom.

Foreigners studying in Great Britain
As Canada is a designated country, an individual studying in Great Britain may drive on a full and valid Canadian driving licence for 12 months and exchange your licence for a GB licence if you have one. If you do not yet have a driving licence, you will first need to apply for a GB provisional driving licence. You can then take a driving test and if passed, receive a full driving licence once you have been in Great Britain for a minimum of six months.

UK Driving Licence
Note: This UK driving licence contains fictional information


Driving in the UK

A significant difference whilst driving in the UK compared to Canada, is in the UK, we drive on the left. Driving on the left can initially be confusing for those with no experience, especially when changing gears with the left hand instead of the right, correct lane discipline and distancing from the side of the road and traffic systems such as roundabouts and the many mini roundabouts found in the UK.

The UK also still use the imperial system in terms of speed limits – miles per hour (mph),in comparison to Canada’s metric system of kilometres per hour (km/h). Other than this, UK speed limits are similar to those found in Canada.

Many foreign drivers taking to UK roads often take a short two hours or so driving course. This isn’t a legal requirement, but this course known as refresher driving lessons operated by qualified driving instructors enable foreign drivers to practice driving on the left, in a right hand drive vehicle under the professional guidance of an instructor with dual controls. All instructor offer this service and is designed to increase confidence, driving skills and awareness on UK roads.

Exchanging Canadian driving licence for UK driving licence

Providing you are a UK resident and hold a valid and full Canadian driving licence, you can exchange your licence for a GB licence for up to five years since you became a resident. A fee will apply.

NOTE: Unless you can provide proof that you passed your Canadian driving test in a manual transmission vehicle, you will be granted a British licence that will allow you to drive only an automatic transmission vehicle. In the UK it is beneficial to hold a manual driving licence. See automatic or manual for a comparison and benefits of both transmission types in the UK.

If you intend on obtaining a UK driving licence that allows you to drive manual transmission vehicles and have been granted a GB licence that permits you to drive automatic transmission only, you will need to retake and pass the practical driving test in a manual transmission car. You will not need to take the theory test. Upon obtaining your new GB driving licence, the driving licence code ’78’ shown on your licence signifies that you have restriction to vehicles with automatic transmission only.

UK car insurance for Canadians

Car insurance in the UK can be expensive. If you are looking for car insurance whilst using your Canadian driving licence, you may be better speaking in person to a car insurance broker who deals with specialised car insurance for foreign drivers. As your licence is non-UK and the fact that you will have zero no-claims bonus, this may be expensive. See car insurance help for a run down on the common insurance types in the UK.

You may also find some car insurance providers will not insure with a foreign driving licence. Ultimately, if you do not intend on driving too often or are not staying in the UK for a long period of time, it may be cheaper to hire a car.

If you are a UK resident and have exchanged your Canadian driving licence for a UK licence, car insurance may initially be expensive as any previous no-claims bonus will be lost and you will need to once again build up your no-claims bonus from zero.

Driving licence foreign country codes

If you have exchanged your Canadian driving licence for a GB driving licence, the foreign country code CDN will appear in the information section of your new licence. Your new GB licence may also show the category ’78’ which permits you to drive vehicles with automatic transmission only, regardless of whether you passed the Canadian driving test in a manual or automatic transmission.

If you can prove that you passed your Canadian driving test in a manual transmission however, you will be granted a GB licence permitting you to drive vehicle with automatic and manual transmission. For further information on the various codes and categories and their meanings, see driving licence explained for further information.

43 thoughts on “Canadian Driving Licence in UK”

  1. Philip Hodges

    My 25 year old granddaughter has been working in Canada for 20 months after living in Australia for around fifteen years where she passed her driving test initially
    She is with us for two months and we would have liked her to be put on my wife’s insurance for this two month period, however we have been quoted over £1100 for this which is more than we wished to pay
    Can she swap her Canadian driving licence for a UK one
    She has dal nationality being born in the UK
    Perhaps you could advise
    Thank you
    Philip Hodges

  2. Hello Philip,
    The issue you may face is residency, this being a permanent address in Great Britain that you’ve lived in for at least 185 days – so it’s unlikely that she’ll be able to swap her licence.

  3. Marsha Tran

    Hi there,
    Upon exchange of my Canadian drivers license to a UK license, am I still valid to drive in Canada? I am in the UK for my studies but return to Canada during the holidays and so will need to drive in Canada every some odd months.
    Cheers

  4. Hello Marsha,
    I’m afraid we do not know how the Canadian driving licence authorities operate.

  5. Micah Snow

    I am living in the UK and don’t want to surrender my Canadian license. Would I be required to take the tests and go through the learner’s period again if I don’t surrender my Canadian license?

  6. Hi Micah,

    You can retain your Canadian licence and apply for a GB provisional licence to take the relevant test(s). You can only drive on your Canadian licence for 12 months from date of residency. If you don’t pass your GB practical within this time you’ll need to stop driving until you pass.

  7. Grace

    Hi there,
    My Canadian driver license is expired. Does that mean that I would have to fly all the way back to Canada to renew it before I can exchnage it to a uk license?

  8. Hi Grace,
    You wouldn’t be able to exchange an invalid/expired Canadian licence for a UK licence. But whether you can renew your Canadian licence online or whether you need to return, I’m not sure.

  9. Landon

    Since we don’t distinguish between automatic and manual transmission licenses in Canada, how could one go about “proving they’ve passed their driver’s test in a manual transmission”?

    Also, are there similar rules for riding motorcycles in the U.K and G.B?
    Thanks

  10. Hi Landon,
    Short of having your licensing authority provide written proof that you passed the test in a manual car (which I assume would be almost impossible), then there’s not really much you can do. Automatics are widely available in the UK though, so not too much of an issue. Great Britain (GB) is part of the United Kingdom (UK), so the same rules apply throughout the UK.

  11. Karen

    Hi,
    I’m a student living in the UK. I was living in London for 2 years and so I didn’t need to drive then. I have also only gotten my full licence recently back home. I would like to exchange my licence but need to drive immediately and don’t know how I would manage with the gap between getting the exchanged licence in the mail. Can I drive with just my Canadian licence even though I’ve been here over 12 months?

  12. Hello Karen,
    You will have to wait for your licence to arrive I’m afraid as there would be this period where it wouldn’t be legal for you to drive.

  13. Lars

    If you want to be able to drive a car with a manual transmission and do not have evidence of having passed the test in a manual, how do you get a license that will allow you to drive one? Do you have to take a test?

  14. Hello Lars,
    Yes, you will need to take and pass the practical test in a manual transmission car.

  15. Tom

    Hello,
    I am a Canadian, living in London, with a full Canadian Licence however it is lost and expired. I went to back to Canada to renew it and since i am no longer a resident i cant get a new one. Is there still away to get a UK licence without having to go through all the tests?

  16. Hi Tom,
    Unfortunately if your Canadian driving licence has expired you won’t be able to exchange your licence for a GB one and you will need to apply for a provisional driving licence and pass a theory and driving test.

  17. Nanci

    Hello
    I am european but i hold a valid canadian driven lesson! How can i exchange ? And i am allowed to drive standard cars in the UK or am i just allowed to drive automatic?

  18. Hi Nanci,
    If you have a valid Canadian driving licence you can exchange it if you’re a UK resident for up to 5 years. After this period, you’ll have to apply for a provisional driving licence and take the driving test. You can exchange your licence on the government website.
    You can drive manual cars only if you’re able to prove that you took and passed your test in a manual vehicle. Due to this being almost impossible to prove, it’s likely that you’ll be able to drive automatic only.

  19. Kath

    Hello, In a few weeks’ time – on June 19 – I’ll have been in the UK for one year and will need to replace my Canadian DL with a UK one. I’ve decided to get a provisional license, do the theory and practical so that I can qualify to drive a manual car than just automatic. With lockdown I haven’t been able to go through these steps in the last few months. My question is: Will my Canadian DL validity be extended beyond the one year?

  20. Bobby Bit

    I am a UK Citizen In 2005 I left the UK and became a Canadian resident I lift the UK with a regular car licence but since moving to Canada I became a bus driver and so hold a Canadian bus licence . Would my Canadian bus licence be recognized in the UK should I return or would I have to retake my driving test for a bus

  21. Hi Bobby. The DVLA can only exchange a car licence from Canada. They will not be able to exchange a bus licence and it will not be valid.

  22. tabby

    hello please could you provide me with some insurers that will provide insurance to those who wish to maintain their Canadian license?

  23. Hi Tabby,
    Most car insurers will cover you and some will also take into account any no claims bonus you gained in Canada. You’d be best off looking at a UK car insurance comparison website.

  24. Sam Corps

    I have a Canadian g2 licence and wanted to know if I could buy a car and insure it for 3 months while I visit family. And also which company to use to insure my car with.

  25. Hi Sam,Yes you can buy a car and insure it, or hire a car if you’d prefer. You can register the car at your family address. In terms of short term / temporary car insurance, there are many car insurance companies in the UK that are frequently updating prices, so the best way to do this would be to use car insurance comparison sites to get the best quote nearer the time. Some insurance companies will also recognise any no claims you have acquired in Canada.

  26. Hello,

    I have been living in London for 7 years but haven’t changed my Canadian licence yet because I don’t drive here. Will they DVLA still change it? If not, what happens?

  27. Hi J,
    Not unfortunately they wont. The time limit is a maximum of 5 years. To continue driving in the UK you’ll need to apply for a provisional driving licence, pass the theory test and then the practical driving test.

  28. Tara

    Hello, I have a G canadian license and I will be coming to UK to live with my husband. I only know how drive an automatic car. When I come to Uk, can I switch my license to a uk license that allow me to drive an automatic car ? Or I have to do a test?

  29. Hi Tara,
    Provided your Canadian licence is full and valid, you can drive in the UK for up to 12 months from when you become resident. Residency is usually determined by living at a permanent property for at least 185 days. After this time, you’ll need to exchange your driving licence for a GB one if you want to continue driving. Canadians are usually issued automatic driving licenses even if they are licensed to drive manual. That is unless they can prove that they passed the Canadian driving test in a manual car. If after 5 years you still have not exchanged your licence, you’ll need to apply for a GB provisional licence, and pass both the theory and practical driving tests.

  30. Sarah

    Hello there. I have a full Canadian driver’s license. I have been living in London the past two years so I didn’t need to drive. I’m now moving out of the city and will be required to drive. From my understanding, I will need to exchange my Canadian’s driver’s license for a UK one. However, due to lockdown, it appears that on the UK government website no one is currently allowed to fill out a D1 form to facilitate the exchange. Have there been changes to this rule so that I can drive between now and when D1 forms are being accepted? Also, if I was to go back to Canada, are you able to drive with a UK license? Note; I’m a student so I will be moving back in 3 year’s time to Canada. Thank you.

  31. Hi Sarah,
    If you do not have a local Post Office that you can pick up a D1 form from, you can contact the DVLA who will be able to send you the form. See: Contact DVLA

    You can use this service to talk to them via telephone, email or web chat. They will also be able to check the system to see exactly what you will need to exchange the licence.

    I can’t really comment on what happens on the Canadian side I’m afraid.

  32. TJ Mir

    Hi there. A question about exchanging my Canadian license for a UK one. You mentioned that I would need to live in the UK for at least 185 days before I can exchange my Canadian license. I checked online and it said that I would need to mail in my driving license to the DVLA and in roughly 3 weeks, I will receive my UK license. What I was wondering is, how can I drive in the UK in those 3 weeks when I won’t have my Canadian license?

  33. Hello TJ Mir,
    Providing your Canadian licence is valid when handing it over to the DVLA, you can continue to drive legally.

  34. Lisa

    I have a Canadian automatic licence and live in Canada, when I am holidaying in the UK would I be able to be insured on a friend’s manual car?

  35. Hello Lisa,
    You will legally be able to drive automatic and semi-automatic cars only in the UK.

  36. John

    Hi. My girlfriend is Canadian and has lived in London for the past 4 years.
    When she send his Canadian license in order to change her Canadian driving license to UK one, will DVLA return her Canadian license as well?

    Thank you.

  37. Hi John
    The Canadian licence is returned to the appropriate Canadian licensing authorities. It will need to be applied for when she wants her Canadian licence returned.

  38. J Baldwin

    You can drive in Canada on a UK licence, though it may pay to check each province, as they may have different rules to each other. In Ontario, a UK licence is absolutely valid as i had to go there in 2019 for my dad`s funeral and i was able to rent a car with mine. As there is no relatable time stamp on your question, i hope this helps.

  39. J Baldwin

    Micah, it’s illegal to be in posession of 2 driving licences from different countries. Canada and the UK included so you would be breaking the law and would invalidate any insurance you have.

  40. Hilary Freda

    Hi there, my Canadian drivers license expired last December 2020, I wasn’t sure then if I’d stay in the UK but now decided I’ll be here for the next 5 years ( UK ancestry Visa)
    How do I go about exchanging my Canadian license for a UK one since mine is expired? Is this possible?

    Thanks so much!

  41. David

    I’ve been living in Canada for a while, and because I am there more than 6 months each year that is considered my permanent address, I have kept my UK license – it still shows my mother’s address, although she died recently.
    I am frequently back in the UK staying with a family member. Can I change the address of my license to that of my family member?

  42. Ashley

    Hi there,
    I returned to Scotland last August 2020 to visit for a while with my partner’s family. During the time we were visiting I bought a car and drove with my Canadian license from September 2020-June 2021 and was working while we’re there. But, we are only visiting for an extended period even though we are working and staying with family we have no intentions of staying as Canada is our home. I have been back in Canada from June 21st 2021- September 14th 2021 I will be returning. What determines resistancy? Because I was working there doesn’t make me a resident, right? I am wondering if when I get back in September I can legally drive again with my Canadian license? As I don’t want to exchange it when I’m only visiting. Thanks!

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