Driving Licence for Foreigners in UK [All You Need to Know Before Migration]

Have you been driving in another country and just moved to the UK? You might think getting a UK driving licence is easy. But, honestly, it’s not! You might even have to learn new things about driving in the UK. I also thought it would be easy to drive in the UK but I was wrong. The good thing is that you can use your own country’s licence to drive in the UK for one year. But after that, you need to get a UK licence. In this post, I’ll tell you the steps to get a licence, what to do, and what to avoid.

If you’re moving to the UK, you might need to get a UK driving licence. It depends on which country you’re coming from. You can check this UK licence tool to see what you need to do.

If you’re from the EU, you can keep using your EU licence in the UK. If you’re from certain countries, you can exchange your old licence for a UK one. But some countries will only have one year of validation, and then you need to take a test to get a UK licence.

Provisional Licence Requirement

You can’t take the driving test as soon as you move to the UK. You need to live in the UK for at least 180 days before you can apply for a UK driving licence. Until then, you can keep using your old licence. Taking the test isn’t as simple as just showing up. You need to get a special licence called a provisional licence first. You can apply for it online or at the post office, and it costs around £34. It will arrive in the mail in a few days.

1. Theory and Practical Tests

To get a UK driving licence, you need to pass two tests: a theory test and a practical test. In India, I just had to drive for a few minutes and answer some questions, but it’s much harder in the UK.

2. Theory Test Breakdown

The theory test has two parts: multiple-choice questions and a hazard perception test. The multiple-choice test checks if you know the traffic rules, signs, and driving skills. You have 57 minutes to answer 50 questions. I used two books to study and got 47 out of 50, which is pretty good! You need to get at least 86% to pass.

3. Hazard Perception Test

The hazard perception test shows you videos and you need to spot the dangers on the road. You need to book a slot online for the theory test, which costs £23. You’ll take the test at a special center, and you can’t bring anyone or anything to help you. You’ll get your results in a few minutes. Once you pass the theory test, you’ll get a paper that says you’re eligible to take the practical driving test.

Please… Know the Road Rules and Traffic Signs

When you start driving in the UK, you’ll notice that everyone follows the road rules and signs very carefully. This is important because if you don’t know the rules or don’t follow them, you could be a danger to yourself or others on the road. You might also hold up traffic because you’re not sure what to do, and other drivers will assume you know how to drive. But that’s not all, you might get yourself in trouble with the authorities, and have your vehicle impounded.

The road rules and traffic signs in the UK are often very different from what you’re used to in your home country. If you have been driving for a long time in another country, you might think you can just take the practical test and pass easily. But the truth is, the probability of failing is very high. In fact, only about 46 to 50% of people pass the test on their first try, and it usually takes three to four attempts to pass.

The point I’m trying to make is that it’s not easy to pass the practical driving test in the UK without taking driving classes here. And when you do take the test, if you don’t have your own car, you’ll need to rent one from a driving school. They’ll ask you if you’re an overseas driver and if you’ve taken classes in the UK. If you haven’t, they might charge you a lot of money to rent a car or refuse to rent to you because they don’t think you’ll pass the test or bring the car back safely.

What is the Cost of Driving Classes in the UK?

Driving classes in the UK cost around £34 per hour, depending on the school and instructor you choose. New drivers usually need at least 45 hours of practice with an instructor and 20 hours of driving on their own. If you’re an experienced driver from another country, you’ll usually need at least 10 classes before you’re ready for the test.

1. Book a Practical Test

Now, when your instructor thinks you’re ready for the test, you’ll need to book a practical test. But if there’s a big backlog of tests in the UK right now, you might have to wait a long time to get a test slot. no, It’s not going to be 3 years, but it can take around 15 to 24 weeks to get a slot if you apply on the government website.

2. Use Agents for Booking

Another way to do it is to go through agents. You can call up driving instructors in your area or ask your instructor if they know someone who can help you get a slot. If you’re lucky, you might get a slot within a few days or weeks if someone else cancels their test.

3. Prepare the Cost of the Practical Test

The test, which normally costs £62 on a weekday or £75 on a weekend, will now cost you a lot more. And if you don’t have your own car, you’ll also have to pay for renting your instructor’s car for the day, which can be a few hundred pounds.

What is the Driving Test Like in the UK?

The driving test itself is 50 minutes long. For 20 minutes, you’ll have to drive independently with navigation, and for the rest of the time, you’ll drive with instructions from the examiner.

You’ll also have to do one or two maneuvers, like reverse or parallel parking, and answer some “show me, tell me” questions. I’ve linked those questions below if you want to learn them.

On the Day of the Test…

If the examiner thinks you’re a bad driver, they can stop the test early. On the day of the test, you’ll go to the examination center, which might not be in your hometown. You’ll need to bring your provisional licence, and they’ll check the details and assign an examiner to you. The examiner will sit in the car with you and tell you where to go and what route to take.

You can have someone sit with you in the car for moral support, but they’re not allowed to talk to you during the test. During the test, you’re allowed to make up to 15 minor mistakes and still pass. But if you make the same mistake four times, it becomes a major mistake, and you’ll fail. And if you make any major mistakes, you’ll fail too.

As you drive, the examiner will sit beside you with a tablet and note down all the mistakes you make. At the end of the test, they’ll tell you whether you’ve passed or failed based on how many mistakes you made.

Here Are Some Preparation Tips for You

Something else I recommend you do is watch a lot of guided driving videos, which are available on YouTube, or watch mock test videos, because they typically take you on test routes in that video, and they’ll show you somebody else who is driving; they’ll show you what mistakes they’ve made or how they have done with their maneuvers or what they’ve done right, what they’ve done wrong. So, even though you aren’t behind the wheel of a car, you’re getting a lot of exposure by just seeing how somebody else is dealing with the test route that you’re looking at.

Make Sure You Pick a Test Center Nearest to You

And finally, pick your test center with your common sense. Some test routes are more difficult than other test routes; they’re all not the same. Some test routes have a dual carriageway as a part of the test; there’s no test route that has a motorway, which is a good thing.

Some test routes have very narrow roads; some test routes are very busy routes, so lots of people run across the road, and there are lots of traffic. What time you take the test is also really important, because if you’re doing it during school hours or during peak traffic hours, it obviously means a lot more chaos on the road, and if you’re doing it during the lull period when everyone’s already gone to work, a lot fewer distractions on the road, so it’s probably easier to pass at that point.

So, what time you pick your test and where you pick your test is really important. It’s very easy; what you should ideally do is probably do some research on the easier driving test routes in the UK, especially the ones around you, and then probably look for availability in those test routes rather than picking a test route that you know is really difficult.

After the Test…

Now, after you’ve completed your entire test, your examiner will let you know immediately whether you have passed or failed. And well, if you’ve passed, absolutely great! If you fail, the rule right now is that you can apply after 10 days; it might change in summer because that’s what was being foretold; I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, but you can obviously check. They were saying that it might be changed to about 30 days going ahead, but they haven’t changed that rule yet. But don’t worry if you haven’t passed; you can always try again, and like I said, a lot of people fail at least three or four times in the UK before they get their licence, so nothing to worry about.

Hopefully, this prepares your mind for the driving licence for foreigners in the UK. It’s not that simple to get, but also not a walk in the park for foreigners.

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