The Driving Instructor and Trainers Collective (DITC) got contacted about this very thing. A driver had been stopped and allegedly charged for driving without insurance and driving unaccompanied, plus an impound charge, while inside of his first 12 months in the country. This is a question that periodically raises its head and is often met by opposing opinions, this time was no different. We originally provided our own understanding, but at 6 pm Tuesday received had received a challenge claiming the law had changed.

The DITC members are lucky enough to have the expert support of Patterson Law, specialist motoring solicitors, and DITC members get additional benefits. In this case, they went above and beyond, providing a qualified response (below) by 9:30 pm! (We stress this was exceptional and working hours usually apply!)

Dominic Smith of Patterson Law reassured us:

“To summarise, a person from abroad can drive in the UK for 12 months from the date of becoming resident in the UK. The date they become resident is not visa dependent, it can be the day they first moved to the UK. 

There is nothing preventing a driver from abroad obtaining a provisional licence within the first year after becoming resident. Where a driver took out a provisional licence they do not have to comply with the learner driver conditions because they can still rely on their international licence (Heidak v Winnett [1981] RTR 445). In fact, it’s often sensible to have both at the same time, as if they pass a UK test before the 12 months is up, they can continue driving with no gap. 

Put simply, the officer in the case is incorrect. 

After the 12 months, if they have not passed a UK test, then it depends on where the licence is from. If it’s an EU licence, they can drive indefinitely. If it’s from a ‘designated country’ (Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Provinces and Territories of Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe) they can exchange their licence for a UK one without taking any tests. If it’s from any other country not in the EU or from that list, then they lose their entitlement to drive after 12 months and have to take both UKL tests.”

The DITC remind you to check that your insurance covers foreign licence holders, if they are not yet in receipt of their UK licence yet. A full list of ADI Insurance providers can be found here.

We thank Dominic and the Patterson Law team. If you find yourself in the position of needing motoring legal advice they provide a free consultation service – details are on their website.

In case of changes, you can access the exchanging foreign licence pages here (

If you want to benefit from the support of the DITC, signposting and support platform for the driver training industry, you can discover more here (

Posted by Chris Bensted

February 25, 2022

Categories: Miscellaneous