Foreign drivers must prove they have passed an appropriate driving test before getting a British licence under tough new rules announced by Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond.
An inconsistency in the law meant that previously some non EU drivers were able to exchange their licence without proving that the necessary standards to drive in this country had been met.
The change in law means requests to exchange driving licences from outside the EU will only be accepted if the licence holder can prove they passed a driving test in a country where the testing standards are comparable with those in Britain.
Stephen Hammond said:
“The UK’s roads are amongst the safest in the world, thanks in part to the rigorous standards demanded by our driving test. By closing this loophole we will not only make Britain’s roads even safer, but will help tackle fraud and level the playing field for British drivers who spend time and money learning to drive at the standard required in the UK.
“It is obvious to everyone that drivers who have not been through a rigorous driving test will not be as safe as those who have. This change in the law will mean we can be sure that any foreign drivers exchanging their licence here have already passed a test of a similar standard to ours.”
Licences issued by an EU state
All driving licences issued by an EU state allow that driver to drive in any part of the EU and there is no need for them to exchange their licences. This does not apply to drivers outside Europe but arrangements are in place with 15 countries that allow drivers to exchange their licences for a Great Britain one.
They do not need to take any additional driving tests as DVLA recognise that the licence they hold proves that they have already met the appropriate standards to drive in this country.
Inconsistency in the law
But because of an inconsistency in the law, some foreign drivers were able to exchange a licence with another overseas country with which DVLA have an exchange agreement, and then subsequently swap it for a Great Britain one.
This meant that DVLA could not be sure that the driver had met the appropriate standards to drive in this country before exchanging their licence.
The law will now make clear that the licence to be exchanged will only be issued on the basis that the driver has met the appropriate standards to drive in this country.
The change in law came into force on 11 January 2013.