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New rules announced on exchange of driving licences

Monday, 5 October 2009

Environment Minister Edwin Poots today announced new legislation regarding the exchange of foreign driving licences in Northern Ireland.

The Motor Vehicles (Exchangeable Licences) Order (Northern Ireland) 2009 comes into operation on 12 October 2009. It will give the Department of the Environment greater flexibility in exchanging licences issued by other countries and brings the law in Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK. The legislation covers the exchange of licences for small vehicles, such as cars and motorcycles.

The Minister explained: “Under existing legislation, if a country was designated for the exchange of driving licences, all licences issued by that country had to be accepted. This sometimes prevented countries from being designated because they exchanged licences with another country where the driving tests standards are not accepted as satisfactory by the UK. Under this new legislation, such licences can be excluded from the exchange arrangements of a designated country.

“Under the new legislation any driver coming to live in Northern Ireland, who holds an acceptable licence issued by one of the designated countries, can exchange that licence for a Northern Ireland licence, without having to pass a Northern Ireland driving test.”

The new legislation adds six new countries to the list of designated countries, namely Canada, the Falkland Islands, the Faroe Islands, Monaco, South Africa and the Republic of Korea. These countries have been assessed as having driver training, testing and licensing systems which meet the rigorous standards applied throughout the Untied Kingdom.

Notes to Editors:

1.The Driver and Vehicle Agency is responsible for the administration of driver licensing in Northern Ireland.

2.Exchangeable licensing was established in the United Kingdom in 1991.

3.When this legislation becomes effective, the designated countries will be:



British Virgin Islands


Falkland Islands

Faroe Islands (cars only)

Hong Kong


New Zealand

Principality of Monaco

Republic of Korea (cars only)


South Africa



Separate arrangements exist for the exchange of licences issued by member states of the European Economic Area (EEA).

4.All media inquiries should be directed to the Department of the Environment Press Office on 028 9054 0003. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.