If you are going to live in a foreign country for a long enough time period, it's always helpful to have a driving license for that country in case you need to drive. As a licensed US driver, you may drive for 12 months in UK. This guide explains what you need to do to get a UK driver's license if you have a valid (non-expired) US one already for that time after the 12 month period. Unfortunately it is not an even exchange with the UK, but you must study and take a test and make additional steps in order to be granted a UK license.

Things You Will Need

A valid US driver's license

A valid US passport

A UK address of where you are normally resident (e.g. where you are paying council taxes)

A completed D1 form

A photograph

Fees, payable by UK check

The UK Highway code or other driver's study books

An extra internal mirror (for the instructor to review your actions)

-You do not need to send in your current license!

Step 1

Fill in the D1 form and obtain a check or money order. You can find all forms and instructions on the UK government's driving website: http://direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/LearnerAndNewDrivers/index.htm Current price is 50 GBP for a new application for a Provisional license. You need to plan carefully as is necessary to enclose your passport with the application, and they advise at least one month as a possible waiting period of being without your passport while they process your documents. (I received my documents back in a week though.)

Step 2

Send the completed application form, photo, fee, and passport to the DVLA in Swansea, preferably by recorded mail. Enclose a return recorded mail envelope to be sure that you passport is not left on your doorstep, but that it must be signed for upon return. (Fee each way for recorded delivery: 5 GBP).

Step 3

Wait for your Provisional license to arrive by post. While you are waiting, either get The UK Highway code and other Driver's education material from your local UK library, or buy the books from the bookstore or amazon and start to study the driving rules in the UK.

Step 4

Once you get your Provisional license you have two more tasks: The Theoretical (computer) test and the practical (car) test. You may now register for the Theoretical test using your Provisional license number. The cost is 31 GBP. This test involves two parts which are both done on the computer: 50 multiple choice questions and then a hazards awareness test. You must pass both sections with a minimum pass rate in order to pass the Theoretical test. The staff at the center will review your documents (appointment letter and passport) and will provide a locker for all of your belongings while you take the test. Upon completion of the test, you will be issued a two page letter which tells you if you passed or failed, and your scoring in each section. If you pass the test, hold onto this letter as you will need the details in it to register for your driving test, and to show it at the test.

Step 5

While you are waiting for your Theoretical test appointment (they often are booked some weeks in advance), continue to study the driving books. In addition, now would be the time to hone your US learned driving to meet all of the UK requirements which the driving books outlined.

Step 6

One you have passed the Theoretical test, register for the Practical test (cost 61 GBP) as this also has a waiting period to get an appointment. The goal would be to do both before your 12 month grace period is up, so that you can avoid the additional driver restrictions. (Additional driver restrictions which begin upon the end of the 12 month grace period include: inability to drive on the highways, inability to drive unaccompanied and the requirement to display 'L' Learner plates when driving.) If you are reaching the end of the 12 month period, it is helpful to check the DVLA website multiple times each day, under the 'change appointment' mode. There, you can search for last minute canceled appointments without losing your current appointment. Then, if you find one for a closer date, you may change to it without additional costs. (Be careful if you want to cancel your appointment at the last minute due to personal changes, etc. You have a 5 day grace period prior to any appointment, to cancel without costs, otherwise you will lose your 61 GBP fee.)

Step 7

Review the test driving routes while you are waiting for your Practical driving appointment, if that sort of practice interests you. Each center posts their official routes, and there can be quite a few of them (20 or so), so while it's not possible to memorize them all, it may be good practice in advance to be comfortable on the types of routes you may need to do on the test.

Step 8

Go to take the Practical test on your appointment day/time. Be sure to bring along your US passport, the 2 pages of your Provisional license (the plastic card + the green paper), your current US license, your printed email or mailed confirmation of your test appointment and your extra internal mirror. If you fail to have all of the above, you will not be allowed to take the test and you will forfeit your test fee and need to register again for a new test and pay the fee. If the weather is cloudy, foggy, snowy, etc. on the day of your test, call the number provided on your appointment letter in advance to confirm that your test will still take place as tests will not be held in poor visibility weather.
Passing the UK driving test may be a challenge, but having the ability to drive in the UK is helpful for job or personal reasons, and there is no reason to think that you cannot pass the tests as long as you prepare properly in advance. The above tips should help you out, they were the basis for me to pass the test.

Tips & Warnings

Check out your Practical test center location in advance of the test day. Some centers have limited parking or special entrances for test takers; it is good to know where you are going before the actual test day!

Remember to respect the UK driving rules. Just because you may have been driving for many years in the US, rules here are sometimes a little different and must be followed if you want to pass the test.