In order to drive on UK roads, it is a requirement to have a valid licence.
The Department for Transport amended the rules on Ukrainians driving in the UK on 7 July 2023. Updated guidance is available on the gov.uk website.
Guests from most countries can drive in the UK on a foreign licence for up to one year before having to exchange their foreign licence for a UK one. This was the case for Ukrainians too but from 7th July 2023 the Department For Transport are allowing Ukrainians to drive on Ukrainian licences in the UK for up to three years rather than one.
So now Ukrainian guests with a valid Ukrainian driving licence can drive motorcycles or cars in the UK for up to three years (as long as their Ukrainian licence is valid and permits them to drive motorcycles or cars).
Prior to the Department For Transport making this change, the old process required Ukrainian guests to surrender their Ukrainian licences before one year and to exchange them for a UK licence. By default the UK licence would usually only permit the driver to drive automatic vehicles, in order to drive manual vehicles the Ukrainian guest would need to pass a full UK driving test.
The change to allowing Ukrainian guests to drive for three years on a Ukrainian licence means that now in the majority of cases guests will not need to exchange their licence for a UK one.
Some guests may have already surrendered their Ukrainian licence though – these are returned to the issuing authority back in Ukraine. The advice for guests who wish to have their Ukrainian licence returned to them is to contact the Ukrainian licensing authority.
Even though most guests will now no longer need to switch to a UK licence, we have still included the guidance below on how to exchange licences and how to pass a UK test as there may be guests who are currently part way through this process, or who wish to pass a UK driving test to receive a UK licence.
Exchanging a Ukrainian licence for a UK licence
- You can start the process at www.gov.uk/exchange-foreign-driving-licence but the only way to exchange a Ukrainian licence for a UK licence is to send the Ukrainian licence to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) by post, along with some other information.
- Complete paper D1 and D4 forms – these can be ordered online or collected from a Post Office.
- The Ukrainian licence will also need to be sent to the DVLA. If the licence is unavailable or lost then a “certification of entitlement” from a Ukrainian authority can be used instead - the Ukrainian embassy should be able to advise on this.
- The DVLA will also need proof of immigration status. This can either be provided by sending in a physical BRP card (which will be returned) or by providing a government “share code”. Not everyone can generate a share code. If you are able to generate a share code you must not use options 1 or 2 (which are share codes proving right to rent and right to work) but instead use option 3 (share codes used for some other purpose) - this should generate a code starting with an S. This can then be written into the D1 form and a BRP card then doesn’t need submitting.
- The cost of exchanging a licence is £43 and this also needs to be sent to the DVLA as a cheque or postal order.
- A passport-style photograph is also required.
- The completed D1 and D4 forms, cheque/PO, BRP card (if you haven’t generated a share code), photograph and the physical Ukrainian licence will all need posting to the DVLA. Special or recorded delivery can be used for additional security if required, and a special/recorded return envelope can also be enclosed.
- After receiving all of that information the DVLA will send back a UK licence (and return the BRP card if that was sent too). This usually takes about three weeks. Ukrainian licences will not be returned. They will be passed by the DVLA to the Ukrainian authorities and held by them, they can subsequently be retrieved when guests return to Ukraine.
There is a difference in the process depending on when the Ukrainian driving test was passed:
- If the test was passed before 28 December 2021, then a Ukrainian licence can only be exchanged for a UK licence allowing the driver to use automatic cars. This is because prior to 28 December 2021 the Ukrainian authorities do not hold data to confirm whether the driving test taken in Ukraine was passed in a manual or automatic vehicle.
- If the test was passed on or after 28 December 2021 then the Ukrainian licence can be exchanged for an equivalent UK licence, allowing the driver to use cars that they were previously eligible to drive in Ukraine. So, if the Ukrainian test was passed in an automatic car the UK licence provided will be automatic cars only; if the Ukrainian test was passed in a manual car then the UK licence provided will cover manual and automatic cars.
We expect most Ukrainian guests to have passed their driving test prior to 28 December 2021 and those guests will only receive a UK licence covering automatic cars.
Once the Ukrainian licence has been sent in to the DVLA – and while waiting for the UK licence to be sent back – Ukrainians can only drive cars based on the UK licence they will receive. So, for most people we expect they can only drive automatic cars once they have sent in their Ukrainian licence.
The exchange of licence only covers cars. Other entitlements on Ukrainian licences - for example permissions to drive buses, lorries or other heavy vehicles - cannot be transferred onto a UK licence.
Taking a driving test
We expect most Ukrainian guests who exchange licences to be given the default UK licence covering automatic cars, but we also expect most Ukrainian guests who are currently driving in Lincolnshire to be using manual cars. Guests who have been given a UK licence only covering automatic cars will need to pass a UK driving test in order to be allowed to drive manual cars.
The cost of a UK driving test is £62.
UK driving tests can only be booked if you have a UK licence so guests will have to exchange their Ukrainian licence for a UK one before booking a test. Guests cannot skip straight to taking a UK test on their Ukrainian driving licence.
The government website provides locations of test centres. Test slots are released 24 weeks ahead. The government website contains information on how to book a test to upgrade from an automatic to a manual licence. A theory test is not required.
Tests will last an hour and are the full test including the walkaround check (e.g. demonstrating how to check tyre tread depth, how to turn on lights etc) as well as the practical driving element.
Tests are conducted in English and translators/interpreters are not allowed.
The DVLA suggest that a few driving lessons with a UK instructor would be useful to prepare for the test.
It is worth noting that taking a UK driving test will reset the “date you passed your test” – so even if someone has held a Ukrainian licence for many years, once a UK test has been taken that date is reset and guests will be treated as newly-qualified drivers. This has implications for things like a lower threshold of penalty points before a licence is automatically taken away, it may also have insurance implications.
Vehicle tax and registration
If you have been issued a visa under one of the Ukraine visa schemes, you do not need to tax or register your Ukrainian plated vehicle in the UK.
This applies for the first three years you are in the UK.
It applies only to personally imported vehicles with Ukrainian number plates, including:
- cars weighing up to 3,500kg
Your vehicle must remain registered in Ukraine to benefit from this exemption.
You must make sure that you have insurance to drive your vehicle in the UK.
Vehicle tax is also known as vehicle excise duty (VED).
Find out more at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/bringing-a-ukrainian-vehicle-into-the-uk-tax-and-registration