Over the years we have, understandably, seen an increase in the presentation of ‘foreign’ (non-UK-issued) driver licenses. These can cause problems for insurers and insureds alike. As we explain below, we would suggest holders of non-GB licences seek to obtain a GB license asap.
The following is intended to assist insurers and insureds understand the complications associated with those who do not hold a GB licence. The information relates to two types of non-GB licence situations:
- a non-GB licence holder, someone with a licence issued in another jurisdiction, has been convicted of a motoring offense.
- where a driver holds no licence, commonly a GB resident has been convicted of driving without having obtained a license – read more about this here.
In both the above scenarios, the absence of a licence record against which to assign the offence(s) results in the DVLA creating a ‘skeleton’ record.
Non-UK Licence Holder
Ascertaining the true licence status of a non-GB licence holder can be complicated, and time-consuming:
- Is the licence produced real?
- does the licence holder have endorsements/convictions recorded with the issuing Authority?
- has the licence holder a skeleton record at the DVLA?
If presented with a non-GB licence, will the holder disclose their adverse driving history?
No GB Licence, No Current Address, No Offence
The majority of drivers on the roads are UK citizens. As a GB licence holder, they can be fined up to £1,000 if they do not tell DVLA when their address changes. Conversely, a driver who moves here from the EU is not subject to the same legislation.
An EU licence holder residing in the UK can continue to use their licence as long as it is valid. Whilst their EU licence can be changed to a UK one within three years after becoming a legal citizen or when the holder turns 70 years old, whichever comes first, there is no obligation to do so.
Typically, the EU licence (unlike a UK one) will not display the holder’s address – in many EU countries, this is not a requirement. But the EU licence was not issued to a UK address and whilst the driver has obviously moved address (from the EU) to the UK, they are not required to notify the UK’s licensing Authority, the DVLA about this. Similarly, if they move within the UK, holding no UK license they are not required to update the DVLA.
These regulations could change given we have left the EU, but as of yet, they have not.
What if the EU licence holder is Convicted of an Offence in the UK?
When a non-GB licence holder resident in the UK is convicted of a motoring offence and the individual holds a foreign licence, the DVLA will set up a Non-GB Licence Holder record for the purpose of recording the endorsement – the ‘skeleton’ record.
The DVLA does not hold recorded information specifically on the number of EU licence holders that have been convicted of a motoring offence. Information relating to the number of prosecutions for motoring offences falls under the responsibility of HM Courts and Tribunal Service in England and Wales and in Scotland, the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service. The DVLA would only hold a record of any current endorsements issued as a result of a conviction. However, they hold information about the number of live non-GB records held in the DVLA driver database which, as of 02/2022 was 141,675.
- Non-licence holder 239,560
The following table displays the total number of non-GB licence records created between 1 January 2018 and 5 February 2022:
|Year:||2018||2019||2020||2021||(as of 05/02/2022)|
|Non-GB licence holder||19,524||26,523||20,144||27,413||1,395|
Ascertaining whether a non-GB licence holder has UK endorsements
An individual with a ‘Non-GB Licence Holder’ record may be able to access the DVLA’s ‘View Driving Licence’ service (VDL) via their personal details and National Insurance Number (NINO) if a NINO is held. These individuals would only be able to view the personal details recorded and the endorsements held by DVLA.
Therefore, ascertaining whether the driver/insured has been issued a NINO is important. But the process of sharing licence information requires more:
- a driving licence number
- the postcode on the driving licence
It may be the case that someone with a record established by the DVLA will not disclose this but rely upon production of their non-GB licence aware that checking their UK history will not be straightforward or quick. In such circumstances, an insurer or their representatives may be required to make a manual application to the DVLA for recorded information – a paper approach using a mandate.
- It is therefore arguably in the interests of any non-GB licence holder to obtain a UK licence. Read more about ‘Exchanging a Foreign Driving Licence‘ here. An exchange is eligible if you passed your test in:
- European Union
- Great Britain or Northern Ireland
- Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man
- A ‘designated country or territory’ (countries or territories with exchange agreements with Great Britain)
Failure to exchange could cause substantial delay in determining whether a non-GB licence is valid or a ‘skeleton’ record is held. For example, on 16/02/2022 we submitted a paper request to the DVLA for licence record information. We received the response more than 2 months later, on 21/04/2022. We would have expected the response within 3 weeks. It is understood some areas of the DVLA have a backlog they hope to have addressed by June 2022.
Is the non-GB licence situation to change?
We asked the DVLA what information is available (reports, meetings, discussions etc.) about the legislation requiring UK residents to register to their
CURRENT address (or face fine) whereas other residents, holding an EU license are not required to exchange, are not required to link their licence to a UK residence i.e. are immune to the address offence? The DVLA replied:
There have been no meetings, discussions or reports on this issue.
The requirement to notify the Secretary of State when a name or address ceases to be valid is stipulated in Section 99(4) of The Road Traffic Act 1988* and therefore applies to holders of GB driving licences. Holders of driving licences issued in the EU can drive in the UK for as long as the EU licence remains valid. This is covered by Section 99A(3) of The Road Traffic Act 1988. When an EU driving licence holder surrenders their licence in exchange for a
GB licence, they will be required to provide a GB address.
*Where the name or address of the licence holder as specified in a licence ceases to be correct, its holder must forthwith surrender the licence to the Secretary of State. Road Traffic Act 1988
Non-EU licence holder
To drive in the UK, a driver must hold a full licence from their own country’s issuing authority, most of which are acceptable BUT … the holder is only able to drive on a non-EU licence for a maximum of 12 months. After this, they need to exchange their license for a full GB licence. Failure to do so is an offence. More information is available here.
Non-GB licence ‘skeleton’ records – statistics obtained from the DVLA:
The total number of non-GB licence holder records created between 1 January 2019 and 5 February 2022 is broken down by month:
|Non-GB licence holder|
12/2021 DVLA Information about Driver Licences
02/02/2022 FoIA of the DVLA for licence information
16/02/2022 FoIA of the DVLA re ‘skeleton records’.