Before you can get started with your driving lessons, you’ll need to apply for your provisional driving licence. The provisional licence is a form of photo ID that allows you to drive as a learner on the roads with the correct supervision. You may have seen your friends or family members carrying the little green card – that’s a provisional licence.
- Do I need a provisional driving licence?
- Can I drive with family members on a provisional licence?
- When can I get my provisional licence?
- How much does it cost to apply?
- How long is a provisional driving licence valid for?
- What if I’m originally from outside the UK?
- How to apply for a provisional driving licence
- My driving instructor is asking for my licence details
- My provisional licence is lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed
- What happens once I’ve passed my test?
- How can I contact the DVLA about licences?
Do I need a provisional driving licence?
Well, if you want to learn to drive then, yes!
Before you can take driving lessons or private tuition with a family member, you must first own a provisional licence. This allows you to drive on almost any UK road and practice your skills before passing your practical driving test. Your provisional licence also doubles up as photo ID and can be shown when purchasing age-restricted products from shops and restaurants.
Your provisional licence comes with some restrictions, which we will go into further down this article.
As well as driving, once you’ve got your shiny new green licence you’ll be able to book your theory test. You don’t need to be having practical driving lessons before you take the theory test and similarly, you don’t need to have passed the theory test before you can start taking practical lessons. The only thing you do need for both is a provisional licence.
So yes, you do a need a provisional licence before you can start learning to drive. The good news is that it’s super easy to apply for a provisional licence, and you can do it online from the comfort of your sofa.
Can I drive with family members on a provisional driving licence?
Yes, you can. A standard UK provisional licence will allow you to learn to drive in either a manual or automatic car.
But naturally before you set off, there are some rules you’ll need to follow.
- While you can go out and practice driving with friends and family, you’ll need supervision from somebody who meets the following criteria. Anybody you practice driving with on a provisional licence has to:
⚠️ The law states that you can receive a fine of up to £1,000 and get up to 6 points on your provisional driving licence if you drive without the right supervision.
- Be over 21 years of age
- Be qualified to drive the type of vehicle you’re practicing in. E.g. If you’re learning in a manual car, they must have a full manual licence
- Have had their full driving licence for at least 3 years. At the time of writing, this includes licences from the UK, EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. Note: this could be subject to future change and you should check here if you’re unsure about the eligibility of a supervising licence.
⚠️ It’s illegal for the person supervising your driving to be using their mobile phone, or to be intoxicated. They must also be sat in the front passenger seat.
- You’re not allowed to drive on a motorway without supervision from a fully qualified ADI driving instructor. Avoid ‘M’ roads during private practice and check with your driving school if your instructor is an ADI (approved driving instructor) or PDI (potential driving instructor)
- You must use L plates on the front and back of your vehicle so other road users can see you’re a learner. In Wales, you can use a ‘D’ plate. You can purchase these from most motoring shops, online marketplaces and some supermarkets. L plates should be fixed to the body of the car, not stuck in the windows, as it’s an offence to put things in windows that can obstruct your view. You must ensure L plates are removed when the vehicle isn’t being used by a learner
- You must be insured to drive any vehicle you practice privately in. The person supervising you should be insured on the car as well in case they need to take over. If you take driving lessons with an instructor, you’ll be covered on their insurance.
Practicing with family members is a great way to refresh your knowledge between driving lessons, but shouldn’t be a substitute for lessons with an actual driving instructor. You should look to book lessons with a local driving school once you’re ready to learn.
When can I get my provisional driving licence?
You can actually apply for your provisional driving licence when you’re 15, but you must be approaching your 16th birthday. While you can’t drive until you turn 17, you can ride certain scooters and mopeds at 16. Check the official government website for up-to-date information on what you can and can’t do before your 17th birthday.
To apply for a provisional licence with the DVLA, you will need to:
- Be at least 15 years and 9 months old (your licence will only be valid once you turn 16, and only valid for driving a car when you turn 17)
- Be able to read a standard UK number plate from at least 20 metres away (with glasses or contact lenses if required)
- Have lived legally in the UK for at least 185 days out of the past 12 months
- Have an ID document, such as a passport
- Your last three years of address history
Depending on the type of ID you provide, you may also be asked for your National Insurance number. As a general rule, passports are the best type of identification to use for applying for a provisional licence. Never give important personal details or documents to untrusted third party sites.
If you meet all the above criteria, you can apply for your first provisional driving licence.
So how much does it cost to apply for my provisional driving licence?
Here’s an important money-saving tip – apply for your provisional licence online if you can.
While you can send off for your provisional via an old-style paper application, you’ll save £9 doing it online. Applying online costs £34, compared to £43 by post.
- You can pay by credit or debit card when applying online
- If you don’t have internet access or want to apply by post, you’ll need to request a D1 form from a Post Office branch. The DVLA don’t accept cash, so you’ll need to include a cheque or postal order
When applying online it’s important to ensure you only use the official government service as third-party sites will charge a premium and may be able to access sensitive personal information and documents. These third-party websites may also advertise at the top of Google, so always check before clicking. As a rule, if it doesn’t look right, then it probably isn’t.
If you’re not too computer-savvy or you’re unsure which site to use, click this link or ensure the web address you’re using is a gov.uk address, especially if you’re clicking through from a search engine like Google.
Above: On Google, third-party sites sometimes display above the official gov.uk link as advertisements
Above: The official government service for applying for your provisional licence
How long is a provisional driving licence valid for?
Your provisional licence needs to be renewed every 10 years starting from the date of issue, but doesn’t actually expire until your 70th birthday.
Just before your 10 years are up, the DVLA will be in touch with you to renew your licence with a new picture. That means it’s vitally important to tell the DVLA if you’ve changed your address since you applied for the licence.
As your photocard licence is a legal form of ID, your picture needs to be updated every 10 years to ensure correct information and likeness are maintained.
If you’re unsure on when your licence needs to be renewed you can check section 4b on the photocard, which is located on the front of the card just above your long licence number.
What if I’m originally from outside the UK?
The process for applying for a provisional licence is the same, though you may be asked for extra documentation or identification to validate your application.
If you already have a full driver’s licence from an EU country, you can drive in the UK with your current licence without having to take a test. You can exchange your EU licence for a UK licence at any time if you need a form of UK ID for example, for work. You will need to exchange your EU licence for a UK one before your 70th birthday.
If you have a full driver’s licence from a non-EU country, you can drive in the UK for 12 months before you’ll need to take a practical driving test in the UK. You should look for driving lessons ASAP to ensure you meet the UK standard and avoid failing your test and becoming ineligible to drive.
Different rules apply if you’re from a ‘designated country or territory’. If you’re unsure, click here to check if you can drive in the UK with your licence.
So, how do I apply for my provisional driving licence?
Once you’ve ensured you’re eligible and have the correct documents, click the green ‘start now’ button to proceed to the application service. The application process is fairly straight forward and will guide you through each step. You can do this via a mobile browser or a PC.
This service costs £34.
Above: The online application service for a provisional licence. Fill in the steps to progress through the application.
Applying by post:
To apply by post, you’ll need to request a D1 application form from your local Post Office Branch. With your paper application, you’ll need to enclose:
- An original document confirming your ID. If you’re unsure what you can use, you can click here to check.
- A passport-style photograph
- £43 by cheque or postal order, but not cash
My driving school/instructor is asking for my provisional licence details, is this normal?
It’s a legal requirement for driving schools and instructors to check that your licence is valid and clean before you start your driving lessons. Because, unlike the old paper licence, the photocard licence doesn’t give away how many (if any) penalty points or disqualifications are on a licence, your instructor must carry out a licence check online or by phone before your first lesson.
But there’s an easy way of doing this without giving away details to somebody you may never have met. By going on to the government website, you’ll be able to view or share your driving licence information and produce a single-use ‘check code’ that you’ll be able to share with your driving instructor for 21 days. You’ll need:
- Your driving licence number (section 5 on the front of your photocard licence)
- Your National Insurance number. Click here if you don’t know it
- The postcode on your provisional driving licence
Once the system produces a check code, you’ll need to send this to your driving instructor along with your licence number. Note: the check code will be case-sensitive, so copy and paste it where possible.
I have a provisional licence but it’s lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed
You can easily replace your provisional licence online by clicking here.
We’ve all had that panicky moment when we realise we’ve lost something important, and there’s few worse things to lose from your wallet than your provisional driving licence. You must notify the police if you think your licence has been stolen. By reporting your licence theft, you’ll help prevent your identity from being stolen.
There is a fee of £20 to replace a provisional licence and this can be paid via the government website. You may need to go through some of the application process again, such as providing the DVLA with ID like your passport.
What happens to my provisional licence once I’ve passed my driving test?
Once you’ve passed your driving test your examiner will usually arrange for your provisional driving licence to be sent away to the DVLA, where it will be swapped for a shiny new full pink photocard licence.
It will usually take a couple of weeks for your new full driving licence to come through in the post, but you can drive a car independently in the meantime – as long as you’re insured to drive in the car and it’s properly taxed.
How can I contact the DVLA about licences?
If we haven’t answered your question above, have a look on the official gov.uk website – almost every question you can think of should be answered there already.
In the event that you’re still unsure about something, you can contact the DVLA via:
- Phone – 0300 790 6801
- Email by clicking here
- By post at: Divers Customer Services, Correspondence Team, DVLA, Swansea, SA6 7JL
This post is part of a series of tutorial articles:
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.