The website of the Automobile Assocation in the UK states, "An International Driving Permit (IDP) allows you to drive a private motor vehicle overseas when accompanied by a valid UK driving licence. IDPs are valid for 12 months from the date of issue."
The AA website notwithstanding, most Canadian provinces allow only visitors and students to drive on IDPs accompanied by UK licences.
In most Canadian provinces, the following newly arrived residents may drive on their UK licences (without IDPs) for 60 - 180 days (depending on the province):
- returning citizens
- newly arrived permanent residents, and
- newly arrived temporary work permit holders (please understand that, if you have a temporary work permit, you are not a visitor)
When the relevant province's deadline for a newly arrived resident arrives, that resident's UK driver's licence no longer is valid. Since an IDP is valid only as long as it accompanies a valid national driver's licence, an IDP becomes invalid at this point. If the holder of a UK driver's licence wants to continue driving in Canada, he/she must exchange his/her UK licence for a provincial driver's licence.
It is important to note that unlike the United Kingdom, in Canada each province is responsible for the rules and issuing driving licences. So each province will have different rules over what can and cannot be exchanged, when and what for etc.
When you exchange a UK licence for a Canadian provincial licence, you MUST (and the provincial licence authority will insist on this) surrender your original UK licence. This is then returned to the UK by the provincial licencing authority and your UK licence is cancelled by the DVLA. It is illegal under both UK and Canadian provincial law to hold two current driving licences at the same time (with significant fines if caught). Note that the UK merely marks your record as cancelled. Your driving history in the UK is retained (i.e. it is not deleted). If you return permanently to the UK, the DVLA can simply reinstate your original licence when you make a suitable application. If you return to the UK to visit, then you can drive on your Canadian provincial licence the same as any Canadian citizen is allowed to.
Licences from Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Channel Islands and British Overseas Territories may or may not be eligible for exchange without a test even if a 'Great Britain' licence is acceptable. Check carefully with the Provincial drivers' licensing authority as they may have different requirements for these jurisdiction.
It is probably a good idea (but not essential) to:
- take out a UK photo id driving licence before you go (if you don't already have one)
- obtain a formal written extract of your UK driving experience (in addition to your original UK photo driving licence)
How to apply for a written extract of your UK driving licence from DVLA: Request UK Driving Extract
In Canada, it is mandatory to have on you or in the car:
- drivers licence
- insurance certificate
- copy of your car registration document
If you are stopped you will be asked to produce these. There are penalties if you cannot.
Since the rules vary by Canadian province, the remainder of this article is sub-sectioned by province.
Ontario will exchange UK drivers licences without a driving test, including Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
You MUST exchange your driving licence within 60 days (if PR etc.).
If you are only visiting from the UK, then you can drive on your UK licence for up to 3 months. If you visit for longer, you must get an IDP from the UK beforehand and have this with you. Official source here: Driving in Ontario - Visitors
Note that licence exchanges can ONLY be carried out at specific Ontario Drive Test centres. They cannot be done at the 'normal' Services Ontario offices. A list and locations of the Drive Test centres can be found here Ontario Drive Test Centres
For a licence exchange, you must provide specified proof of identity to establish:
- Legal name
- Date of birth
The list of acceptable identity documents is here: Proof of ID Documents
Basically, if you take your original UK drivers licence, your UK passport and proof of PR (say copy CoPR or PR Card if you have it), then you will have all of the documents necessary.
Official source here: Licence Exchanges for Foreign Licences
 UK licence held for at least 2 years
Ontario operated a graded licencing system with a restricted licence issued once the first driving test is passed. The driver must then apply for and take a further test no earlier than two years after the initial test to gain a full unrestricted licence. For this reason, unless you have held a full UK driving licence for at least 2 years, you will not be able to exchange for a full unrestricted Ontario licence.
To exchange your UK licence you must visit in person an Ontario Drive Test Centre (as described above). It is recommended that you arrive at least 30 minutes before the stated opening time (i.e. early morning) and join the line that will already have started. You can of course turn up at any time during opening hours, but the wait times can be excessive (hours).
Take with you:
- Original UK licence,
- Proof of id (as specified on website), passport best
- Proof of residency (copy of the stamped CoPR or PR Card etc.)
- Whatever sight correct you use for driving.
On arrival, you will be directed to a line where your request is 'triaged'. You tell the member of staff that you have come to exchange a UK driving licence and they will hand you the forms you need to complete and check you have the necessary documentation. They will give you a ticket with a number on it and you wait in the seating area. Complete the form. When your number is called, it will also state which desk number to attend.
Hand your form and documentation over to the member of staff who will check the forms and documentation and enter this onto the system.
You must take an eye test there and then. There is a machine (looks like a short and fat telescope) on the desk. Look into that. They test for peripheral vision by asking you to say which light is on (lights on both your extreme left and right). You are then asked to read a line of letters. The test is very easy and takes about 30 seconds. If you need to wear glasses for driving, you must wear these for your test.
They will take your photograph (so you do NOT need to take photos in advance) there and then.
You will then be issued with a temporary Ontario licence (a slip of paper). This is valid for 30 days, which is usually long enough. You can use this temporary licence to buy a car and get insurance easily. Your finished Ontario photo driving licence (credit card sized) will be mailed to the Canadian address you supplied. Typically this will arrive in 2 / 3 weeks.
Once you actually get to a processing desk, the process takes probably 10 minutes.
It is possible to buy a car in Ontario without first exchanging your UK licence, but you may have problems getting the necessary insurance (it is not impossible, but it will not be straightforward). For this reason, it is a better idea to exchange your licence before buying a car.
 UK licence held for less than 2 years
You may be able to get 'credit' for the time you have held your license (including Provisional licenses) if you have sufficient proof.
You can read more here: Foreign Licence Experience Credits
 UK motorbike licence
Ontario does NOT have a reciprocal licence exchange agreement with the UK as regards motorbike licences. This means that you have to take all of the Ontario written and practical motorbike tests to get a motorbike licence.
Although (somewhat strangely!) there IS a reciprocal agreement if your motorbike licence is from Northern Ireland. See here: Countries with motorbike exchange agreements
Ontario has a graduated licence strategy and issues a restricted licence for the first two years of riding.
If you already have at least 2 years riding experience on a UK motorbike licence, then while you still have to take all of the Ontario tests, you can get 'credit' for your driving experience so that you do not have to wait two years and can take the final test immediately after the preceding test.
You need to make sure that when you exchange your licence that you ask the member of staff specifically to note your motorbike experience in the notes section on their system, as you intend to take the tests and want credit for your riding experience ton date. This ensures that there is a record of it on the Ontario system.
 UK HGV licences
 Other stuff
- Experience of converting a UK driving licence and later motor cycle rating at Port Union. Port Union
 British Columbia
Driver licensing and mandatory insurance are both run through ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia).
British Columbia will exchange UK drivers licences without a driving test. If the test was passed less than two years ago, you will need to go through the Graduated Licensing process.
If you are resident, you must exchange your licence within 90 days of establishing residency in BC, or cease driving, as you would be driving on an invalid licence.
If you're just visiting BC for up to six months or you're a full time student at a designated institution you may not have to switch your licence.
You can buy and insure a vehicle at any point, with any licence - your old GB licence, your temporary yellow BC licence, or the permanent BC licence.
To exchange a licence, go along in person to an ICBC office with the licence you want to exchange, an address in BC, and proof of immigration status. There will be a brief theory test (three questions) and an eye exam (looking into a dark hood, including testing peripheral vision). If both are passed, they will take a photo. Your physical GB licence will be handed over, and a yellow paper temporary licence will be issued, valid for 60 days. Within that time, the card should arrive in the mail, valid for five years.
ICBC require specific evidence of immigration status, and be aware that a COPR is not enough. Whilst you can exchange your licence with a Work Permit or Study Permit, a COPR has no security features, so is not accepted by ICBC. If you exchange before your PR card arrives, and do not have an existing permit with security features, you will only be issued the temporary yellow licence, and will need to renew it when it expires. Once your PR Card arrives, you can then release the BC Driving Licence card.
Official source here: Exchange a foreign licence in BC
 New Brunswick
New Brunswick will exchange UK drivers licences without a driving test for both cars and motorbikes.
A permanent resident must exchange the licence 'as soon as they take up residence'.
Official source here: New Brunswick licence exchange
Québec will exchange UK drivers licences without a driving test (includes Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man).
You just exchange your licence within 6 months, but you can exchange it immediately if you are a permanent resident.
Official source here: Quebec foreign licence exchange
Alberta will exchange a UK driver's licence (including Northern Ireland) without a driving test.
You must exchange within 90 days.
Official source here: Alberta exchange agreements
Manitoba will exchange a UK driver's licence without a driving test (include UK, Isle of Man and Northern Ireland).
You must exchange within 3 months.
Official source here: Exchange foreign licence in Alberta
 Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia will exchange a UK driver's licence without a driving test. This includes Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. They will exchange both UK car (Nova Scotia = Class 5) and motorbike (Nova Scotia = Class 6) licences.
You must exchange your UK licence within 90 days.
Official source here: UK licence exchange for Nova Scotia
 Prince Edward Island
UK driving licences (incl. Northern Ireland and Isle of Man) can be converted to a PEI licence.
You must convert to a PEI licence within 4 months.
Official source here: Convert to a PEI licence
UK drivers licence can be exchanged for Saskatchewan licences.
You must exchange licences within 90 days.
Official source here: Licence exchange for new residents
There is a reciprocal agreement in place between Yukon and the UK, so UK driving licences can be exchanged for Yukon licences.
You must exchange licences within 120 days of landing in Yukon.
Details here: Yukon licence exchange
Yukon provincial driving licence site: Yukon driving licence
 Newfoundland and Labrador
There is a reciprocal licence conversion agreement in place with the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man).
You must convert to a Newfoundland licence within 3 months of arrival.
Official source here: New residents to Newfoundland
Information on licence exchange here: Nunavut licence exchange
Nunavut provincial driving licence site: Nunavut driving licence
 Northwest Territories
Information on licence exchange here: NWT licence exchange
Northwest Territories driving licence site: Northwest Territories driving licence
Car Insurance: British Columbia
Car Insurance: Alberta