With the quadruple whammy of a prospering economy, a shared language, stunning scenery and warm weather, Australia is one of the most popular destinations for people wishing to emigrate from the UK. Like a lot of countries, though, while you can drive on a UK licence in Australia for a short time (up to three months), if you intend to stay there any longer you’ll need to apply for an Australian licence. So here’s the handy Autoshippers guide to doing just that!
First, the good news. Broadly speaking, if you already hold a full driving licence from the UK, the USA or an EU country, and seek only to acquire a ‘standard’ licence to cover cars, motorbikes and light vans, then the process of converting to an Australian licence should be relatively painless. If, however, you need a heavy goods, public service vehicle (PSV) or other more unusual form of licence, things can get a little more complicated.
Just to confuse matters, Australian driving licences are issued by the various states rather than by the national government, so the process does vary somewhat depending on what part of Australia you’re living in. Once you have your licence, you’re good to drive throughout the country – though you may need to convert your licence again should you relocate to a different state.
The first step is to check whether the licence you already hold from your native country is recognised in Australia. If you’re from the UK, USA or most EU countries, the answer is ‘yes’ – though in the case of certain EU countries (eg Poland, the Czech Republic and Cyprus), you will need to have held the licence for a certain amount of time (typically two years) before this is the case. A full guide to which countries’ licences are recognised can be found here.
If your licence is from a recognised country, then converting to an Australian one should be merely a formality, with no need for you to sit a theory or practical driving test. If it isn’t, then you may need to undergo a full driving test just as an Australian novice driver would – after which you’ll be issued with a provisional licence.
This is not the same as a provisional licence in the UK – the Australian equivalent of a UK provisional licence is called a Learner’s Permit. Instead, an Australian provisional licence is what all new drivers are issued for the first two years after they pass their test. Provisional licence holders are subject to more stringent restrictions (such as lower speed limits and a zero-tolerance approach to drink-driving) until their licence converts to a full one after two years.
Assuming you’re from a recognised country then your next step is to gather together the documentation you need – primarily, proof of identity. Naturally this will include your existing licence, as well as your passport, and proof of your address in Australia. Other forms of ID that may be useful include your birth certificate, or one of the officially recognised Photo Cards issued by some Australian states. Note that at least one form of ID must include a photograph and signature.
You will also need to obtain a photograph of yourself from an approved source. This will usually mean visiting a Driver and Vehicle Services Centre, but this service is also offered by their regional agents as well as by PhotoPoint outlets across the country. See here for a list of PhotoPoint locations in Southern Australia, or here for those in Western Australia.
Do The Paperwork
Once you’re sure your licence is recognised and that you have all the necessary ID and an approved photo, you’ll need to attend a Driver and Vehicle Services Centre or one of their regional agents in person, to hand in your documentation and pay the transfer application fee. This varies from state to state, but will typically be in the region of AUS $50 if you don’t need to undergo a new driving test, or AUS $100 if you do.
As we said at the start, the rules do vary from state to state – and if you’re a newly qualified driver or need a more esoteric form of licence (such as those issued for certain types of farm machinery) then things can be a bit more complicated. But for most UK and EU drivers, the process should generally be a lot quicker and easier than diving into the labyrinthine rules and regulations might make you think. So happy motoring!
Planning a trip to Australia? You might find our Australian driving guide useful!
We also offer car shipping services from the UK to Australia. Get your free quote today.