How to apply for your provisional driving licence

Find out when and how to apply for your provisional driving licence

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What is a provisional driving licence?

A provisional driving licence allows you to start learning to drive a car on public roads. You can’t drive a car, even with your parents, without one. You can’t even book your theory test! Luckily, applying for a provisional driving licence is really easy.

When can you apply for your provisional licence?

You can apply for your provisional licence from 3 months before your 16th birthday if you want to drive a car, motorcycle, or moped. But you won't be able to drive a car on public roads until you are seventeen unless you’re receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance, which allows you to drive at 16. You also need to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away.

How to apply for a provisional driving licence

The quickest way is to apply for your provisional online with the DVLA. Simply visit gov.uk to get started. If you’d rather fill in a good old-fashioned form, you can request a D1 form from the DVLA form ordering service or you can visit selected post offices and get one from there.

If you do decide to order your provisional licence using a paper form, post it to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AD.

What documents are needed for a provisional licence?

When you come to apply for a provisional licence, you’ll need to have some documents to hand:

  • A valid UK biometric passport (or, if you don’t have one, an identity document)
  • The addresses where you’ve lived for the last 3 years
  • Your National Insurance number if you have it

If you choose to fill in a postal application for a provisional driving licence, you’ll need to send off some documents as originals. These are:

  • An identity document (unless you have a valid UK biometric passport)
  • A colour passport-style photograph

Do you need a photo for a provisional driving licence?

The DVLA now only issues photocard licences. It’s easiest to submit your provisional driving licence photo online by requesting that the DVLA uses the same photo and signature on your provisional driving licence as the ones on your passport.

If you don’t want to use your passport photo and signature, you’ll need to send a colour passport-style photo to the DVLA by post along with those who decide to complete their provisional licence application by post.

Some people will need to get their provisional driving licence photo signed to verify their identity. This won’t apply to you if you have agreed that the DVSA can verify your identity by:

  • Contacting HM Passport Office
  • Providing an up to date passport, travel document or BRP
  • Providing your EU or EEA national identity card (except for ID cards issued by the Swedish Post Office)

If you do need to get a signature, then be aware that not just anyone can sign a provisional driving licence photo in the UK. A suitable person would be someone who:

  • Has a valid photocard driving licence from Great Britain
  • Lives in the UK
  • Knows you personally
  • Isn’t related to you
  • Doesn’t live with you

Go to gov.uk to find out more.

How much is a provisional driving licence?

The provisional licence cost varies depending on how you apply.

If you apply for a provisional licence online, it will cost £34. Make sure you have your payment details to hand when you’re applying - you can pay by Visa, Mastercard, Electron or Delta debit or credit cards.

If, on the other hand, you submit your provisional driving licence application by post, you’ll need to pay £43. You should enclose a cheque with your application.

How long does a provisional licence take to be delivered?

If you apply for your provisional driving licence by post, it should arrive within 3 weeks.

If you’re wondering, ‘can I get my provisional licence quicker?’ then you should instead order your provisional licence online. This way, you should cut the wait down to just a week.

Watch out that you don’t apply for your provisional driving licence on any unofficial sites. They might promise that they can get you your provisional licence quicker, but in reality, you might pay more than you need to and your application may never even be sent off.

Do you need a provisional licence to have driving lessons?

A provisional is a learning driving licence. It allows you to start learning to drive. So, you won’t be able to take driving lessons without one. Your driving instructor is legally required to check that you possess a provisional driving licence, so make sure you bring it to your first lesson!

What can you do with a provisional driving licence?

Driving lessons aren’t all your provisional driving licence allows you to do. Without a provisional driving licence, you won’t be able to:

  • Drive on public roads without meeting certain conditions
  • Book or take your theory test
  • Book or take your practical driving test

When you book both your practical and theory tests, you need to enter your provisional driving licence number.

What restrictions apply to provisional licences?

Once your provisional driving licence arrives, you’re free to practise driving with an approved driving instructor. However, you’re not allowed to drive on your own. If you’d like to practise driving outside of driving lessons, you’ll need to be with an accompanying driver who:

  • Is over 21 years old
  • Is qualified to drive the type of car you’re learning in
  • Has had a valid full driving licence from a country in the EU or EEA for at least 3 years

You must also display L-plates on your vehicle. They must be placed in prominent positions; we’ve written a guide to placing L-plates to help you to get yours just right. Fun fact: In Wales, they use D-plates instead of L-plates!

If you hold a provisional driving licence, you’re not allowed to drive on motorways unless you’re with a qualified driving instructor in a dual-control car. However, you’re free to drive elsewhere in any weather and at any time, as long as you have a driving instructor or appropriate accompanying driver.

Do you need provisional licence insurance?

If you’re only going to be driving during driving lessons with a qualified instructor, you won’t need provisional licence insurance, known as learner driver insurance. This is because you’ll be covered on your driving instructor’s insurance.

On the other hand, if you’re planning on driving between your lessons, you will need car insurance that covers you on your provisional driving licence. There are plenty of specialised insurance options that cover people on their provisional licences, such as learner driver insurance and hybrid insurance.

How long does a provisional driving licence last for?

A provisional licence lasts for 10 years. So, you won’t need to apply for a new one any time soon (unless, of course, you lose your provisional licence… we’ll cover that further down!).

Bear in mind, however, that once you pass your theory test, you only have two years in which to pass the practical driving test. If you don’t pass your practical test within this time, you’ll have to retake your theory test.

How to renew a provisional driving licence

If you do let 10 years go by and you find yourself needing to renew your provisional licence, you can quickly renew it online by heading to the DVLA. You’ll need to:

  • Have a valid UK passport
  • Be a resident of Great Britain (there’s a different service in Northern Ireland)
  • Provide the addresses where you’ve lived for the last three years
  • Have your current driving licence (or state why you don’t have it in your application)
  • Provide your National Insurance number if you know it
  • Be permitted to drive

A new provisional driving licence costs £14 when yours has expired, but there’s no cost if you’re over 70 years of age or have a medical short period licence. Once you’ve submitted the application, your new provisional licence should arrive within a week.

Get a replacement for a lost provisional licence

Everyone loses something every now and again. If you’ve lost your provisional driving licence, it’s not the end of the world.

You can get a replacement provisional licence online with the DVLA if yours has been lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed. It’s £20 for a new provisional licence in this scenario.

If you find your old licence after you’ve already applied for a new provisional licence, you’ll need to send your old one back to the DVLA, explaining what happened. The address to send it to is DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AB.

What happens to your provisional licence when you pass?

As long as you haven’t changed your name, your driving test examiner will take care of everything for you once you’ve passed your test. They’ll arrange to have your provisional driving licence sent to the DVLA, and you’ll receive your full driving licence within three weeks.

If you have changed your name, you’ll need to apply for your full driving licence yourself after passing your test. This involves:

  • Filling in the declaration on your pass certificate
  • Filling in a D1 ‘application for a driving licence’ form, which you can get from the DVLA form ordering service or certain Post Offices
  • Providing original documents to confirm your identity

If you’re applying yourself, you have to send your provisional off along with these documents when you pass the test. Make sure you do this within 2 years of passing the driving test, otherwise you’ll have to take the test again!

Common questions

Can I apply for my child's provisional driving licence?

There’s nothing to stop you from applying for your child’s provisional driving licence online, as long as you have the right documents to hand. Just bear in mind that you’ll be asked to pay for the provisional driving licence as part of the application process, so you would need to be comfortable paying with your own card.

Can provisional drivers drive at night?

Yes, drivers with a provisional driving licence can drive at any time of day, as long as they are with a suitable supervising driver. It’s useful to get experience driving at different times of day and in different weather conditions so that you’re well-rounded as a driver by the time you pass your test.

What happens if I get caught driving with a provisional?

You’re permitted to drive with a provisional licence as long as you’re with a suitable supervising driver and you meet a few other requirements detailed in our article above.

However, if you’re caught driving by yourself or without the right level of supervision, you could be fined up to £1,000 and get up to six penalty points on your provisional driving licence. If you then go on to pass your test, these penalty points will be carried over onto your full driving licence.

Can I buy a car on a provisional licence?

Yes, you can buy a car with a provisional driving licence or even with no driving licence at all!

That said, if you don’t have a licence at all, it does beg the question as to why you’re buying the car - just because you own it, it doesn’t mean you’re allowed to drive it!

It is, however, quite common to buy a car on your provisional licence. Having your own car that you’re insured to drive will give you the means to put in some private practice between lessons - as long as you’re accompanied by a suitable supervising driver of course. Just bear in mind that you won’t be allowed to test drive the car with a provisional driving licence - you need a full licence for that. So, make sure that you take someone qualified car shopping with you.

Can I rent a car on my provisional driving licence?

Unfortunately not! To hire or lease a car, you’re usually required to have a full driving licence. So we guess that’s an extra incentive to pass your test quickly!

Can I apply for a provisional licence without a UK passport?

Yes, you can apply for a provisional licence without a UK passport as long as you are a resident of the UK. If you don’t have a UK passport, you’ll need to send an original identity document along with your provisional driving licence application. You should send one of the following:

  • A valid foreign passport
  • A biometric residence permit issued in the UK
  • An EU or EEA national identity card
  • A travel document

If you don’t have a passport issued in a country that’s part of the EU or EEA, you’ll need to send a visa in with your application that proves you are entitled to live in the UK.

Can you track your provisional licence application?

Yes, you can track the progress of your provisional driving licence application with the DVLA, as long as you have your application reference number.