How Long Does a Provisional Driving Licence Last?

In General by Think Student Editor1 Comment

The possibility of driving is something that often excites young people. It gives you more freedom and independence, and is an invaluable life skill. However, students often have questions about the specifics when it comes to learning how to drive. You may be confused about getting a provisional driving licence, and how long it lasts once you have got it. This article give you detailed information about the expiry of provisional driving licences in the UK.  

In short, your provisional license expires on your 70th birthday, however you need to renew it at 10-year intervals to ensure that you are still eligible to legally drive on the road. Therefore, it is very unlikely that you will have not passed your driving test by this point! Don’t get this confused with the amount of time you have to pass your practical driving test after passing your theory (just 2 years!). A provisional licence can easily be renewed using a valid UK passport and some other personal information including your address and your expired provisional driving license.  

The above briefs over the short answer to the question but continue reading this article for more valuable information about how to manage your provisional license.  

When Does the Time Limit for Your Provisional License Start?  

Before we answer this question, you may be wondering how to actually obtain your provisional license. To make it clear, there are a certain handful of requirements that you must meet in order for you to be eligible to possess a provisional license. These can be broadly summarised as: being a resident of Great Britain, being able to read from 20m away, and being at least 15 years and 9 months old.  

You may be concerned about the precious time limit that your provisional license is valid until, given that revising for the driver’s theory test in amongst school revision can be stressful and it is comforting to have a clear plan of how to manage your time, therefore knowing when your provisional license becomes valid is important to be aware of. A provisional license can be defined as a document which provides you with governmental permission to drive on the roads of the UK, whilst being under the supervision of your driving instructor or another individual who is over the age of 12 and has held a driving license for a minimum of 3 years.  

Whilst you can obtain your provisional license as early as 15 years and 9 months, it unfortunately does not necessarily mean that you can immediately begin to learn to drive. The provisional license allows you to begin the process of learning to drive a car at the age of 17, however current laws mean that you cannot drive on the motorway even if you are accompanied by a driving instructor. You can easily apply and obtain your provisional driving license online, which can be done through the government website. 

You can apply for your provisional license when you are 15 years and 9 months, or older, however this document will only become valid once you have passed your 16th birthday– make sure to realise that just because you have received it in the post, does not mean it is activated. This means that if you wish to learn to drive a moped, this can be done at 16, however if you are learning to drive a car you will need to wait until your 17th birthday.  

Clearly, your license will take some time to be approved and delivered; it typically takes up to 10 days to reach you (if you applied for your provisional license online) and this can be tracked via the gov.uk website or the DVLA website (make sure to watch out for scams!), however you can find out more information about how long your provisional license takes to arrive here 

When Does Your Provisional Drivers’ License Expire? 

It is relieving to be aware of the expiry date of your provisional license well before it’s due, to avoid it unexpectedly creeping up on you. You may want to plan your driving lessons to allow plenty of time to learn and pass your exam before your provisional license expires, however if it does expire before you are able to take the practical test, do not worry as this can be easily renewed; and this is outlined in the following section.  

As mentioned before, the length of the validity of your provisional license reaches on until your 70th birthday, however it needs to be renewed every 10 years to ensure that you are still a safe driver. There are some criteria which are required for you to be able to obtain your renewed provisional driver’s license which include: the ability to read a number plate from 20 metres away, the ability to provide a legitimate form of ID, the ability to provide addresses from the places that you have lived for the past 3 years, and a payment of £34.  

If you are unable to provide these at any time, even during renewal, you will unfortunately be unable to obtain an updated provisional license. If you would like to find out more about the costs of a provisional driving license, take a look at this useful article.  

However, it is crucial (and more relevant to fellow students) to note that your theory test pass (which enables you to take your practical exam) will expire two years after you complete your theory test and therefore it is a priority to ensure that you take your practical drivers’ test before this time limit has completed. Typically, this is done by most students as they leave for university/jobs at 18 and this means that it coincides with learning to drive, as it is a life skill needed especially when in higher education.  

If your provisional driving license expires before you are able to pass your driving test, there is no need to worry- you are able to renew it. Driving without a license can result in a fine of up to £1,000 and 3-6 penalty points on your driving license. Penalty points are issued for offences and can accumulate for up to 11 months; if you have too many your license can be taken away from you.  

What Should You Do If Your Provisional License Expires Before You Take Your Driver’s Test? 

Being aware of the time that your provisional license starts will ensure that you have enough information and time to plan out the span of your driving lessons or intensive driving course (if you are choosing to take one). Despite this, you may not have had the chance to complete your driver’s test successfully, thus resulting in the expiration of your provisional driver’s license.  

There is no need to worry about this; it doesn’t mean you are banned from the roads forever; you just need to renew your provisional license. This can be done in the same manner that you used to obtain your provisional license, through the government website. This same process applies to those who have lost or damaged their license, meaning that you will still be required to meet the criteria for applying for a provisional licence, which is specified on the government website, as well as a cost of £34.  

How Do You Know If Your Provisional License Has Expired? 

It is extremely useful to be aware of the expiry date of your provisional license the minute that you receive it, so you can be prepared to renew it when the time comes, in order to avoid any unnecessary time spent waiting. Identifying the expiry date of your provisional license is fairly simple.  

Once you have received your provisional driving license, you will be able to identify a section titled ‘4b’ beneath your photocard which lists the date of expiry of your license. This is the official date that your license will expire, this means that is no longer valid and therefore cannot be used as a form of identification as well as a license.  

What Happens to Your Provisional License When You Have Passed Your Driving Test? 

Once the months of hard work and practice have paid off, you will be happy to have passed all the components your driving tests, including the theory exam, the hazard test and of course the practical driving exam. However, you may now be wondering what will happen to your provisional license, since you are now an eligible to be a driver with a full driving licence in the UK! 

Simply, you are required to send your provisional license back to the DVLA, within the next 2 years after you pass. This is essentially the beginning of your application for your full UK driver’s license. As soon as you have passed the final component of the full driving examination, the practical driving test, you are eligible to apply for your full driving license. 

To do this, you will need your photocard provisional license, given that you have not changed your name or address in the past 2 years, and the driving test pass certificate, although this is usually provided by your driving test examiner and is therefore less of your concern. Generally, once you have passed your driving test, your examiner will do your driving licence application on your behalf – all you have to do is give them your provisional licence (providing all of the information on it is still correct and up-to-date), and then wait for your full UK driving licence to arrive in the post! 

If you no longer have your provisional driving licence, you can apply by post, providing the following within the package: a signed declaration form on your driving test pass certificate, a ‘D1’ form which is an application for a driving license (this is usually available at most post offices), a document confirming your identity, and finally a passport photograph. You will need to send these documents to the DVLA in order to obtain your official driver’s license.  

If you are unable to send these documents to the DVLA within the 2 years after passing your driving test, then unfortunately you will be required to take the test again in order to be eligible to apply for your full license.  

How Many Provisional Licenses Can You Have Before You Pass The Driving Test? 

Depending on where you are driving-wise, whether this be a learner driver, a new UK driver or a learner driver to-be, you may be curious about the number of times you can renew your provisional license and if there is a limit? 

To answer your question, you can renew your provisional license as many times as you need to, given that you do so in the manner described above: you will need to provide the necessary information and in some cases, you are required to go in-person to a service centre, however you will never exceed the maximum number of times that you can renew a license, because it simply doesn’t exist!   

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