You may not know this, but there are 15 different types of driving licences and learner permits to choose from when driving in Ireland. What you probably do know is that you will need the appropriate driver’s licence before you can embrace the open road.
The regulations for each of the 15 licences are unique and cover a range of different types of vehicles. Some of the rules related to driving licences in Ireland are straightforward, while other regulations are a little more obscure in nature, but they all exist for good reason. If you plan on driving in Ireland, you need to make sure that you familiarise yourself with the driving licence that is most relevant to you as you will be required to carry it with you at all times while on the road.
Regardless of whether you plan on driving in Ireland for work or pleasure, you need to make sure that you have the correct driving licence in your possession. Failure to have the correct driving licence is a serious offence, and one that could result in a fine, penalty points or both.
There a number of factors that will affect your ability to drive legally in Ireland, the most important of which may be your nationality or the country that issued your license (if you do not yet have an Irish license). With that in mind, here are some important points for/EEA (EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and non-EEA drivers to keep in mind.
For EEA drivers:
If you are from an EEA state, then you may drive in Ireland with your full, valid licence. You can also exchange your driver’s licence for an Irish licence, provided it is within a 10-year period of the expiration of your licence.
For non-EEA drivers:
If you are coming to Ireland from a non-EEA country, then you can drive for up to one year in Ireland using your current, valid driver’s licence. Upon taking up ‘normal residence’ (that is, when you have lived in Ireland for at least 185 days in the calendar year), you must either exchange your driver’s licence or apply for a new one from the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS).
How to exchange a driver’s licence in Ireland
Whether you are a citizen of an EEA country or not, it may make sense to exchange your domestic driver’s licence for an Irish one. To do this, you must submit a D401 Driving Licence form with your most recent driver’s licence. You will be charged an application fee of €55 for this service.
One important point to note about driving licence exchange in Ireland is that if you wish to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission in Ireland, then you will need to be able to prove that you passed the test in such a vehicle, otherwise you will be confined to one with an automatic transmission.
Once this is done, you will need to make sure that you provide the following documents to complete the driving licence exchange process:
- Photographic identification (passport, national identity card)
- Personal Public Service (PPS) number and your most recent address
- Evidence of residency entitlement
- A completed NDLS eyesight report form, dated within one month of your application
- A completed NDLS medical report form, dated within one month of your application
- Finally, if you plan to drive buses or trucks, you will also need to provide a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).
If you don’t have your most recent licence with you, you need to present an original letter of entitlement or a driver statement from your national driving licence authority, and you must declare it lost or stolen in the presence of a member of An Garda Siochana (Ireland’s national police service). All letters of entitlement must be submitted with an official translation if they are not in English.
If you are returning to Ireland as an Irish citizen and want to exchange a non-Irish licence for an Irish driver’s licence, you can do so provided you are returning from a recognised state. Be sure to do this within a year of returning, with a letter of entitlement, or you will be required to apply again from starting from scratch.
The recognised states that Ireland has a reciprocal licensing arrangement with are:
- Canada (only if you were resident of and hold a licence issued by Ontario, Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador, or British Columbia)
- Guernsey (GB)
- Isle Of Man (GB)
- Jersey (GB)
- South Africa
- South Korea
- New Zealand
Finally, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that if you are arriving from a country with whom Ireland does not have a pre-established agreement, your process will be more complicated and will, in all likelihood, result in you having to obtain an Irish driving license through the full driver license procedure.
How to obtain an Irish driver’s licence
If your stay in Ireland will exceed 12 months, and you are not from an EEA country, then you may need to consider applying for an Irish driver’s licence. However, to do so, you will need to go through the full driver licensing procedure. There is no doubt that this is a more time-consuming and costly process than merely exchanging your license, but if you plan on making Ireland your home for the long-term, it is a small price to play for obtaining the right to drive on Irish roads.
The steps that you need to complete for this process are as follows:
- Apply for and pass the driver theory test.
- Apply for a learner permit.
- Complete the Essential Driver Training (EDT), made up of 12 one-hour lessons with an approved driving instructor (ADI). It should be noted that as of January 21, 2019, people with a full but non-exchangable licence will now be able to take the driving test after a reduced programme of six rather than 12 EDT lessons.
- Sit and pass your practical driving test in Ireland.
- When you pass your practical exam, you may apply for your full licence.
All you need to know about the Irish Learner Permit
Once you have passed your driver theory test, the next step is to apply for a first time Learner Permit. One important point to remember is that once you obtain an Irish Learner Permit, this will take precedence over your full foreign driving licence and you will have to abide by the rules for learner drivers.
In Ireland, you must hold a Learner Permit for at least six months before applying to sit your test; the test is a prerequisite step towards obtaining a full license. However, if you have held a current, full driving licence for more than six months (in the same category), you are exempt from the requirement to hold a Learner Permit before sitting the test. You must still complete your EDT, present your current driving licence, and provide a letter of entitlement from your hometown licensing authority. The minimum age for learning to drive a car in Ireland is 17, and you can book your theory test online here.
Finally, if you want more information on any aspect of the Irish driving test or licensing process, then a quick visit to the three following websites is a great place to start: