Only UK residents can renew the photocard, and the official advice for UK licence-holders living abroad is to get a licence in their new country of residence.

GB licence holders:

If you’re moving abroad

You can’t register your new address on your British driving licence. Contact the driving licence authority in your new country of residence.

NI licence holders:

If you permanently move to another country, DVA can’t register your new address on your Northern Ireland driving licence. You’ll need to contact the driving licence authority in your country of residence for information on exchanging.

This leaves two questions which are not answered clearly on the government website:

  1. How should one drive when visiting the UK after the UK licence expires?
  2. If one returns to the UK, can the expired licence be renewed?

2 Answers 2

  1. Driving with an expired photocard is illegal and can attract a £1000 fine. There is a tool on gov.uk that seems to say that EU licences are (currently) valid in the UK, and that other licences* are valid for 1 year from entry. So the answer seems to be, drive in the UK on your foreign licence. The tool doesn't say anything about translation though - it might be a good idea to get an International Driving Permit, just in case.
  2. It seems a grey area. It's the photocard that has expired, not the licence itself, so I assume it will be able to be renewed with DVLA/DVA with some explanation. There doesn't appear to be any offical information about this - it's probably handled on a case-by-case basis.

* The tool actually asks "Where did you pass your test?". If you exchanged a UK licence for a foreign one, the correct answer to this is "EU" (there is no UK option) even if you have a non-UK or non-EU licence. I'm assuming what it means to ask is what is the country that issued your licence.

  • I would disagree with your "footnote". "Where did you pass your test" means what it says. For example in some countries where almost all cars have automatic transmission (and the driving test itself may not be very demanding) you are only entitled to a UK license to drive an automatic transmission vehicle, unless you pass the standard UK driving test in a manual transmission car. Note, that would not apply to EU countries, and the UK is still a member of the EU at the time of posting this comment!
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 2:37
  • I'm not sure how your example applies to the "where did you pass your test?" question. I was thinking about the following case: imagine if you passed your test in the UK, then converted your licence to a Japanese one. You passed your test in the UK but your licence is Japanese. In this case, there is no "UK" option on the tool, and "Japan" does not answer the question as it is currently phrased correctly. Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 16:21

If you become a resident in a country outside the UK, they will most likely ask you to get their license to replace the British one, just like the UK will ask for example Italians taking residence in the UK to exchange their Italian license for a British one.

Then as a resident of another country, you can use their license to drive in the UK for some time, maybe three months, just the same as a person who never had a UK license. You shouldn't be in possession of your expired UK license, because the other country will likely take it when you get their license. Apart from that, an expired UK license doesn't give you any permission to drive anywhere.

  • In Japan at least they return the GB licence to you. And Japanese licence holders who convert their Japanese licence to a GB one get their Japanese one returned by the Japanese embassy. Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 14:55

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