Recently, I kicked off the process to get my UK driving license.
The first question I’m typically asked when I mention this to others is, “Doesn’t your American driving license carry over?”
I can assure you, it most definitely does not. One can drive on a US license for one year only. After that, you need to apply and take all of the exams for a UK license.
First things first, you need to apply for a Provisional License from the DVLA (that’s British for DMV!). It’s pretty straight forward and you don’t even need to go to DVLA to do it. There’s an online application to be filled out, after which you need to provide pictures. If you’re not an EU citizen, you must have your pictures signed off by someone who has held a license for more than three years and you need to provide your passport. It sounds crazy, but this is how DVLA ensures that the person in the photographs provided is actually the applicant… or someone who resembles their passport photo. If you provide a special delivery envelope with your application, they’ll send back your Passport as soon as it has been verified. I had mine back within a few days and a colleague had hers back within the week, so it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. There’s not much point in calling and trying to argue this, as I found when I did, I was told that I could either send the document and get my license or not.
A few weeks later, my Provisional License arrived.
The license has two parts: One Photocard and one Paper License. The photocard is much like what I had been issued by New York State, a card you keep in your wallet. The paper license is used to record offenses and the like. You are supposed to carry both.
Back when I did this in 2008, I wasn’t taking driving lessons yet, so I put my paper license somewhere safe. It was never seen again. As a result, I had to report my whole license lost and request a new one when I decided I should finally get licensed at the end of August.
Once you have your provisional license, you are allowed to drive (excluding motorways) if supervised by a driver who has held a licence for at least three years on the sort of car you are driving (automatic only v automatic/manual licenses are issued). All that separates one from a full license is a written, theory test and a practical, road examination.