Getting a driver’s license in Canada is a pretty straightforward process. The rules differ between provinces, so do some reading around the requirements.
As a general rule, USA, Ireland and Commonwealth countries (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Australia, South Africa) all have reciprocal agreements with Canada whereby residents of these countries can simply transfer their license without sitting any tests.
Ireland has an agreement with licencing authorities in Ontario, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador to mutually exchange each other’s licences.
British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick will exchange Irish licences, however Ireland will not automatically swap these licences if you return.
No arrangements are in place for Irish licence holders in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Quebec or Prince Edward Island.
Tip#1: Request a copy of your driving history from the appropriate organization in your home country before you go to Canada. This document is important in many provinces for determining your driving experience. It will make getting a driver’s license in Canada much easier.
Tip#2: Irish people from Northern Ireland can avoid sitting a Knowledge Test and Driving Test in Canada if they apply for a British driver’s license prior to coming to Canada. An Irish person living in the UK can also apply for a British license.
The rules are different depending on your country, so follow these links for each province’s rules around getting a driver’s license in Canada.
You have three months to transfer your license when you move to BC from abroad. Many countries (including the UK, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand) have an agreement with Canada whereby their driving license is immediately transferable. Refer to the link above for more information.
If you need to start all over again, here are the instructions:
1) The knowledge test costs around $30 through ICBC. You then surrender your foreign drivers license until you pass your road test.
2) You can book your road test online. It takes about 4-6 weeks to get an appointment. Alternatively, you can go to a test center on stand-by. Just arrive there before 8 a.m. and you may have to wait a few hours, usually no more than two, but you’ll get tested that day and if you pass you get your full license that day. The test will cost $50 whether you pass or not. Getting the license costs about $30 when you do pass. You have to have your own car or a driving instructor’s car. They don’t give the option of using their car.
A driving lesson is highly recommended and costs about $40. The rules here are different and the instructor will just point out some basics they’re looking for and make you aware of your “bad habits” so, with a bit of knowledge and a calm head, you should pass first time.
You have 60 days to apply for an Ontario driver’s license, assuming your country does not have a reciprocal agreement with Ontario. If you have previous driving history then you can apply for a credit for previous experience, but you must undergo full testing, including a knowledge and driving test.
Once you have a copy of your driving history, you can bring your license to a driver test center and apply to sit the G1, the written theory test. You can pick up the book at your local library or purchase it for around $15.
G Test is the driving test that you can sit once you have passed the G1 theory test.
As of July 2014 Ontario has a mutual exchange agreement with Ireland.
It is the law in Alberta that a person must surrender any and all foreign driver’s licences when they obtain any class of Alberta operator’s licence. It is illegal in Alberta to hold any other driver’s licence and an Alberta driver’s licence at the same time. It’s important to order a copy of your domestic license if you may need it for trips home as it will not be returned to you.
If you are a foreign driver without a reciprocal agreement then you have the following options:
- If you have more than two years’ driving experience you can apply for a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) exemption, which will expedite the process. You must still undergo full testing.
- If you have less than two years’ driving experience, you can apply for a credit to add to the required two years’ driving time, but you must first sit your Class 7 learner’s test.
If you’re Irish in Alberta:
For those who’ve had their full Irish license for two years or more, they can sit the written exam and straight away after that take the driving test to get a full Alberta license. There are two driving tests — Basic and Advanced. The only real difference is that the Advanced test means you can drink and drive (within the limits of course!) This process would mean “forfeiting” your Irish license.
For those who’ve had their Irish full license for less than two years, they can sit the written exam and get a learner’s license. You’ll then have to wait one year before you can take the driving test to get a full Alberta license.
Note: Those from Northern Ireland must undergo full testing in Alberta.
New residents who wish to drive in Saskatchewan must get a Saskatchewan driver’s licence for either of the following, whichever comes 1st:
- within 90 days of moving to the province; or
- upon expiry of your out-of-province licence
Newcomers from the UK, the US, France and other countries can swap their licence for the local equivalent without completing written and road tests.
An agreement was signed in May 2015 between Ireland’s Road Safety Authority and the province of Manitoba allowing for the exchange of licences without testing. Details from the Irish Times.