The rules for getting a driver license in Canada differ in each province and territory. In this article, we outline the general requirements in those provinces and territories most popular with newcomers to Canada.
Depending on which country you’re from, you may be able to simply exchange your foreign licence for a driver licence in Canada without the need to sit any road tests.
In any event, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the road signage and rules in your new province. They may present different challenges to those you are used to, for example, winter driving in Canada might require preparation you’ve never had to consider before.
Before you arrive in Canada, it is recommended that you get a copy of your driving history from your home country’s licencing authority and/or insurance provider. Having the appropriate documentation (including the actual licence itself) ready when you arrive will help when you’re applying for a driver license in Canada. Documentation should be in English or French.
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How to get a driver license in Canada
Valid non-Ontario licenses may be used for the first 60 days while you get settled in the province. Once that time has elapsed, a valid Ontario license is required.
You may simply exchange your existing license for an Ontario equivalent if your license is from:
- another Canadian province or territory
- Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Isle of Man, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, Taiwan, USA.
Learner or novice licenses cannot be exchanged. However, you may still receive credit for previous experience and proceed through the Ontario licensing structure more quickly as a result.
To exchange your foreign license, you will need to go to a DriveTest centre, where you will:
- take an eye test
- bring original identification showing your legal name, date of birth and signature
- bring your valid non-Ontario licence
- bring any original supporting documents that show proof of your driving experience
- pay the applicable fees
- fill out an application form (where you will state how long you have been driving)
If you have less than two years of driving experience, you will receive a G1 license which carries additional restrictions, including maintaining a zero blood alcohol level, and not driving between midnight and 5am. Once you have accumulated two years of experience, you can sit your G2 road test to get a full driver license in Canada.
If your country is not listed above, then you will not be able to exchange your foreign licence for an Ontario equivalent. You will need to sit a written test about road rules and traffic signage, take an eye test, and then sit a road test. If you have more than two years of foreign experience, you can sit the G2 road test and get a full license. If you have less than two years of driving experience, you may sit the G1 road test, and then the G2 road test when you’ve accumulated two years.
The local licensing authority is called the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).
New arrivals may drive on their foreign license for up to 90 days after arrival. After this point, only a driver license in Canada issued by British Columbia may be used.
You can exchange your foreign license for a British Columbia equivalent right away if your license is from one of the countries which the province has an agreement with. These countries are:
- Austria, Australia, France, Germany, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea (not motorcycles), Switzerland, Taiwan (for passenger vehicles only, not motorcycles), United Kingdom, USA.
Holders of licenses from these countries will need to bring identification (including permanent resident card, or work / study permit). They will need to surrender their existing license, and answer some basic questions about road safety in order to get a British Columbia license.
Those with more than two years of driving experience will get a full, ‘Class 5’ license right away. Those with less than two years of experience will receive a ‘Class 7’ novice license, and may then apply for a full ‘Class 5’ license when they have accumulated two years of experience. Foreign experience will be credited towards the two-year total.
If your country is not listed above, then you will need to sit a full knowledge and road test in order to receive your driver license in Canada. The first step is to sit the knowledge test at any ICBC office, and answer at least 40 of the 50 questions correctly. Then, you will need to sit your road test(s). If you already have more than two years of driving experience, you can apply for a full ‘Class 5’ licence. If not, then you’ll need to apply for a ‘Class 7’ novice licence.
- Put your driver license to use with these day trips from Vancouver.
You may drive on your non-Alberta license during your first 90 days in the province. After this, you’ll need a local license.
License types include:
- Class 7: learner’s license for cars and mopeds.
- Class 6: permits operation of a motorcycle or moped by yourself, and also serves as a learner permit for all class 5 motor vehicles.
- Class 5: full driver license for two-axle vehicles (e.g. cars) and mopeds.
- Class 5-GDL: This is the ‘Graduated Driver’s License’ for those who have passed a road test but have less than two years of driving experience. It carries stricter penalties and restrictions, including the requirement of maintaining a 0% blood alcohol level.
Those with licenses from the following countries will be able to exchange their existing license for an Alberta equivalent without sitting a knowledge or road test.
- Australia (Class 5 and 6)
- Austria (Class 5)
- Belgium (Class 5)
- France (Class 5)
- Germany (Class 5)
- Isle of Man (Class 5 and 6)
- Japan (Class 5)
- Netherlands (Class 5)
- Republic of Korea (Class 5)
- Switzerland (Class 5 and 6)
- Taiwan (Class 5)
- United Kingdom (Northern Ireland – Class 5, and 6)
- United Kingdom (England, Scotland & Wales – Class 5)
- United States (Class 5, 6, and 7)
You must surrender your existing license in order to receive an Albertan equivalent. In order to receive a full Class 5 license, and not a Class 5-GDL license, you must provide proof that you have more than two years of driving experience.
If your license is not from one of the countries listed above, you must pass a knowledge test to receive a Class 7 license, and then sit a road test to get a Class 5 license. If you do not have two years of driving experience, you will receive a Class 5-GDL license, and then sit a road test once two years of experience has been accumulated in order to receive a full Class 5 license.