Obtaining your provisional driving licence is the first step to becoming a fully qualified driver, and that process starts, for most of us, at 17.
17 years of age is the legal minimum age you have to be in order to learn to drive. That means it’s also the minimum age you have to be to apply for your provisional driving licence. That also means that most 17-year-olds spend the first few days after their birthday finding (or taking) passport-sized photographs, filling in the provisional licence application form, and scraping together the £50.00 needed to purchase their ticket to freedom.
Some don’t, of course – many people wait until they’re older, wiser, and have more money to put into lessons and whatnot – but your provisional licence is valid for 10 years, so even if you don’t intend to learn to drive now, it’s a good idea to get one when the going’s good. If nothing else, it’s a valid form of I.D. for places like bars and clubs, supermarkets when you buy 8 cans of lager, and can even be used to travel to Northern Ireland if you don’t have a passport.
The application form is quite simple, and can be done online at DirectGov, (here's a convenient link straight to the Provisional Licence application page on the DirectGov website, or you can by pick up a D1 application form from most post office branches. You can also ask for the D1 pack to be sent to your home, here's how you can do this too.
*Bear in mind that you need a photograph and signature for your provisional driving licence. If you’re using snail mail, simply include both when you post your application back. If you’re applying online, the DVLA will (if possible) use your photograph and signature from your UK passport. If you don’t have a passport, or don’t want them to use it for your provisional licence, simply state this during the application and they’ll send out a form for you to complete in the more traditional way.
Currently a provisional driving licence will set you back £50.00. It seems a lot – but it’s a one-off payment, and you don’t pay anything extra when you swap your provisional for a full driving licence. So it’s definitely worth the investment.
For both written and online applications, you need:
• A UK passport or other valid form of identity – no photocopies!
• Details of addresses of where you have lived for the past 3 years
• A valid debit or credit card
You also need to make sure you fulfil these requirements before you apply:
• You meet the minimum age requirements (for cars, this is 17 years of age)
• You are a resident of Great Britain
• You meet the minimum sight requirements (this means that if you wear or need to wear glasses or contact lenses, then you must for the purposes of driving)
• You are not currently prevented from driving for any reason, e.g. medical or legal.
Applying will only take you half an hour or so tops, depending on how fast you write and how much of the information you already have to hand.
If you’re applying online, you don’t need to send anything off at the moment. If you’re applying by hand with a D1 form, send the completed form, along with any identity documents, photographs and payment to:
DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BR
The DVLA aim to get everyone’s licence sent to them within 2 weeks of receiving their application. Obviously if you apply online, they’ll get your application that much quicker (especially if they can snag your pic from your passport), but even so, they do have a fairly speedy turn-around on written submissions. Wait at least 2 weeks before contacting the DVLA directly regarding your application.
The best form of ID is obviously your passport, if you have one, whether it be from the UK or the EU. Failing that, your birth certificate; but this needs to be complemented by a form of photographic ID such as a student card.
If you’re from overseas and don’t have any valid UK means of identity, the DVLA can tell you which ID documents you can use instead. Check online or pick up a D1 form from your post office for a complete list of acceptable forms of identity.
*Remember, photocopies are not accepted! Send the original document to the DVLA along with your application. It’s advisable to send the application by Special Delivery, which ensures it won’t get lost somewhere along the way – always a good thing when you’re posting important documents!