How to move from an international driver’s licence to a Canadian one
How long can I keep using my international driver’s license after immigrating?” is the first question most newcomers have about driving in Canada.
The answer is “Yes, but not for long.” And the rules vary from province to province.
New residents who have a valid driver’s license from another country, province or state can use their existing license, but for no longer than 60 to 90 days (depending on which Canadian province you reside in).
If you want to continue driving after this set period expires, you will need to obtain a valid Canadian driver’s license. Again, the specific rules on how to get your license vary from province to province, which also depend on your country of origin!
No matter where you live, to obtain your new license and start driving, your first step is to go down to your local driving test center with proof of your international license, driving experience and personal identification — plus pay the applicable fees!.
Driving in B.C.
In British Columbia, newcomers who wish to drive a motor vehicle in the province and have a valid driver’s license from another country can use their license for 90 days, after which you will be required to apply for a B.C. license.
Newcomers with a valid driver’s license from the United States, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea can apply to have a foreign license transferred to a B.C license after taking a required vision test and paying applicable license fees.
Immigrants relocating from the countries not listed above must complete a written knowledge test on the rules of the road and accompany road test. Signing up for driving lessons can also be a big help as the rules of the road will likely differ in Canada compared to your country of origin.
In Alberta, newcomers are required to exchange their original driver’s license for an Alberta license after 90 days.
Newcomers from Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Scotland, Switzerland, the United States or Wales can exchange it for an Alberta license after taking a required vision test and paying the applicable license fees.
Newcomers from a country not listed above will be required to take a written knowledge test and driving test.
Licensing in Manitoba
Newcomers can use a foreign license for only three months in Manitoba before it becomes invalid. They must then apply for a provincial driver’s license.
Newcomers with a valid driver’s license from the United States, Austria, France, Germany, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Republic of South Korea, Switzerland or the United Kingdom (including its territories) may exchange it for a Manitoba driver’s license after taking a required vision test.
Newcomers from other countries may use their foreign license for three months and then must pass a vision test, complete a written knowledge test on the rules of the road and successfully complete a driving test.
On the road in Ontario
Newcomers with a license from outside of Canada can use their existing license for up to 60 days while in Ontario.
Immigrants from the United States, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Northern Ireland, Korea, Australia, the Isle of Man, Great Britain, France and Belgium can exchange their license for an Ontario license after taking a required vision test and paying the applicable license fees.
Newcomers from countries not listed above will be required to complete a written knowledge test on the rules of the road and accompany road test.
Taking the test
So, if you’re from China, India or any other non-exempt country, you will have to take a written knowledge test and a road test to get a Canadian driver’s license.
In many provinces, there is a graduated testing system, which means you may not have full driving privileges immediately. In Ontario, for example, individuals can take a G2 road test eight months after passing the written test, which enables drivers to operate a vehicle at any time, but maintain a zero blood alcohol limit. Individuals can take an upgraded road test 12 months after to get their full G license.
Since this type of graduated licensing system was designed for novice drivers, a newcomer with substantial driving experience may be able to bypass some of this waiting period. Check with your local driving test center in your province to find out.