Complete Guide to Renewing Your Photo Driving Licence

In theory, renewing your UK driving licence is routine. Before the expiry of your photocard driving licence or your old-style all-paper driving licence, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) sends a renewal form. You complete the form and follow the instructions that come with it. This apparent simplicity is not always borne out by the facts. According to DVLA figures, for example, two million photocard driving licences are out of date. Furthermore, to judge by the comments we receive, not everyone sees the process of renewal as straightforward

Failing to Renew

“I was recently stopped by the police for speeding. The police asked to see my driving licence, which I gave them. I was genuinely surprised when they told me it had expired and I faced a fine for not renewing it. I thought I didn't have to renew it until I'm 70. I'm confused. Can you give me any advice?“

Although a paper counterpart driving licence has an expiry date that matches the holder's 70th birthday, you have to renew a photocard driving licence every 10 years. It is an offence to:

  • Fail to surrender the photocard driving licence to DVLA after this time
  • To fail to produce a new photo

Fine for Not Renewing

“The police recently summonsed me to court for motoring offences, one of which included a failure to renew my photocard driving licence. I was expecting a £1,000 fine for the latter - at least that's what a friend who works at a solicitor's told me - but I got a penalty of £100 instead. Can you tell me why?“

DVLA recommends a fine of up to £1,000 for a failure to surrender a photocard driving licence on expiry. However, the police have discretion about the level of any fine. According to government figures, from 2010 the police have intercepted around 734,000 drivers with an expired photocard driving licence. These drivers have paid fines totalling £41 million. The average fine is £55.86.

Avoiding a Fine

“I have just realised my photo UK driving licence expired last month. I had no idea it needed renewing. Can you tell me what's the best and quickest solution please?“

If your photocard driving licence has expired, you should complete the renewal process without delay. The quickest way to do this is online on the DVLA website.

DVLA advises that the time you have to wait for a renewal licence is approximately two weeks if you apply online. When you apply by post or at a post office, you could wait three weeks.

How Do I Get My Photo to the DVLA Using the Online Service?

You can only renew online if you have a passport that is less than five years old (e.g it is less than five years since you last renewed it). The DVLA uses the photo stored with your passport for you new photocard. (So if you don't want your passport photo on your driving licence, this is not the route to take!)

When renewing online, you will also need to be able to pay by credit or debit card and you'll have to have your national insurance number and current driving licence number with you.

Confusion Over Licence Types

If you have an old-style all-paper driving licence you don't need to renew it until you are 70. You then apply for a photocard driving licence.

Since 1998, new drivers have received a photocard driving licence and a paper counterpart driving licence rather than an old-style all-paper driving licence.

The main difference between the photocard driving licence and the paper counterpart is that the counterpart lists endorsements.

The paper counterpart driving licence is not the equivalent of the old-style all-paper driving licence. In fact, DVLA is abolishing the paper counterpart driving licence in 2015.

“I have an old-style paper licence. Do I need to apply for a new-style photo licence? I am driving abroad later this year and never had a problem with the paper licence before.“

There is no legal obligation to change an old-style all-paper driving licence to a new photocard driving licence until you are 70. The old-style all-paper driving licence is valid abroad although in some countries you may also need an IDP (International Driving Permit).

Even so, if you wish to change an old-style all-paper driving licence to a photocard driving licence before you are 70, you can do so. You will have to pay a fee, though.

Renewing at Age 70

“I'm fast approaching 70 - too fast! And I'm under the impression I have to re-take my driving test when I hit the big seven o before I can renew it. This seems totally unnecessary. I'm still a competent driver. Is it true I have to sit another test?“

If you are in good health and otherwise allowed to drive, you do not have to take a test when you reach 70. But you must renew your driving licence at age 70 and every three years thereafter.

Moving Abroad


Like many other people, you may live or work abroad. While abroad, your UK driving licence could expire.

“My wife's driving licence is out of date. We moved to Cyprus shortly before it expired and we do not have a permanent address in the UK. How can we renew the licence?“

If you do not have a permanent address in the UK, the following rule applies.

Disclaimer: The information in the article is for general purpose information only and should not be constituted as legal advice. This article has been produced by a third party and Jardine Motors does not take any responsibility for the completeness, accuracy, or reliability with respect to the website or the information provided. Article last updated March 2016.