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Is it Compulsory to Have a Photo Driving Licence?



I was told at an airport check-in desk that my old-style paper driving licence was no longer a valid ID and that it is, in fact, illegal to not have a photo licence. Is this true?



Paper driving licences are no longer issued as new or replacement driving licences after the European Union ruled that all driving licences should be in the form of a photocard driving licence that features a photograph of the licence holder and his or her signature. Whilst the government advice is to exchange your paper licence for a photocard one, if your paper licence has not expired, it should accepted throughout the EU (for example if you need to hire a car).

Applying For a Photocard Driving Licence

You can find the D1 application form at many Post Office branches, or alternatively it is available from the DVLA form ordering service (which you can find details of on the DVLA website). If you choose this option, you will need to provide evidence of your identity and a passport photograph of yourself, along with the fee of £20.00. These documents should be sent to the DVLA address in Swansea or via the premium checking services that can be found at local DVLA offices and certain Post Office branches.

If you prefer to Apply for Your Photocard Driving Licence online, you can do so on the DVLA website by downloading the application form. This option requires you to be able to pay the £20.00 fee by credit/debit card. You do not need to send a passport photograph if you apply online, as the DVLA uses the Identity and Passport Service to do so. If this is not possible though, you will need to apply by post or in person (see the above paragraph) instead and provide the relevant documentation. You will need your passport number handy during the application process, as this is used as confirmation of your identity.


Receiving Your Photocard Driving Licence

In most cases, you should receive your photocard driving licence within around three weeks of your application being received by the DVLA. If any medical or personal details need to be verified, it can take slightly longer than this.

You are allowed to drive in the period before your photocard driving licence arrives, as long as you have previously held a UK driving licence, have been ruled fit to drive on medical grounds (you haven't been refused a driving licence because of a Medical Condition and are not likely to be refused a driving licence on medical grounds when your application is processed) and haven't been disqualified from driving.


Why are Photo Licences Needed?

The photo was licence was introduced in Britain following an EU directive to make driving licences consistent across the European Union. It means that your driving licence will be recognised all over Europe, but it also has some other benefits:

  • There is a lower risk of someone trying to impersonate you with a photo licence
  • The photo helps indicate the age of the licence holder. For certain types of vehicle, this is useful, but it's also useful as proof of ID/age
  • It reduces the chances of duplication (ie. a person holding more than one licence)
  • It helps the DVLA maintain an accurate database of licence holders

Extra Info...

What many people do not realise is that your photocard driving licence must be renewed every ten years take a look at our article Renewing Your Photo Driving Licence Every 10 Years for more information.