Applying for a UK international driver’s license is a great way to prepare for a trip to the country. Coupled with your driver’s license, an international driving permit allows you to drive through dozens of other countries with ease. In the event that you encounter foreign law enforcement, the permit offers a translation of your driver’s license to minimize language barriers. While not mandatory in the UK, it is a good idea to carry this document as an extra precaution.

In some cases, an IDP is even required to rent a vehicle and obtain auto insurance while traveling abroad. Fortunately, the application for a permit is simple, allowing you to receive your document in no time. However, it is important to follow the restrictions outlined for permits in order for the document to remain valid. Carrying fake or invalid documents can also result in severe consequences. In order to ensure that your trip runs smoothly, find out more about obtaining this permit below.

What is a UK International Driving Permit?

An IDP is a type of permit that allows you to drive in other countries with ease, including the UK. In fact, over 150 different countries recognize international permits for driving purposes. Overall, this document provides a translation of your driver’s license and includes your photograph, name and other driver information. The purpose of the permit is to allow local law enforcement to easily verify your identity and driving eligibility.

While sometimes called an international drivers license, this permit cannot reinstate or grant any driving privileges. With this in mind, you must already have a valid driver’s license in order to apply for this permit. In addition, you must carry your license at all times in order for the permit to be considered valid.

When do I need an international driver’s license in the UK?

After “What is IDP?” the next question to cover is “When is this document is required?” According to the law, you are permitted to drive in the UK with a valid U.S. license for up to 12 months. During this time, carrying an IDP is not mandatory. However, some car rental and insurance companies may require you to obtain one for security purposes.

Even though it is not technically required, it is a good idea to carry an international driving permit on your travels abroad. That way, you have the option to visit other countries during your trip without any trouble. Otherwise, you will need to obtain a driver’s license translation document for each country you plan to drive through.

How to Get an International Drivers License for the UK

You cannot currently apply for an international drivers license online, so you must apply in person or through the mail. In either case, you are required to submit certain documents along with your completed application form. These documents include:

  • Two photos of passport size, signed on the back.
  • A photocopy of your valid driver’s license, front and back.
  • The $20 fee payment.

On your international drivers license application, you must specify when your permit becomes effective. In order to apply, your permit must become effective within six months of the issue date. Otherwise, you must wait to submit your application.

How long do International Driving Permits last in the UK?

Once you receive your permit from an authorized international drivers license office, the document is valid for one full year. After the expiration date, you must apply for a new document. However, the validity of this document also depends on the status of your driver’s license.

If your license is set to expire before or during your trip, it is important to apply for a renewal. Likewise, your IDP is not considered valid if your license is suspended or revoked before your trip. After 12 months, UK law requires you to obtain a local license if you plan to stay longer. To do so, you must pass a theory test and a practical driving test.

Where to Get an International Driver’s License for the UK

The U.S. Department of State currently authorizes two private agencies to issue these permits. To apply for your permit, you can choose between the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA).

The application process for the AATA and AAA international drivers license is generally the same. However, only the AAA allows you to submit your application in person and receive your permit immediately. Mail-in applications involve a processing time between 10 and 15 days.

Despite this difference, the AATA and AAA international drivers license fee is also the same. Keep in mind that mail-in applications require you to submit your payment by check or money order. Most importantly, you must only order permits through one of these authorized entities. Otherwise, you can become the victim of fraud and face serious consequences as a result.

Tips for Avoiding International Drivers License Fraud

When applying for your IDP, you must be mindful of where you choose to apply. Many companies claim to provide valid permits to drivers, but in reality, only offer fraudulent documents. Driving abroad with a fake permit has several serious consequences, including fines and travel delays. You can even face charges for driving without a license.

In order to avoid these issues, only order an AATA or an AAA international driving permit for your travels. No other agencies are currently authorized to provide these documents to U.S. citizens. If you are still unsure of an agency’s validity, keep the following in mind when choosing a permit:

  • International permits cannot be used to obtain driving privileges without a valid driver’s license.
  • International permits issued in the U.S. are not valid for domestic travel purposes.

Driving Rules in the UK

In addition to obtaining an international drivers license, USA drivers are also required to follow all traffic laws while driving through the UK. It is important to follow these driving rules, as local law enforcement is authorized to issue fines and tickets for violations. Handling violations while abroad can be a long process, resulting in travel delays. In most cases, you are unable to leave the country until you address the ticket.

Like many other international driving permit countries, the UK has some unique driving practices. The most obvious example of this is the practice of driving on the left side of the road. In order to prepare for this and other differences, make sure to brush up on the local driving laws before your trip.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.