Will my foreign driving licence be recognised in Ireland?

Ask the experts: You may have to resit your test and do 12 mandatory lessons

Returning to Ireland with a driving licence issued by another country may mean taking lessons and resitting a driving test. Photograph: iStock

Returning to Ireland with a driving licence issued by another country may mean taking lessons and resitting a driving test. Photograph: iStock

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Q: SD, Boston

I’m moving back to Galway from Boston this summer. I’ve lived here for 16 years. I possess a full and clean driving licence here, which I got in 2006. I rely on my car for work and will need to get driving as soon as I can after moving back. Will my licence be recognised in Ireland? If not, what will I have to do to change it to an Irish one? Will I be able to rent a car in the meantime?

A: Judy McAvoy, Crosscare Migrant Project

Ireland has agreements with certain countries and states that designate them as “recognised” for the purposes of driving licence exchange. Unfortunately, the US is not one of these countries and so it is not possible to exchange a US driving licence for an Irish one.

To be eligible to apply for an Irish driving licence, you must go through the entire process as any new driver would. This means:

Passing the driver theory test.

Applying for a learner permit.

Completing Essential Driver Training (EDT), which includes 12 one-hour driving lessons, among other things .

Passing a driving test.

Usually, you must hold a learner permit for six months before applying for your driving test in Ireland. This requirement is waived for someone who holds a current full driving licence (in the same category) from another country, and has done so for more than six months.

However, this waiver only applies if you have completed EDT and you forward your current original driving licence and a letter of entitlement from the relevant licensing authority in the relevant country (in your case the US), to the following address: Customer Service Manager, Driver Testing Section, Road Safety Authority, Moy Valley Business Park, Ballina, Co Mayo.

The good news is that you can drive in Ireland for up to 12 months on your US licence or an International Driving Permit from another country, as long as it is current and valid.

Generally, car rental companies have their own individual policies on driving licences so you should contact some of them about their specific requirements to ensure you meet the criteria.

Insurance companies will also have varying criteria, but one company we called this week said it would be possible for you to get insurance on your own car using your US licence, but you would need to change it to an Irish licence within 12 months of moving home.

Having a US licence is likely to affect the price you are quoted however, so shopping around is key. Many returnees cite high car insurance prices as a major issue when returning to Ireland.

Our advice would be to shop around and do your research so as to be best prepared for the reality of these costs. Read our top 10 tips from returning emigrants here for more useful insights.

The above information, and more, on driving licences can be found at ndls.ie.

Judy McAvoy is the Information and Advocacy Officer for current, intending and returning Irish emigrants with Crosscare Migrant Project as funded by the Emigrant Support Programme of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Crosscare. See www.migrantproject.ie.

Have a query for our panel of experts about emigrating, life abroad or moving home? Email them to abroad@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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