UAE driving licence can now be exchanged for UK version

Rule change on May 20 means UAE drivers do not have to repeat their test if moving to the UK

Related: Learning to drive and getting your licence in Dubai and UAE

Drivers who pass their test in the UAE can now exchange their licence for a British one.

New rules mean that motorists are no longer required to repeat their driving test if they move to the UK.

The decision, which came into effect on May 20, follows an analysis and public consultation by the UK's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

The same rules were extended to Taiwan, Ukraine and North Macedonia.

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Testing standards are equivalent and so there is no value in requiring the driver to repeat a test to get a GB licence

Under previous rules, drivers who had a UAE licence could use it for a year in the UK, before having to take a British theory and practical test. The process can often cost £1,000 ($1,400), depending on a person's driving skills.

The move will mostly benefit Emirati and expat students, UAE residents visiting the UK for longer periods, and expats who learnt in the Emirates and return home.

Exchanging an Emirati licence for a British one costs £43.

British officials said they were satisfied that the level of instruction and examination was sufficiently rigorous to be on par with the UK.

"Testing standards for the specified vehicle categories are equivalent and so there is no value in requiring the driver to repeat a test to get a GB licence," DVLA said, summing up the responses to its consultation.

"The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has approved the standards for cars in respect of North Macedonia, Taiwan and Ukraine, and for cars and small motorcycles not exceeding 125cc in respect of United Arab Emirates."

Despite the change, Emiratis and UAE residents may face one clear hurdle – the vast majority of UAE licences are for automatic vehicles, whereas most UK cars are manual.

A driver with an automatic licence would have to find an automatic car, which have gradually grown in popularity, or take a small number of lessons and repeat the DVLA test.

Isabel Cadbury, 41, a British mother of two, has lived in Dubai for 13 years.

She learnt to drive and passed her test in Dubai and worried about having to relearn if she returns to the UK.

"This is great news. I was worried I wouldn't be able to pass my driving test in the UK, having driven in the Middle East for so many years," she said.

She failed tests in the UK several times and decided to learn in Dubai only when she moved from an apartment near the Metro line to a suburban villa.

"I think learning to drive in central London was more stressful than it is in Al Quoz," she said.

The cost of a driving course package in Dubai is in the region of Dh5,000 ($1,360), which includes 20 hours of lessons, theory test material and the fees for the theory and practical training.

The pass rate is about 45 per cent, Emirates Driving Institute says, similar to the UK level.

British expat Maria Alfarhan's daughter is due to leave home for university in the UK in September.

She would have had to learn to drive there, but can now spend her summer taking lessons in Dubai.

"This is excellent news. Our daughter can now make use of her time until she leaves in September and try to get her licence here instead of the UK," Ms Alfarhan said.

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