A driving licence is an official document authorising the holder to operate certain classes of motor vehicles on public roads. It is issued by the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS).
People from EU/EEA countries can drive in Ireland on their own country’s licence for up to 12 months. Other drivers need to exchange their licence for an Irish one.
Apply for a Learner Permit
Those seeking an Irish driver license must take Essential Driving Training (EDT), which is a series of driving lessons from an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI). This can be done online or through a booking system run by the NDLS.
Once you have passed your theory test, you can apply for a Learner Permit. This is a temporary licence that allows you to drive on the road, but only if you are accompanied by someone with a full driver’s licence. If you are caught driving on a Learner Permit without a qualified driver in the vehicle, the Garda may detain you.
You must be a ‘normal resident’ of Ireland in order to apply for an Irish licence. This means that you live here for at least 185 days each year. If you have personal or occupational ties in another country which require frequent absences from Ireland, these can be taken into account. Working on a specific project in Northern Ireland for a certain period, or attending a university abroad for a certain time, do not constitute a transfer of normal residence to another country.
If you have a valid licence from a recognised country (see below), you can exchange it for an Irish licence. There is a fee for exchanging a foreign licence, and you may have to pay for any medical or eyesight tests required by the NDLS.
Pass your theory test
The driving theory test is a 50 question multiple-choice exam that assesses your understanding of vehicle and road safety, the Highway Code and how you deal with road incidents. You also take a hazard perception test where you watch a series of video clips to see how well you can recognise and anticipate potential hazards as you drive. You can learn more about what to expect on the day of your theory test in our blog post ‘What to know before taking your driving theory test‘.
You will receive a pass or fail result immediately after completing the test. If you are unsuccessful, the NDLS will provide you with a list of areas that need further study. If you are not happy with your result, you can appeal the decision by speaking to a theory test supervisor at the test centre or filling out an appeal form available in every theory test centre.
If you are moving to Ireland from a country in the European Union or the European Economic Area (EEA), Australia, New Zealand or Canada, or the state of Ontario in Canada, you will be able to exchange your existing licence for an Irish one, provided it is valid. You will need a letter of entitlement from your licensing authority in order to do this, which you can obtain by visiting the website of your country’s national driver licensing agency.
Take a driving test
Before you take your driving test it is worth taking the car out for a few practice drives to get to grips with key functions and make sure you are comfortable. It’s a good idea to do this before you book your test so that you can feel confident about what to expect and how the Irish driving system works.
During the driving test, you will be asked to follow road signs and verbal instructions given by the examiner. Unlike in GB, you are not allowed to use a SatNav during the driving part of the test. Your examiner will also check that you are displaying a valid NCT and motor tax disc on the vehicle you bring for the test.
In Ireland, you are required to have an approved driving instructor (ADI) train you before you sit your theory and practical tests. All ADIs are regulated and undergo Garda vetting.
Ireland has a reciprocal agreement with all EU countries plus a number of other states such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan and the Canadian province of Ontario was recently added to this list so that people from those places can exchange their licence for an Irish one – provided they have had a full driver’s licence for at least 12 months before doing so. People from B.C., meanwhile, can continue to drive on their own licence for up to a year following Ireland’s mutual recognition policy with Canada that started in 2017.
Pass your driving test
Obtaining an Irish driving licence as a foreigner can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. The key is to plan ahead, be patient, and follow the rules. If you’re willing to work hard and put in the effort, it will definitely be worth it in the end!
The driving test is a 40 question multiple choice test administered by Prometric Ireland on behalf of the RSA. A score of 35 or higher is required to pass. The theory test must be passed before you can take a practical driving test.
If you have a full EU or EEA driver’s licence, you can exchange it for an Irish license upon taking up residence in the country. A letter of entitlement is necessary to do this and it must be provided to the NDLS when you apply for an Irish driving licence.
The RSA has a reduced EDT programme for drivers who are unable to exchange their existing licences. This means you will have to take fewer driving lessons and will be exempt from the normal six month waiting period before you can start driving. For more information on this, please visit the RSA’s website. Alternatively, check out this recent article by Pat Travers, Chief State Tester at the RSA, which details some of the top things you should do to improve your chances of passing the test!