Immigrating to British Columbia: How to Get Your British Columbia Driver's Licence

Published on Jul 09, 2012

There's plenty of paperwork to think about when you immigrate, and getting your British Columbia drivers licence is just one of the tasks at hand. Converting the drivers licence from your home country to a Canadian licence in the province of B.C. is a relatively straightforward process, but the steps you will need to take depend on a few factors. These include what country you are coming from and how long you have held your licence.

Swapping Your Licence

If you are coming from one of a specific list of countries and have held a full licence for at least 24 months, you can simply swap your licence from a BC drivers licence. The nations that qualify are:

  • United States
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Germany
  • France
  • United Kingdom
  • Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man
  • Northern Ireland
  • Austria

You'll simply need identification, a translation if required, and the fees. Get the information on how to get a drivers licence via swap here.

Steps to Get Your B.C. Licence

When you arrive in B.C., you will have 90 days to apply for your drivers licence. You can drive on your old licence until that time period is up. Before you land in Canada, you should be prepared by gathering a few items together. Make sure you have one or more of these:

  • Your current drivers licence along with a translation to English or French
  • Proof of how long you have been driving, such as a letter of experience
  • An international drivers licence

For those drivers with more than 24 months of experience, start by studying the B.C. drivers manual. Consider taking some online driving theory test samples for you go to prepare. You will have to pass the following to get your new B.C. drivers licence:

  • A written test proving your knowledge of B.C. road rules
  • A road test
  • A vision test

If you can't prove 24 months of driving experience or don't have it, you'll need to go through the graduated licensing system in B.C. to get your full licence. There are three stages to this program:

  • The learner's permit, which allows you to drive with restrictions
  • The novice licence, which lifts some of the restrictions but retains some of them
  • The full B.C. licence

In order to get your learner's permit, you will need to pass a learners test, which is a written exam. The learners permit is required to be in place for 12 months before you can take the road test for your novice licence. After 24 months, you can take the full licence road test. This time can be reduced by 6 months by taking a driver training course. Get full information on the graduated licence system in B.C. here.

Documents and Fees

In order to obtain a B.C. licence, you will need to present some important documents. In addition to the proof of your prior driving experience in the form of your licence or letter of experience, you also need to provide proof of your identity. B.C. accepts a number of possible documents to prove identity, including:

  • Your passport
  • Permanent resident card
  • A combination of secondary identification

The full list of acceptable identification can be found here.

There are also fees associated with obtaining a drivers licence in B.C., which differ depending on whether you are seeking a permit or licence. The list of fees for licence tests and applications can be found here.

Find the B.C. licensing office nearest you with the search function on the website. You can also contact the offices with general questions about the process by calling them toll-free at 1-800-663-3051.

Insurance and More

Having your licence is not the only requirement for getting on the road in B.C. You will also need insurance, which is required by law for all cars on the road. You can obtain car insurance quotes online to compare rates, and remember that being able to prove experience matters here as well. Ask your former car insurance company for a letter of experience to show you have been claims free in order to get a better rate.

Before you head in to take the written test for your British Columbia licence, it's a good idea to take some time to study the rules of the road. Even if you have a lot of driving experience, it's important that you know the laws here in Canada. There are many driving theory test practice options available to prepare you for taking the test.


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