Immigrating to Ontario: How to Get Your Ontario Driver's Licence
Of the many items you'll need to take care as an immigrant to Canada, obtaining a drivers licence in your new home province may not be the first thing on your mind, but it's important to put it on your list. The process for getting your new Ontario drivers licence depends somewhat on your level of driving experience, as well as what country you are immigrating from. Overall, it remains much the same for most immigrants.
Canada has agreements with certain nations that allow a reciprocal recognition of each other's drivers licences. This means that if you come from one of these nations, you will be able to quickly obtain your new Ontario licence in a simple swap without having to take a road test or written test.
The nations with reciprocal licensing are:
- United States
- United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man
Instructions for exchanging your licence are found here. If you come from any other country, you will need to go through the process of obtaining an Ontario drivers licence.
Ontario's Graduated Licensing System
Ontario uses a graduated licensing system in which there are levels of driving privileges to allow new drivers to improve their skills. In some cases, immigrants may be required to start at the beginning of this process, and in other cases they may proceed to the next level. Ontario's licence levels are:
- G1: Beginner's permit, may not drive without an adult, fully licensed driver and may not drive during certain hours
- G2: Intermediate licensing, with only a few restrictions as to hours on the road
- G: Full licence with no restrictions, licences swapped under the reciprocal agreement will receive this full licence
Most immigrants will be able to easily obtain the G2 licence and then simply complete the test for the full G licence after a short waiting period. Drivers who have less than 24 months experience or cannot prove driving experience more than 12 months will have to start with the G1 licence and then take the test for the G2. Drivers who cannot prove any driving experience will have to start at the beginning as with any new driver in Ontario.
The Process of Obtaining Your Ontario Licence
It's best to start the steps towards your Ontario licence before you come to Canada in order to expedite the process and ensure you have everything you need. Bring from your home country:
- A letter from your transportation authority authenticating your licence, in English or French
- A translated copy of your drivers licence in either English or French
- Your International Drivers Licence or Permit, which allows you to drive for 2 months in Ontario during which time you must apply for an Ontario licence
Once you have arrived in Canada you can apply for an Ontario licence, either a G1 or a G2 depending on your driving experience. When you go in to apply for your licence be sure to bring all of the following:
- Your current drivers licence issued by your home country
- Proof of your identity, such as a passport or permanent resident card (see the full list of acceptable items here)
- Proof of former driving experience: 12 months for a G1 and 24 months for a G2 licence
At the driver licensing office, you will be required to:
- Take and pass a vision test
- Take and pass a written test to prove your knowledge and understanding of Ontario's driving laws
- Pay all applicable fees (fees are listed here)
- Have your photo taken
If you are issued a G1 licence, you will have to take the G2 road test in order to obtain the next level of your Ontario licence. If you cannot prove any driving experience, you will have to take the test for the G1 licence first, serve the waiting period and then take the G2 test.
Other Things to Consider
Ontario drivers are required to have car insurance. If you have a history with a car insurance company in your home country, this could help you to get better rates on your insurance policy in Canada. Request a Letter of Experience from your insurance company stating the length of your in-force policy history and your claims-free status. Bring this when you request car insurance quotes in Ontario.
Drivers coming from countries where the rules of the road are very different from Canada will be expected to take a driver training course in order to learn Canada's road system and rules. Even as a driver from a nation with similar rules, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with Canada's laws before you drive here. Online practice permit tests are a good way to prepare for the actual test.
You can contact the Ontario DriveTest offices with specific questions toll-free at 1-800-489-8450. Find a DriveTest location here.
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