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How to Exchange a Foreign Driver’s License in British Columbia

Mary Brier

June 19, 2024

If you’ve just moved to British Columbia (BC) from another country or province and have a valid license, you have 90 days to switch to a BC driver’s license. How you achieve that will depend on your situation. Below, we’ll cover each option you can pursue to conduct a BC driver’s license exchange after moving from another country. Let’s dive in!

Moving From Outside of Canada? 

No matter what kind of license you have, your first step is to visit your local Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) location. ICBC is in charge of licensing and can help you find the best solution for your needs. 

But before we dive into how to exchange your license, it’s important to note that there are some exceptions to the 90-day rule. You can continue to legally drive with your current license if you:

  • are a visiting tourist (for up to six months)
  • have a valid student exemption (as long as you are enrolled full-time at a designated educational institution)
  • are ordinarily resident outside of BC
  • are a temporary foreign worker in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). In this case, you may drive for up to 12 months on a valid license from your home jurisdiction; however, if you stay longer than 12 months with SAWP and want to keep driving, you will need to get a BC driver’s license. 

How to Do a BC Driver’s License Exchange

If you do indeed need to exchange a foreign license in BC, you have a few different options, depending on where you’re moving from. 

Note: If you have a learner’s permit from another province, a reciprocal country, or a non-reciprocal country, it will unfortunately not carry over. That means you’ll need to start from scratch and get a new BC learner’s permit before you can get your license. 

Regardless, be prepared to meet the same basic requirements when you attend your ICBC exchange appointment.

What You Need:

Option 1: Apply for a New BC License

Who It’s For: Individuals whose current licenses are expired, have never held a license, or who cannot provide proof they’ve been driving on a valid license anywhere in the last three years

Applying for a new license is fairly straightforward, though it will require surrendering your previous license to ICBC. By law, you may only have one driver’s license.

Depending on your circumstances – where you’re moving from, the status of your current license, etc. – you may be required to pass an ICBC road test to get your new license. 

If you do not pass the test, you won’t get your previous license back, but you will be issued a BC Learner’s license. 

Option 2: Reciprocal License Exchange

Who It’s For: Individuals moving from a Canadian province or territory, any US state, or a “reciprocal” country

In addition to the things listed above, other jurisdictions that have reciprocal license exchange agreements with B.C. include:

  • Austria
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Netherlands*
  • New Zealand
  • South Korea*
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan** 
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

*Some vehicle types don’t apply.

**If you’re from Taiwan, you can only exchange your license for a passenger vehicle license. You must provide a Taiwanese driver’s license card, a verification certificate of driver’s license with a red seal stamp, and a translation of your driver’s license by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Vancouver. You can find ICBC translation forms at any driver licensing office.

If you’re from one of these countries, all you have to do to exchange your license is book an appointment with a local ICBC driver licensing office. Schedule a time that works for you, and bring the required documents. You should be able to complete the process within a few hours. 

Commercial Licenses

To get a commercial license in BC, you’ll need to pass a knowledge and road test. You might also be required to complete ICBC’s Class 1 MELT course if you’re applying to be a Class 1 commercial driver. Otherwise, you can still exchange your license for a passenger vehicle license. 

Option 3: Non-Reciprocal License Exchange

Who It’s For: Individuals from any country not listed as “reciprocal”

You can still apply for a BC license, but you’ll also need to take a knowledge and road test. 

Once again, you have up to 90 days to get your new license. That means you should start the process early. You must qualify on your knowledge test first, then wait for an available appointment for your road test, which can take a few weeks. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect:

Step 1: Schedule Knowledge Test

Get started by booking an appointment for your knowledge test. This is also where information about your driving experience will be collected. 

Step 2: Take Knowledge Test

Visit your ICBC location and complete your knowledge test. This is a multiple-choice quiz designed to test your knowledge of basic rules of the road and road signs. You must get 40 out of 50 questions right to pass. To prepare, you can take ICBC’s online practice knowledge test

Once you pass your knowledge test, you’ll get a class 5 learners (L) license. You can use this to practice driving with a qualified supervisor (someone over 25 years old with a valid BC license). 

Typically, L holders are required to wait 12 months to take their road test. However, if you are exchanging a license, your wait time will likely be reduced or waived entirely. 

Step 3: Schedule a Class 5 Road Test

Next, you can schedule an appointment for a road test. Make sure you bring another qualified driver with you on the day of the exam in case you don’t pass. If you don’t pass, you can try again after 14 days. In the meantime, you can continue to practice with your L. 

The Bottom Line

Exchanging a foreign driver’s license is usually a relatively easy process, but you might still have to take either a knowledge or road test (or both) to complete it. 

Even if you’re a seasoned driver, it never hurts to brush up on your knowledge. This is especially true if it’s been a while since you originally took your test or you’re still learning the rules of the road in BC.

Kruzee makes it simple to beef up your skills behind the wheel by adapting to your schedule, not the other way around. Schedule hourly driving lessons tailored to your needs with the best government-certified instructors in Canada.Ready to get started? Book online today.

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