Moving to the UK is exciting, but it also involves a bit of paperwork. For the first months, you will probably be busy enough with applying for settlement status and a national insurance number, finding your GP and settling in. Once all this is done, one of the next steps might be that you want to have your own car.
For some of the most beautiful places, you will need to be able to drive - because there is simply no access through public transport. Here is a little guide on some of the paperwork you need when you buy a car in the UK.
One of the first things you should check before buying a car in the UK is whether your driving licence is valid in the UK. If you passed your driving test in a country that is not on the list of designated countries or in the EU/EEC, you can use your licence for 12 months. After that, you will have to apply for a British licence and pass a driving test.
If you are on the list of designated countries, you have to exchange your licence but don’t have to pass the test again. If you are from the EU/EEC, it now becomes a bit more complicated. As of now, you only have to exchange your driving licence if you were older than 67 when you became a UK resident. However, Brexit might change this as there is no agreement yet on the validity of EU driving licences.
You can use the government website to find out if you can drive with your license in the UK.
If you want to buy a vehicle in the UK and have found one that you like, then you will need to register it after buying. Usually, the car dealer will do this for you and give you the V5C registration certificate. If the car dealer doesn’t do that or you buy a used vehicle without the certificate, then you have to register the car yourself.
The next thing on the list is to get an MOT (Ministry of Transport). This is a test to prove that your vehicle meets the legal standards. You will have to check if your vehicle passed an MOT test and when it runs out. If your car is more than three years old, it will need an MOT every year. You can set up a reminder for this on the government website so that you will get a notification via email or text message whenever your MOT is due.
Before you start driving your car, you will have to get car insurance first. You are not allowed to drive a vehicle in the UK that doesn’t have insurance, and you can face legal repercussion if the police catch you driving uninsured. Once you apply for insurance, you will need proof that you haven’t had an accident in five years so that you get a cheaper quote. This can sometimes be a bit tricky since the insurance from your home country might not have a certificate in English that proves that.
If you realise at some point that you don’t need to use your car for a prolonged period of time, you can declare your vehicle SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notification). This means you can leave your car parked and don’t have to pay for insurance anymore.
Another thing you need to do once you own a car is to tax it. You will need the V5C registration certificate and number plate for that. You might not need to pay the tax if you are exempt. For example, if you have a disability or your vehicle is electric, then the tax is for free.
Having a car in the UK has many advantages but involves a bit of paperwork, especially when it comes to your international driving license and car insurance. However, all the work will be rewarding when you can drive to remote areas that you can’t visit by bus or train.