Are Paper Driving Licences Still Valid in the United Kingdom?

a Great Britain driver

From online banking to e-commerce, many aspects of our lives have gone digital. This shift has also impacted how we handle official documents. Take paper driving licences, for example.

Can they still be used in the UK? In this article, we will explore their current status and the implications of their digital counterparts.

The Transition to Photocard Licences

Before we dive into the present, it’s essential to understand the historical context. Traditionally, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency issued paper driving licences without expiry dates.

Technically, these IDs could expire anyway: for example, you had to change your paper licence as soon as you turned 70 or if your address or personal details changed.

Back then, each was paired with a separate paper counterpart that contained relevant driving licence information such as penalty points and offence details.

the paper used to provide accurate account of driving endorsements

To fight red tape, the UK government began phasing out these paper licences in 1998 when they introduced the photocard version, featuring a colour photograph of the driving licence holder. When a driver renewed their paper licence, they would receive the new photocard along with a paper counterpart.

But did this render the old paper version of the document invalid?

Is it compulsory to have a photo driving licence?

No, it is not. Your old-style paper can still be used if it meets the below conditions:

Providing that your personal details and address remain the same as on the date of issue, you do not have to exchange your paper driving licence for a new one and can continue using it.

Also, the other rule still applies: having turned 70, every driver must have a new valid licence issued by DVLA.

all drivers can apply in writing or on the dvla website

The Abolition of the Counterpart

Years later, another significant change took place. On 8 June 2015, the paper counterpart was abolished, rendering it invalid. This move was part of the government’s efforts to streamline the process and reduce unnecessary paperwork. From that point forward, all information related to penalty points and endorsements would be recorded electronically, making it accessible to both drivers and authorized entities, such as law enforcement.

you can use the document to provide evidence of your identity to the police

This change had a considerable impact on how drivers viewed their driving licences. Many people were left wondering if their trusty photocard licence was still okay without the counterpart that lost its legal status.

To answer that question succinctly: yes, your photocard driving licence remains valid without the paper counterpart.

This reform didn’t change anything for the paper driving licence–it has remained a valid document since then.

Key Points to Remember

1. Paper Licences Issued Before March 2000 Are Still Valid

If you still possess an old-style paper driving licence issued before March 2000, it is essential to note that they are still valid and will remain such until you either change your personal details or address or turn 70.

However, you may choose to upgrade from your paper licence to a photocard one voluntarily.

2. Photocard Licences Are Valid for 10 Years

This driving licence remains valid even without the paper counterpart. This means that you can continue to use it as your primary form of identification on the road and when required in other situations, such as renting a vehicle or verifying your identity.

However, by contrast with the paper licence, you must renew your photo card every 10 years (DVLA will remind you to do so). The process is relatively straightforward and can be done through the online service. You will receive a new photo card, and the records of your driving history will be updated accordingly.

3. Penalty Points and Endorsements Are Stored Digitally

Today, all information regarding penalty points and endorsements is held electronically (instead of using the counterpart of your driving licence). This driving record is accessible to you and authorized entities, such as the police and insurance companies. You can check your driving record and update your personal information online through the official government website.

Should I Exchange My Paper Licence?

photo card of a driver issued by DVLA

Frankly, there isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t.

Although paper driving licences are still valid in the UK, they have largely been replaced by photocards, which offer enhanced security and convenience (with the paper counterpart abolished in 2015, all relevant details are now stored electronically). The only minor downside is that the driver should renew their photocard licences every ten years (DVLA usually gives a heads-up when it’s time).

So, we recommend updating to the new version–you’ll only need a driving licence photo to do that!

The transition to digital driving records reflects the broader trend of digitalization in government services. While some drivers may have sentimental attachments to their old paper licences, the benefits of the photocard system in terms of security and accessibility cannot be ignored. So, while your paper driving licence may still be tucked away in a drawer somewhere, it’s the photocard that’s taking the wheel in the digital age.

do you have to have a photo driving licence?