My driving licence has not arrived, can I still drive while waiting for it from the DVLA?

Are you wondering if you can continue to drive while waiting for your renewed driving licence to arrive from the DVLA as delays hold up renewals for tens of thousands of drivers? With a reported case backlog of 945,000, we provide answers for those saying: 'My driving licence has not arrived, can I keep driving?'
Here's all you need to know about renewing your photocard driving licence (or driving license as many call it) during Covid-19 and beyond as the pandemic eases but delays persist across across the UK.

My driving licence hasn't arrived, can I still drive while I wait for a new one from the DVLA?

Yes, most people will be able to do so if they are waiting for a renewed driving licence. The DVLA says 'if your licence expires (runs out) while your application is being processed by the DVLA you may be able to continue driving' while your application is processed, as long as you are fit and healthy and a doctor or optician has not told you not to drive for any reason. 
This DVLA guide gives more information whether or not you can or can't carry on driving as you wait for your renewed licence to arrive. 

What is Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and how does it affect my right to drive if my driving licence has not arrived back?

Section 88 is a section of the Road Traffic Act 1988 that could mean you are allowed to continue driving even though you do not hold a current driving licence. In reality, this will apply when you have applied to the DVLA to have your driving licence renewed - for reasons such as turning 70 - but it runs out while the body is processing the application. This is especially important during the delays caused by the pandemic and industrial action. You must meet the criteria demanded by Section 88 to continue driving.

To continue driving under Section 88, the DVLA states you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Your doctor must have told you that you are fit to drive. If your doctor is unsure about how a medical condition affects driving, they should refer to ‘Assessing fitness to drive – a guide for medical professionals’ at
  • You have held a valid driving licence (see *below) and only drive vehicles you have applied for on your current application and were entitled to drive on your previous licence.
  • If you hold a Group 2 (bus or lorry) licence, your entitlement has not been suspended, revoked or refused by a traffic commissioner.
  • You meet any conditions that were specified on your previous licence that still apply.
  • DVLA has received your correct and complete application within the last 12 months.
  • Your last licence was not revoked or refused for medical reasons.
  • You are not currently disqualified from driving by a court.
  • You were not disqualified as a high risk offender on or after 1 June 2013 (a high risk offender is a driver convicted of a serious drink driving offence).
  • this licence can be a full GB licence, a GB provisional licence, a European Community licence, a Northern Ireland licence, a British external/British Forces licence or an exchangeable licence.

Can I drive while waiting for my UK driving licence after a ban has ended?

If you have been banned from driving, you can apply for a physical licence to be issued up to 90 days before the ban expires. However, it is possible that delays and industrial action at the DVLA could leave you without a new driving licence when the disqualification comes to an end. In such a case, the same rules apply as described above - you can start driving again before the new document arrives, providing you have not been told you are unfit to do so or don't meet any of the other criteria listed above.

You cannot drive until the disqualification ends even if your new licence arrives before this time.

Can I drive while waiting for my provisional licence to arrive?

You will need to have received your first provisional driving licence before you can start to drive a car while accompanied, or a moped or other vehicle covered by the licence. 

If you are renewing a provisional licence, you should contact the DVLA for information on your ability to drive while waiting for the licence to arrive. 

Will my UK driving licence be extended because of the new Covid-19 variants

Currently no plans have been announced to re-start the scheme that saw licences automatically extended by 11 months, despite the large number of infections still present across the UK. The scheme launched during the first lockdown period and saw the automatic extension added to photocards that expired from February 2020 - December 2020. All of these documents should now have been renewed in the normal way.

Despite cases of the Covid remaining at high levels, the current easing of virtually all restrictions suggest a new scheme to extend driving licences is highly unlikely at present. 
However, growing numbers of DVLA workers isolating could also result in increased delays as the processing of licences is further delayed. 
Advice on the Gov.UK website states that from January 2021 drivers will need to renew their driving licence as normal. See below for more information.
This continues to be a developing story and will be updated with new DVLA advice as and when restrictions are applied.

Will my driving licence be delayed because of Covid-19 and industrial action at the DVLA?

Yes, this is likely. Renewing driving licences will take longer than usual to be processed. Covid-19 social distancing restrictions and industrial action at the DVLA are behind these delays. 
The DVLA has stated that paper applications, or those made online where more information is required, are likely to take between six to ten weeks to process - but see the table below for weekly updates from the DVLA.
In addition, the DVLA says: 'There may be longer delays in processing more complex transactions, for example, if medical investigations are needed as part of your driving licence application.'
The DVLA currently has 60,000 items of mail every day that need to be opened and processed. 
Alternatively, if you are renewing a photocard driving licence you can do this at participating Post Office branches. Check to see if you are eligible to use this service. If so, this service is likely to see your driving licence issued within five days.
A ballot of DVLA workers to hold further industrial action failed to meet the legal requirements for action to take place, so delays in processing licence applications should not increase further in the near future.

How long does it take to get my driving licence back from DVLA?

The DVLA has updated its advice on how long it will take to renew a licence and will no longer be posting a weekly update of when applications are being processed in relation to when they were received. 

The agency claims that all of its services are working within normal parameters and that anyone making a paper application for a driving licence should receive the new document within three to four weeks.

DVLA has asked that people waiting for a new licence should not call before four weeks have elapsed, but this is only advisory and those waiting can call at any time.

If you have applied for your first driving licence, or to renew or replace your current driving licence with a declared a medical condition, receiving your licence will take longer. The DVLA has said don't contact staff for an update as it will be in touch as soon as a licensing decision has been made or if more information is needed from a medical professional.

What happens if I drive with an expired licence?

As we have said earlier, driving before you get your renewed licence is okay for most people under Section 88 rules - if certain medical conditions and other criteria are met - but this only applies if your renewal application is being processed by the DVLA. Continuing to drive with an expired licence without making an application to have it renewed is an offence.

Driving with an expired licence could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

Additionally, driving with an expired licence, where the renewal is not being processed by the DVLA, is likely to mean your motor insurance is invalidated and will not pay out if you are involved in an accident. Driving without  insurance could also bring an unlimited fine and disqualification.

Can I drive abroad if I am waiting for my licence to arrive?

Section 88, that allows many people to continue driving without currently being in possession of a licence, is UK legislation so there is the possibility it will not be accepted in other countries. This could leave you driving illegally when abroad, so always check with the licensing authority in the country you are visiting before you travel. 

Are driving licences being delayed?

Yes. The pandemic, industrial action at the DVLA and many of its staff continuing to work from home are causing delays in renewing driving licences by up to 10 weeks - or even longer in some cases. 
The table above shows when the DVLA is likely to start working on your driving licence application - after which it will take 6 to 10 weeks to arrive. 
The period during which automatic extensions up to eleven month were given has now ended and driving licences must be renewed as normal. You can renew your driving licence online here.

Can I drive without my licence on me in the UK?

Yes. In the UK there is no legal requirement to carry your licence on you when driving in the UK. However, you can be asked by a police officer to present it a police station within seven days.
Unlike the UK, if you are heading to EU countries on holiday or business, you will need to carry your driving licence when in the bloc. Failure to do so could result in a fine or having your vehicle impounded. 

How to contact DVLA live Chat

The DVLA operates a live chat system on the Gov.UK website that may help you find out where your driving licence is. The service is currently suffering from delays due to Covid restrictions along with periods of industrial action. The DVLA Live Chat opening hours are as follows:
  • Monday to Friday, 8am to 7pm
  • Saturdays, 8am to 2pm
  • Public holidays, Closed

DVLA opening hours Christmas 2022

The DVLA has not confirmed its Christmas opening times for 2022/23, but these were the days it was open and closed over the 2021/22 festive season so may help you plan ahead. 
Date Contact centre opening times
Christmas Eve 24 December 8am to 12pm
Christmas Day 25 December closed
Boxing Day 26 December closed
Monday 27 December closed
Tuesday 28 December closed
Wednesday 29 December 8am to 5.30pm
Thursday 30 December 8am to 5.30pm
New Year’s Eve 31 December 8am to 5.30pm
New Year’s Day 1 January 2022 closed
Sunday 2 January closed
Monday 3 January closed
Tuesday 4 January 8am to 8pm

DVLA will allow non-doctors to carry out medical assessments for renewing driving licences - new law brought forward

Drivers with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and some heart conditions must be passed as fit to drive by a qualified doctor. But with the DVLA receiving 603,000 medical notifications in 2020-2021, the combination of pandemic delays and industrial action has led to many people missing out on the ability to carry on driving.

In a bid to tackle the huge waiting lists and cut delays for many who rely on the ability to drive, the DVLA launched a consultation looking at whether such medical assessments can be signed off by medical staff other than qualified doctors. 

The consultation has resulted in the bringing forward of legislation to do just this, which will help speed up the return of medical information needed to make decisions on issuing licences - helping to tackle the backlog brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and industrial action.

The proposed law change will mean that any healthcare professional registered with the Councils below will be legally allowed to complete DVLA’s medical questionnaires:

  • The General Chiropractic Council
  • The General Medical Council
  • The General Optical Council
  • The General Osteopathic Council
  • The Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • The Health and Care Professions Council

The original consultation can be seen here: Amending the Road Traffic Act 1988 to allow Registered Healthcare Professionals to complete DVLA medical questionnaires.

Transport Minister Baroness Vere said: "Changing this law makes sense. Doing so will safely improve the application process for hundreds of thousands of motorists across the country, whilst easing the pressure on our doctors and consultants. It’s great to see these important proposals progress into law."

When will the DVLA clear the backlog of licence applications?

A DVLA spokesman told the Times newspaper that more staff have been recruited and it is hoping to clear the huge backlog of cases by June 2022. 

Check your driving licence now to avoid £1,000 fine as final Covid-extended licences expire in days

The Covid-19 crisis saw driving licences due to expire between February 1 and December 31, 2020 given an automatic extension. 

This mean that those who driving licence was due to expire on December 31, 2020 have just days to apply and renew their photocard driving licence by the end of November.

New research from Co-op Insurance has also revealed that 2.5 million licences are due to expire by August 31, 2022.

Check when your licence expired by taking a look at section 4b on the front of your driving licence photocard.

How to renew a driving licence that has expired

If you find that your licence has expired, you should get it renewed as soon as possible as you will not be able to drive until the DVLA has your new application - when, in most cases you can continue to drive while you wait for your licence to be processed and sent out to you -  see top section of this page. 

The quickest way to renew an expired licence is online - which can be done here. You will need a valid passport to renew the licence online.

Alternatively, you can send off a postal application. You will need to do the following:

Obtain ‘D1 pack’ of forms from a Post Office that can facilitate DVLA photocard renewal or vehicle tax.

You will then need to include the following documentation with your completed forms:

  • a recent passport type photo (do not sign the back of the photo)
  • your current photocard licence, if you have it
  • a cheque or postal order for £17, payable to DVLA (no fee is needed if you have a medical short period licence or you’re aged 70 or over)

Also send identity documents if you’ve changed your name.

Send all of the completed forms and supporting documents to: 

SA99 1DH

There are currently delays of about 10 weeks to renew an expired licence in this way.

Finally, you can apply for a licence directly at a participating Post Office - you can find your nearest branch that can process the application here

Take your driving licence renewal reminder letter, your photocard licence and a £21.50 fee to have it renewed. 

Did I get an 11-month extension to my expiring photocard driving licence? Here is how to find out

The following information will tell you if you received an automatic seven-month extension added to your photocard.

My photocard driving licence expires after 31 December 2020:

If your licence expires after 31 December 2020 you will need to apply to have it renewed as normal. There is currently no automatic extension for licences that expire after 31 December 2020. 

My photocard driving licence expired between 1 February and 31 December 2020:

If your photocard driving licence expired between 1 February and 31 December 2020, it is likely you will have received an 11-month extension - allowing you to keep driving. The means drivers would not have needed to obtain a new photograph and go through the usual renewal process. 

When will I need to renew my driving licence after it was extended by 11 months due to Covid-19 restrictions

Here is a table explaining when you will need to renew your driving licence if it was automatically extended during the Covid-19 pandemic. Data from

Table showing the renewal dates based on the 11-month licence extension period:

Licence expiry New renewal date for extended licence
February 2020 January 2021
March 2020 February 2021
April 2020 March 2021
May 2020 April 2021
June 2020 May 2021
July 2020 June 2021
August 2020 July 2021
September 2020 August 2021
October 2020 September 2021
November 2020 October 2021
December 2020 November 2021
January 2021 onwards Renew as normal

When will the driving licence backlog be cleared?

The DVLA has said, in a letter to MP Huw Merriman, chair of the Transport Select Committee, that it is “on track to return to normal processing time on drivers’ paper licence applications by the end of May and drivers’ medical applications by the end of September”.
‘Normal’ processing times for paper applications are around three weeks (including time for postage) while medical applications have a target of 90 per cent of cases within 90 days. 
The current backlog in applications currently stands at around 800,000.
Can I still drive if my entitlement to drive needs renewing?
If your licence expired between 1 February and 31 December 2020, your driving licence or entitlement to drive in the UK was automatically extended for 11 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From 1 January 2021, all drivers will need to renew their licence as normal. The DVLA is operating despite the current Covid-related restrictions.

The DVLA licence check service says my licence has expired?

The DVLA licence check service was not updated to include any extension given to a driving licence - so will only show the original date the licence was due to expire. 
Remember, your driving licence or entitlement to drive was automatically extended for 11 months if it expired between 1 February 2020 and 31 December 2020, so bear that in mind when using the DVLA licence check or sharing service. 
Domestic police forces and hire companies etc. will be aware of this, but foreign authorities using the service are likely to class the licence as expired. This is why you must update your licence before travelling abroad.

Would I have needed to do anything if my photocard driving licence was extended?

No. The extension will have been automatically applied, but you will not receive a new photocard detailing the extension. 

Will I have had to pay the usual fee for the extension?

No. You would not have needed to pay the £14 online or £17 postal fee for your extension - or the fee charged by photo booths. 
You will, however, need to pay as normal when the 11-month extension comes to an end.

Can I drive abroad with an extended licence? 

If you are thinking about booking your post-lockdown holiday, new advice on the DVLA website now says: 'You must renew your licence before you can drive abroad if your licence or entitlement to drive in the UK has been automatically extended.' This could mean drivers could be presenting extended driving licences until the end of 2021.

Will an extended driving licence be accepted by foreign hire car companies?

Advice from the DVLA says you must renew your extended licence before driving abroad. This is likely to be because foreign hire car companies and police will need to see a physical version of your valid photocard - but the automatically extended version does not include a new document being sent out. 
You must renew your driving licence photocard before driving abroad.

Will foreign police accept an automatically extended driving licence photocard?

Previous agreements with the EU have now expired and it is likely that police in Europe and beyond will no longer accept your apparently expired licence - leaving you open to fines or having your vehicle impounded.
You must renew your physical driving licence photocard before driving abroad.

Will I get a new photocard driving licence with the 11-month extension added?

You won't get a new card.

Can I speak to a person at the DVLA about where my driving licence is?

The correct DVLA telephone number for driving licence renewal enquiries is as follows: 
DVLA Driving Licence Enquiries
Telephone: 0300 790 6801
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturdays, 8am to 4pm
There have been many reports of calls going unanswered due to Covid-19 shortages and industrial action undertaken by DVLA staff.

Will digital driving licences replace the current photocard?

The DVLA's strategic plan for 2021-2024 has confirmed that it will be moving towards the implementation of digital licences held on a monile phone app. 

Announcing the plan, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: "We will introduce digital driving licences – moving provisional cards online."

The DVLA's strategic plan states: “We will introduce a digital driving licence for provisional drivers and also start to build a customer account facility.

“This will ultimately give our customers personalised, easy and secure access to a range of services and allow them more choice in how they transact with us.

“Our services will be secure, scalable and resilient and we will continue to explore and expand the use of emerging technologies.”

Look out for provisional licences moving to a digital and physical combination in a trial starting in 2022.

New driving licence rules mean more drivers can tow full-size caravans and two-horse horseboxes from November 15, 2021

Changes to categories on driving licences, will allow most drivers who passed their driving test after 1996 to tow a full-size caravan or two-animal horse trailer without the need to pass an additional examination from 15 November 2021.

This is down to weight limitations being removed from licences issued after 1996, in a move that will help increase test capacity for HGV testing to help ease the current shortage.

Find out more information on rule changes for towing vehicles with a car from November 15, 2021.


Look out for websites charging you to make a driving licence renewal application

Some websites are designed to look official and will claim to make a driving licence renewal for you, when they are simply filling out the free form on the government website - and charging you for it. You will also have to pay the regular cost of the driving licence renewal. 
While these sites are not acting illegally, they should be avoided at all times. Only renew your licence on an official site such as this: DVLA renew online.
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