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


With driving licence photocards expiring every ten years for most drivers, or when they reach 70 (and every three years thereafter), many drivers will be asking if they can still drive while waiting for their updated licence to arrive from the DVLA. Here motoring journalist and expert Pete Barden looks at what the law says about driving while waiting for that new licence to arrive.
Here's all you need to know about renewing your photocard driving licence (or driving license as some mistakenly call it) as DVLA centres across the UK work hard to get them sent processed.

Can you still drive while waiting for your driving licenceCan you still drive your car while waiting for your licence? The answer is not simply yes or no. Photo by Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash


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

Yes - most people will be able to keep driving while they wait 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' as long as you are fit and healthy and a doctor or optician has not told you not to drive for any reason, as stated under Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Here is what Section 88 of the Road  Traffic Act 1988 says regarding this:

What is Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and how does it affect your right to drive if you're waiting for your driving licence?

Section 88 is a section of the Road Traffic Act 1988 that could give you the green light to continue driving even though your current driving licence has expired. In reality, this will apply when you have applied to the DVLA to have your driving licence renewed but it runs out while the agency is processing your application. You must meet the following 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.

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Can I still drive if I've not applied for my new driving licence photocard?

If your driving licence has expired, either due to your age or the photocard being ten years old, you can only keep driving if you have submitted a valid application for a new licence through the DVLA and comply with the terms of Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, as mentioned above.

If you continue to drive with an expired licence and have not applied for a new one, you could face a fine of up to £1,000. Doing so could also mean your motor insurance could be invalidated, leaving you liable for damages in the event of a collision, along with a fixed penalty of £300 and 6 penalty points.

Why hasn't my driving licence arrived?

The DVLA suffered from significant delays over the past few years, with the pandemic and industrial action all inflicting a heavy toll  on driving licence processing times. However, the agency has worked its way through Covid delays and waiting lists have returned to normal.
This means that most people who apply online should receive their licence within days, while it will take longer - around two weeks - for paper applications made by post.
However, applications that are not straightforward, such as those with medical conditions, are still taking longer than expected. The rules have been changed to let more medical professionals rule on medical issues in an attempt to speed up these types of applications, too.

More than 900,000 people have an expired licence and risk £1,000 fine

The DVLA has reminded people who passed their driving test in 2014, that they will need to renew their licence in 2024 or face a £1,000 fine - as the majority of photocard driving licence photocards expire after 10 years. However, the problem is far more widespread than drivers who passed their test in 2014.

Figures from the DVLA in 2022, the agency responsible for issuing UK driving licences, revealed that 926,000 people held photocard driving licences on 3 September that had expired in the past year. 

And while the DVLA will send a reminder in the months before licences are due to expire, data from the previous 12 months reveals around 2.5 million people only got round to renewing their licence after it had expired or within 56 days of the expiry date.

This also highlights how many drivers could also be breaking the law by driving on a licence with the incorrect address registered.

As discussed in this article, most people will be able to continue driving while they wait for their new licence to arrive, providing they have not been told not to on health grounds, or are waiting for a health assessment to be carried out.

Philip Gomm head of external communications at the RAC Foundation said: "Renewal also provides an opportunity for people to assess whether they are still fit to drive, and we think there is an argument for linking a compulsory eye test to the process to make sure we all remain safe on the road, though Government should help keep costs as low as possible for motorists."

You can find out when your photocard expires by checking section 4b on the card

Do I have to renew a paper licence every ten years?

Drivers who still have the green or pink paper licences will not need to renew these licences every ten years - but will need to if they move to a new  address or have medical issues that affect their ability to drive. 

What's the penalty for driving if your licence is refused on health grounds?

Despite delays in having medical checks carried out, drivers who have previously been refused a licence or had one suspended risk severe penalties for driving after refusal or revocation of licence on medical grounds.
Maximum penalties for doing so are 6 months’ imprisonment / Unlimited fine / Discretionary disqualification and 3 to 6 penalty points.

Can I drive while waiting for my driving licence after a driving 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. 

I am over 70, can I still drive while waiting for a renewed licence?

You can drive as soon as the DVLA receives your application, if you meet the criteria set by Section 88. If you are concerned about a new or existing medical condition and how it could impact your driving, speak with your doctor or contact the DVLA for more information.

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

The DVLA has updated its advice on how long it will take to get a new driving licence if it has expired, is a new application or has been lost or stolen. The time it will take to get your new photocard driving licence depends on how you apply. The following guidelines cover the various options.

POSTAL APPLICATIONS: Applicants are being asked to allow 2-3 weeks for their documents to be posted if applying by post. The DVLA says applicants should not call within those 4 weeks as their application will be processing and it will not be able to provide further information.

ONLINE APPLICATIONS: If you made an online application for a licence, you should expect it to be processed and dispatched in five days - providing medical clearance or further details are not required. 

FIRST APPLICATION OR MEDICAL CONDITIONS: If you have applied for your first driving licence, or to renew or replace your current driving licence with a declared 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.

The most important advice is to check that you have added all the correct information and any documentation required, or your application will be delayed beyond the standard delivery times. 

Can I drive abroad while waiting for my UK licence to arrive?

Section 88, which 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. 

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. 

You should also check what other driving documentation you may need to drive abroad, such as an international driving permit or green card for insurance.  

Do I need to carry my licence in the UK when driving?

No you do not have to carry your driving licence when driving in the UK. There is no legal requirement to do so in the UK, however, you can be asked by a police officer to present it at a police station within seven days and failure to do so is an offence.

How to contact DVLA Live Chat

The DVLA operates a live chat system on the Gov.UK website that may help you find out the status of your driving licence. 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

Other ways to get in touch with the DVLA include the following socials and email:

  • Address: Driver Customer Services, Correspondence Team, DVLA, Swansea, SA6 7JL
  • Twitter: @DVLAgovuk
  • LinkedIn: Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • Instagram: @Dvlagov
  • Facebook: @DVLAGovUK
  • Email:
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."

How to  check when your driving licence expires 

Check when your licence is due to expire by taking a look at section 4b on the front of your driving licence photocard. This will tell you the date when the document expires - so could save you from receiving a fine.

How to renew your driving licence online or by post

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. 

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

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Author: Pete Barden:

Twitter: @pete_barden

Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (, New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? ( Stuff Magazine (, Fastcar Magazine (, Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.

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