My driving licence runs out in 2021, will it be extended due to Covid-19, when will I need to renew it, and can I still drive while it's being processed?

The DVLA coronavirus-related scheme to extend expiring photocard driving licences for eleven months ended 31 December 2020. (These are also incorrectly referred to as a driving license.) But will your driving licence be extended in 2021 and when will you get your driving licence held up in DVLA delays and backlogs?
 
We also look at and when you will need to renew your licence if it was given an automatic extension. Plus, can you keep driving while you wait for your driving licence to be processed - with DVLA reporting a huge backlog of applications?
 
Here's all you need to know about renewing your photocard driving licence (or driving license as many call it) during Covid-19 and subsequent restrictions across across the UK - and whether you will need to make an application now the 31 December 2020 deadline for an automatic 11-month extension has passed.
 
We also explain how an automatically extended driving licence photocard could leave you unable to drive abroad as travel restrictions ease - either in your own car, or a hire vehicle.
 
 

Will I need to apply for a new photocard driving licence now the 31 December 2020 date for automatic extensions has passed?

Advice on the Gov.UK website states that from January 2021 drivers will need to "Renew as normal".
 

Can I keep driving while I wait for my driving licence to arrive?

Yes. 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'.
 
However, to continue driving while your application is processed, you must be able to meet several conditions. These include conditions such as your doctor must have told you that you are fit to drive. 
 
This DVLA guide give more information whether or not you can or can't carry on driving as you wait for your renewed licence to arrive. 
 

'Grave impact' on road safety with 200,000 drivers waiting to have medical assessment

More than 200,000 motorists are awaiting medical assessments for driving licence applications, according to the British Medical Association, as it flagged the “grave impact” on road safety if people bypass their regular GPs by turning to independent practitioners to get their assessment sooner and beat the queues.
 

Dr Peter Holden, BMA professional fees committee chair, said: “Across the country, thousands of drivers require medical ‘fit to drive’ sign-off in order to obtain or renew their drivers’ licence.

“We know that some of these drivers, aware of the current DVLA backlog, are bypassing the queue at their own GP practice and going to third party registered medical practitioners.

“The issue here is that only an individual’s GP practices has access to a patient’s full medical record, so only they know whether or not that person is fit to drive.

“By seeking ‘sign-off’ from an independent practitioner, who only has the patient’s word to go by, there’s a risk that medical conditions may be, either intentionally or unintendedly, understated and this has already had a grave impact on road safety.

“With this in mind, the Government must ensure that there is a process in place to involve an applicant’s GP."

 
 

Will my driving licence renewal be delayed because of Covid-19

Yes, this is highly likely. Renewing driving licences that were extended by 11 months, or those that are up for renewal as usual 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. However, see above for more information on driving while waiting for your licence to be renewed.
 
In addition, the DVLA says: 'There may be additional 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 needs to be opened and processed, with further delays possible as  vote for additional industrial action at the agency closes on 3 September.
 
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.
 

Where is my driving licence application in the DVLA system?

If you made your paper application (online applications will be faster) before the dates below, you 'should' receive your new document within two weeks. If you applied after the dates listed for the services below, you should expect to wait 6-10 weeks for your document. Correct at time of writing 21/09/21.
 
Type of application Date currently being processed
Renew a driving licence with a new photo 6 July 2021
Apply for a first provisional driving licence with UK identity 9 August 2021
Renew a driving licence if you’re 70 or over or after disqualification or revocation 6 July 2021
Apply for a first vocational driving licence 7 September 2021
Renew a vocational driving licence 12 July 2021
Apply for a driving licence with non-UK identity 26 July 2021
Apply for or renew a tachograph card 16 September 2021
Apply to change your name or address on your driving licence 6 July 2021

What is happening with renewing photocard driving licences as Covid-19 and DVLA industrial action cause disruption?

With Covid-19 meaning many admin tasks have been delayed by the likes of lockdowns and now many staff being forced to self-isolate, anyone with a photocard driving licence that expired before 31 December 2020 will have received an automatic 11-month extension. 
 
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.
 

Check your driving licence photocard now to avoid risk of £1,000 fine

If your licence was extended at the start of the scheme in February 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, then it will now be time to renew as the 11-month extension will have expired. 

Failure to renew your licence could result in a fine of £1,000. Section 4b on your licence photocard will tell you when your licence was due to expire - but remember, the extension will not be printed on the card so you will need to add 11 months if your licence photocard was extended.

Will 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 Gov.uk.
 

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
Does this apply 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 has not been updated to include any extension given to a driving licence - so will only show the original date the licence was 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.
 

How can I phone the DVLA so I can speak about my driving licence renewal?

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.
 

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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