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How To Get a Driver’s License in Canada

Written by CNN Team

Do you wish to drive in your province or territory? Learn how to obtain your driver’s license in Canada!

Canada is a large country. Depending on where you are living, you may find that public transportation does not cut it — that you need a car in order to get around. Whether you are driving in Canada as a student, visitor, temporary or permanent resident, there are ways for you to get behind the wheel of a car. So, let’s figure out what you need first! 

Can You Exchange Your Driver’s License?

To legally drive a car in Canada, you are required to have a driver’s license that is issued by the government of your province or territory and you must have it on you whenever you are driving. Some countries have an agreement with Canada’s provinces and territories that allow you to simply exchange your home country’s driving license for a Canadian one without additional road tests. For example, if you are arriving from one of the following countries, then you are eligible to exchange your license for a Canadian one in Ontario

  • Australia 
  • Austria 
  • Belgium 
  • France 
  • Germany 
  • Ireland 
  • Japan 
  • South Korea 
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United States
  • United Kingdom

This application must be made in person at an Ontario DriveTest centre or the ServiceOntario location at College Park in Toronto. Requirements to complete your application will fully depend on where you are immigrating from, documents you can provide, past driving experience, and the type of license you currently hold. 

What Do You Need To Bring With You?

Firstly, apply for an International Driver’s Permit in your home country before stepping on that departure flight. This can save you time and money when it comes to translating your driving license into English or French. (French is only acceptable in specific provinces and territories.)

Secondly, obtain a copy of your driving history from your home country’s licensing authority. This must either be in English or French. Having this document can help you receive driving experience credits when you are trying to exchange your license.  

Next, familiarize yourself with a province/territory’s road signs and rules of driving, so there are no surprises when you arrive. Also, winter driving can be difficult, so it is sometimes recommended to take driving lessons first. 

Get a copy of the driving guide issued by the department that regulates cars and driving in your province or territory so you can begin studying the full list of laws and rules of the road. These guides are available online, in stores, and at service centres. 

Start The Process When You Arrive

Don’t wait. If your driving license is not eligible for the exchange then you will have to follow the process for getting your driving experience confirmed. Many times this means starting the process of getting your license as if you are a new driver.

Is This Your First Time Getting Your Driver’s License?

If the answer is yes, don’t worry. Most provinces will put you through a Graduated Licensing Program, which is typically comprised of three steps: 

  1. Knowledge Written Exam: This is based on the rules of the road. If you succeed, you will earn a Learner’s Permit and will not be allowed to drive alone yet. However, you can drive if you are accompanied by an experienced driver with a full license. Sometimes an eye test is required. 
  2. Road Test 1: After one year, you are eligible to take the road test for an intermediate permit. 
  3. Road Test 2: After one to two years of driving, you are eligible to take the full license road test. 

However, these steps are approximative since every province and territory in Canada has its own specifications for road tests. Locate the transportation department in your province or territory for more details on driving licenses, exams, and lessons. 

Quick Recap

Getting a full driver’s license in Canada can take years. Therefore, don’t wait to begin the process. Start looking into your options before you arrive in Canada so you can bring over your driving history, translated license, and anything else that may speed up the process. Don’t forget to research your specific province or territory’s regulations for obtaining a driver’s license because driving laws are strictly enforced in Canada. Penalties for breaking these laws can be severe, so make sure you know them! 

For more information, check out Ways to Get a Car in Canada next.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.