How to get a Driving License in Canada as a New Immigrant

How to get a Driving License in Canada as a New Immigrant

To enjoy Canada to the fullest, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how you will get around. Depending on where you’re from, you may or may not be allowed to start driving right away.

Each province has different rules surrounding driving with a foreign license, so you’ll want to pay close attention.

In this post, we’ve answered your top questions for how to legally drive a car in Canada as a newcomer. For brevity, we’ve focused on the six most popular provinces for immigrants in 2020: Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

Can you apply an international driving license in Canada?

Your first question is most likely “can I drive on my foreign license in Canada?” and the answer depends on a few factors.

If you’re from one of the following countries and can prove you’ve driven alone for two years, then you’re eligible for an equal trade car license in all six popular provinces (unless stated otherwise). This means you won't have to take the knowledge nor road test and exchanging your current license is a fairly easy one.

These countries are:

  • Austria
  • Australia (except Quebec)
  • Belgium (except B.C or Manitoba)
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland (except Quebec)
  • Isle of Man
  • Japan (except Manitoba)
  • Netherlands (some exceptions within the country and not valid in Ontario and Manitoba )
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Switzerland
  • USA
  • United Kingdom

If your license is from one of these countries, you’re in luck. If your license is not, you can still get a local license, however, the process will be a longer one for you.

Note: Whether your license is from one of the eligible countries or not, it’s often a good idea to get a driving license extract (or DL extract) from your country’s license issuing authority as proof of your driving history and to validate your current license.

If you’re from an eligible country and have an eligible license, but are a student or don’t plan to take up residency in the province you’re traveling, then you’ll want to get familiar with the concept of an International Driving Permit, or IDP.

We’ll talk about IDP next: what it is and how to get one.

International Driving Permit

An IDP is a document that, along with your foreign license, allows you to drive in other countries for purposes of tourism. Not every country accepts an IDP, but Canada does. An IDP also translates your license into English and French, so it’s a good idea to get one if your license isn’t yet in English or French.

Generally if you’re a student from an eligible country, you don’t have to trade in your foreign license for the province’s license. You’ll be allowed to drive on your foreign license for as long as your study permit is active. Some provinces, like Alberta, require you to have a copy of your classes with you when you drive, so double check your province for local rules.

It is best practice to get your IDP before you leave the country where your license was issued and keep in mind that it generally lasts one year from the date it’s issued (unless your current driving license expires first).

Canadian License Requirements by Province

For the most part, when you move to a new province you can drive with your international license (if it’s a valid, full license) for the first 90 days unless otherwise specified. However, if you plan to take up residency in a specific province, you’ll want to look into exchanging your license as soon as possible.

Now we’ll cover some important things to know for each of the six provinces:

Ontario

Unlike most of the other provinces, you can only drive with a foreign license for the first 60 days while you settle down in Ontario. This is if you plan to become a resident.

The license types in Ontario are different from the types available in other provinces. Here’s a few of them you may want to be familiar with:

Class G: Allows you to drive any car, van, or small truck Class G1: Restricted license and must be accompanied by an experienced driver. Level one of graduating licensing Glass G2: Restricted license but you do not have to be accompanied. Level two of graduating licensing. Class M: Allows you to drive any motor vehicle, including a motorcycle. Class M1: First level of graduated licensing to drive a motor vehicle. Class M2: Second level of graduated licensing to drive a motor vehicle. Less restrictions than Class M1.

If your current full license is from an eligible country, you are allowed to exchange your license for an Ontario license at an Ontario Drivetest centre. There are two additional countries that are eligible for an equal trade:

  • Korea
  • New Zealand

If you are eligible, you still need to complete an eye exam to complete the exchange and bring the following:

Original ID that shows your legal name, date of birth and signature (passport, PR card) Your eligible international licence to turn in Proof of your driving experience (DL extract with proof you’ve paid for it) Applicable fees Application form

If your license is not from an eligible country, you will also have to take a written test and a road test. If you have less than two years of experience driving, you will have to take the G1 road test and wait until you have accumulated two years to take the G2 road test.

Mini FAQ for Ontario

What are the costs & fees?

  • Driving license fee: $90
  • G Road test: $89.25
  • G1 Test: $158.25 (covers road and written test for G2 license)
  • Knowledge test retakes: $15.75
  • Ontario’s Official Driver Handbook: $14.95 plus tax

What are best practices when looking for a driving school or course?

When looking to learn how to drive better in Ontario, look for schools that offer the following: -"MTO (or ministry)-approved beginner driver education courses" . Start your search on the MTO website.

Alberta

Alberta has similar license types to other provinces and here are some of the more popular ones to know:

Class 4: Commercial (taxi, ambulance) Class 5: Full driver license for cars Class 5-GDL: “Graduated Driver’s License” This is a more restricted version of the Class 5 license and it’s for those with under two years of driving experience Class 6: Motorcycle Class 7: Learner’s license for cars

If you hold a license from an eligible country, you can trade in your license for an Alberta license by bringing the following:

  • proof that you live in Alberta
  • proof of residence in Canada
  • your current license to hand in
  • Proof that you have two years of driving experience (i.e., DL extract with proof you’ve paid for it)

If you can’t prove two years of driving experience, you will get a class 5-GDL until you can prove the two years.

If your license is not from an eligible country, you have to pass the knowledge test which will give you a Class 7 learner’s license.Then the next step would be to take a road test to get a Class 5 license.

Mini FAQ for Alberta

What are the costs & fees?

  • Foreign exchange: $93
  • All knowledge tests: $17 each time
  • 5 year driving license: $93
  • Class 5 road test: $83
  • Class 5 road test advanced: $138

What are best practices when looking for a driving school or course?

To connect with driver schools in the area: call 780-427-8230 or email trans.driver.prog@gov.ab.ca

British Columbia

British Columbia

If you have a license from one of the countries mentioned above, you may exchange your current license for a B.C. driving license right away. The following two countries are also eligible:

  • Guernsey
  • Jersey
  • New Zealand

If you’re from an eligible country, the necessary ID to bring includes:

  • Proof of driving experience (i.e., driving license extract from license issuing authority in your country with proof you’ve paid for it)
  • Your current foreign license
  • Applicable fees
  • Primary ID (such as permanent resident card, work/study/visitor permit, etc.)
  • Secondary ID (birth certificate, passport, school id, etc.)

Keep in mind that you will have to answer some basic questions about road safety to complete the exchange successfully.

If you can’t prove two years of driving experience, you’ll obtain a Class 7 novice license instead of the full Class 5. This is temporary until you can prove two years of driving experience.

If the license you have is from an ineligible country, you’ll need to pass both the written and road test all over again plus provide the above documentation as well.

Mini FAQ for B.C.

  • What are the costs & fees?
  • 5 year driving license: $75
  • Knowledge test: $15 each time
  • Class 7 learners license: $10
  • First 2-year licence (for non-learner drivers moving to B.C.): $31

What are best practices when looking for a driving school or course?

When looking to learn, make sure the school you choose is licensed by ICBC and verify that your specific instructor has a professional driver training instructor license. Start your search on the driver training industry of B.C. page.

Quebec

Quebec

You can use your foreign license for the first six months after arrival to Quebec. If you become a resident you must then get a driving license issued by Quebec.

Some of the more important license types to know are:

  • Class 5: Standard automobile driving license.
  • Class 6a, 6b, 6c: Motorcycles
  • Class 6d: Mopeds and scooters
  • Class 6e: 3 wheel motorcycles

Holders from the eligible countries mentioned above must provide these documents to exchange their current license with one issued by Quebec:

Foreign driver's licence (equivalent to class 5) Proof of Canadian citizenship Proof of residency in Québec Proof of residency in your issued license' country Proof of driving experience ((i.e., DL extract with proof you’ve paid for it))

Unfortunately, if your country is not listed above you will still have to bring the same documents plus take the knowledge test and road test.

If you don’t have two years of driving experience, you will need to get a probationary license.

For exact steps based on your situation, give the following number a call: Montréal area: 514-954-7771 Elsewhere in Québec: 1-888-356-6616

Mini FAQ for Quebec

What are the costs & fees? Knowledge test: $11.60 Road tests for car: $29.00 To exchange license: $20.50

What are best practices when looking for a driving school or course? It’s best to visit several driving schools before choosing one because driving courses are a big deal in Quebec. Make sure the schools you consider are a member of the Driving Schools Association of Québec.

Manitoba

Manitoba

If you hold a full driving license from any of the countries mentioned above, you can trade in your former license for a new Manitoba driving license without needing to take a written nor road test.

If your license is not from one of the eligible countries, you will have to take both the written and road test.

Mini FAQ for Manitoba

What are the costs & fees? First license fee: $20 Road test: $30 Annual license fee: $65 Knowledge test: $10

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan

In addition to the countries listed above, residents from the following two countries can also make an equal trade for a car license issued by Saskatchewan:

  • Jersey
  • New Zealand

If you can’t prove that you’ve been driving for two full years, you will be placed at a suitable stage of the Graduated Driver License program (GDL).

Unfortunately, if your country is not listed above, then you are pretty much considered a new driver and must do the following:

  • Pass written tests
  • Drive as a learner for nine months
  • Finish twelve hours of certified driving training
  • Pass road test

If your country is not listed above AND you can’t prove two years of driving experience, you will also have to complete all 6 steps of the Graduated Driver License program (GDL).

Mini FAQ for Saskatchewan

What are the costs & fees? Written exam: $25 Class 5 driving license road test: $55 Other considerations when driving in Canada

Make sure you look into insurance as it’s illegal to drive a car where you’re not insured. Also keep in mind that we have very intense winters and that means snowy roads. Even if you feel confident with your driving ability and are eligible to easily trade in your license, you’ll want to ensure you are ready for our roads.

Finals words about driving legally in Canada

Once you’re good to drive, you’ll be happy you invested the time to get familiar with your province’s rules. Remember that the rules are in place to ensure your safety on our often snowy roads.