One of the first things many newcomers to Canada do upon their arrival is research how to exchange an out of province licence in Ontario. The driver’s licence system in Canada differs by province and territory, so it’s always important to review the requirements for the province in which you will live. In this article, we examine getting licensed in Ontario when you have foreign driving experience.

Driving in Ontario

To legally drive a car in Canada, you’ll need a driver’s licence issued by the government of your province or territory. You must have it with you whenever you’re driving. With it, you can drive anywhere in Canada. If you have just immigrated into Ontario from another country, or you are preparing to do so, it is possible for you to exchange your out of province licence for a full Ontario licence. Your original licence has to be from a country that has an exchange agreement with Canada, and must be higher than a learner’s permit or novice-class. International drivers with a licence from outside of Canada can use their existing licence for up to 60 days while in Ontario.

If you plan on living in Ontario, meaning you will be a permanent resident living in Ontario, you can use a valid licence from another state or country for 60 days. After 60 days, you need to switch to an Ontario driver’s licence.

Who can apply for a foreign licence exchange?

When exchanging your out-of-province licence from another state or country, the exact requirements needed to complete your application will depend on exactly where you are immigrating from, your licence type, documents you can provide, and amount of experience you have. For those who are eligible, you can visit a Drive Test Centre to exchange your out of province licence. According to the province of Ontario, you can switch to an Ontario driver’s licence if you are relocating from:

  • Any Canadian province or territory
  • Canadian Armed Forces
  • United States
  • Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Isle of Man, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, Taiwan

Important: A person relocating from a country that has a reciprocal agreement with Ontario can obtain a driver’s licence for Ontario without having to go through the regular process, which can take more than two years.

What do I need to apply for an Ontario licence?

In order to do this, individuals simply need to provide the following documents/do the following:

  • An original identification showing your legal name, date of birth, signature and proof of residence
  • Original, valid out-of-province/foreign driver’s licence
  • Original supporting documents that show proof of your driving experience
  • Pay the applicable licence fees and take an eye test
  • Fill out an application form (clearly state how long you have been driving internationally)
  • If a licence and ID are in a language other than English or French, individuals must also carry a certified translation

Did you know? More than 100,000 immigrants arrive in Ontario each year, especially in Toronto and the surrounding suburbs. That is almost half of the total number of new Canadians per year, making Ontario the most diverse province in the country!

Where can I exchange an out-of-province licence in Ontario?

To switch your foreign licence to a valid Ontario driver’s licence, you will need to apply in-person at a DriveTest centre or at the ServiceOntario located at Bay and College in downtown Toronto.

When a licence exchange is not possible

You cannot exchange your foreign licence for an Ontario licence if:

  • A driver’s licence from a country that does not have an exchange agreement in place with Ontario (it is not listed in the section above)
  • A learner’s permit or novice-class driver’s licence from another province, state or country
  • A motorcycle class driver’s licence from Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Great Britain, Austria, Belgium, Isle of Man, or Republic of Ireland for a Class M Motorcycle licence, because the exchange agreements mentioned above do not include motorcycle class driver’s licences

Do not fret! You might still be able to fast-track and get credit for previous driving experience, but you will have to check first.

Proof of foreign driving experience

You can self-declare one year of driving experience, by showing a valid, original foreign driver’s licence. If you want to earn credit for more than one year of driving experience, you will also need an official letter from the foreign government or agency that issued your previous driver’s licence, confirming that the licence is authentic. This letter needs to be written in English or French. An official confirmation is an original letter from the original licensing agency (such as the Ministry of Transportation in your country or state), or from the Embassy, Consulate, or High Commissioner’s offices representing the country. The letter must be:

  • Written on official letterhead.
  • Written in English or French: If it is written in another language, you must submit a letter of translation from a qualified translator.
  • Dated: It cannot be more than six months old.

This letter must include information about:

  • The date first licenced
  • Licence expiry date
  • Class of licence
  • That the licence was valid for the relevant period of time for the purposes of exchange and experience

If this information is not included, it may delay the processing of your licence exchange.

What tests do I need to take?

You may need to take certain driving tests before you get a full driver’s licence. It depends on:

  • How long you have been driving
  • If the valid driver’s licence you have was issued in a country, province or state that does have an exchange agreement in place with Ontario

Fully licensed with 2+ years driving experience (with exchange)

You only need to take an eye test when you apply. After you pass this test, you get a full licence.

Less than 2 years driving experience (with exchange)

You need to take:

  • An eye test, when you apply
  • One road test (the G road test)

Note: You will not be able to do the G road test right away. You will need to wait until you gain two full years of driving experience. For example, if you had a licence for 21 months in your home province, state or country, you can do the G road test after three months in Ontario. After you pass the G road test, you will be eligible to get a full licence. While you wait, you can drive with your G2 licence, under certain conditions.

What if I’m visiting the province?

What if you’re simply visiting the province? Well, that will depend on a few things, specifically how long you will be staying for:

Less than 3 months

If you are visiting for less than three months, you are free to use a valid licence from your home province, state or country! With that being said, there are a few rules and obligations that still need to be honoured, such as:

  • You must be at least 16 years of age
  • Have proper insurance coverage for the vehicle you will be driving
  • Carry an exact copy of the vehicle ownership permit
  • Obey the traffic laws of Ontario
  • Drive safely and avoid any collisions

More than 3 months

If you are visiting for more than three months, you will need to acquire an International Driving Permit, or IDP, from your home country. This will grant you access to driving during your visit in Ontario with a valid licence from your home country or province. Keep in mind, this must be done before you come to Ontario, as you cannot apply for one once you arrive.

In both instances, you will need to obey the traffic laws that are enforced within the province of Ontario. Here are some of the laws to keep in mind:

  • Always keep to the right of the road
  • Obey all posted speed limits
  • Do not use your handheld device, such as a cellphone
  • Always slow down and pull to the right if an emergency vehicle is driving behind you with their sirens on. This includes all ambulances, fire trucks and police cars.

If you are visiting and have a disability or medical issue, parking is also something that must be taken into consideration during your stay! If you own an Accessible Parking Permit, number plates or device from where you are visiting from, you can use them during your stay in Ontario! However, if you are in need of a temporary one, you will have to pay a visit to a ServiceOntario centre. When doing so, you will need to bring:

  • Proof that you hold a permit in your home province or country
  • Government-issued identification that shows your date of birth
  • Government document that confirms your disability
  • All other appropriate medical documents

In conclusion

If you have foreign driving experience, the government of Ontario has made it easier for you to get your full licence, no matter where in the world you are immigrating from. Before having friends or family members relocate to Ontario, make sure they do their research. Be sure to look into what exchange or credits you are eligible for, and which documents you will need to provide to complete the application. For help with understanding auto insurance in Ontario, reach out to one of our isure representatives for all your auto policy needs!

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