A couple of weeks ago I received the following message from a reader in Canada:

Hello there, I did have an Irish drivers licence a long time ago. I have lived in Quebec Canada for the last 26 years. I will be returning to Ireland in a few years, so my question is do you think I will have to go through the whole process of driving classes etc in order to renew my licence? I have had a perfect driving record in Canada and I do drive in Ireland every summer. Thanking you in advance.

I had been in contact with the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) regarding this topic a while back, and this is the information I received. I'm sure it'll be helpful to others too.

You can renew your Drivers Licence within 10 years of the expiry date of your most recent licence. If this entitlement lapses, you will have to sit a Driver Theory Test and make an application for a Learner Permit as a beginner driver.

In order for us to advise you appropriately, we will require you to confirm your full name and two of the following:

- Driver number
- PPS number
- Date of Birth
Please also confirm if you obtained a driving licence in a foreign country and if so please advise of what country.

If you have any queries in relation to this communication, please contact the NDLS Customer Services Team on +353 (0) 761 087 880 and quote your case reference number, or visit the National Driver Licence Service website www.ndls.ie

Unfortunately for many returning emigrants, the information I received from the NDLS comes as a huge surprise, and really puts a negative outlook on the first few months back in Ireland. You may have been driving decades in another country, and still have to re-sit the tests and take driving lessons (read more on that here). Not exactly the welcome you were hoping to receive, eh?

I sent one more reply back to the lady who asked me this question, as things may actually work in her favour if she moves back to Ireland in the next few years like she had mentioned.

In your case things may be different by the time you return to Ireland. There are existing agreements in place for a license exchange with some Canadian provinces, and according to this news report in the Irish Times they are hoping to have agreements in place with the other Canadian provinces "in the near future".


Further information:

- NDLS information and application forms for exchanging a foreign license.

- Currently 12 learner driver lessons in Ireland will cost you approximately €300 to €400 (examples I found in Cork €299, Dublin €400, Donegal €370 - shop around!)

- You will need to familiarize yourself with the Irish rules of the road. Probably the sooner the better, if you plan to be back on the road as soon as possible. (You can download the 260+ page handbook in PDF format on that site, or buy a hard copy in Irish bookshops, or on Amazon.com here)