Getting a driver’s licence in BC is always an exciting moment for new drivers. Today the application process for a British Columbia driver’s licence is quite simple. There are a number of official driver licensing offices in B.C. where you can take the ICBC knowledge test. Many Canadians will discover that they are fully eligible for their B.C. driver’s licence as long as they meet a few basic guidelines.
Teens and inexperienced drivers will be gradually introduced onto the roads through a tiered licensing system. This helps them gain the knowledge and driving experience needed to be competent, confident drivers. There are even online sites that offer examples of questions that will be included in the ICBC knowledge test. Driving schools, training courses and qualified driving instructors are also available to help beginner students learn the rules of the road.
In order to receive a regular B.C. driver’s licence an individual must prove that they have had a minimum of 2 years’ experience behind the wheel of a vehicle. This driving experience must be performed in the capacity of a “non-learner” driver.
B.C. offers separate licences for motorcycle drivers and drivers of commercial vehicles. If you are going to be driving a taxi, bus or truck with 3+ axles then you will need to have either a licence that is listed as Class 1, 2, 3 or 4.
You will need to show two forms of personal identification and your present driver’s licence. Your identification must be valid and show your signature as well as a photo. Before you are issued a BC licence you are also expected to pay any required licensing fees.
Anyone who lacks the necessary driving experience (or cannot prove that they have this driving experience) will need to apply for their British Columbia driving licence through a process that is known as the GLP (graduated licensing program). Once you have completed this process you can also be given credit for your prior driving experience.
If you are a commercial driver and want to receive a British Columbia licence as a commercial driver you will have to contact one of the licensing offices. Commercial licences in some territories (or countries) are not reciprocated by the B.C. government. It may be necessary to take written and road tests to show that you have the requisite knowledge and skills to operate those “big rigs” in British Columbia.
Graduated Licensing Program (L, N and Full Privilege)
British Columbia uses the GLP (graduated licensing program) to create a systematic training program that will be utilized by all B.C. drivers. You can apply for a beginner licence (L) when you reach the age of 16. At this time you must make an appointment to take the ICBC knowledge test and a visual test. Those individuals who are between the ages of 16-19 must also have the written consent of a guardian or parent.
It is advised that drivers study the material in the handbook so that they are prepared for the questions that will be included on the ICBC knowledge test. You can even find an ICBC practice test available online. This will allow you to challenge yourself and discover how knowledgeable you are about traffic signs and road safety practices.
The L driver’s licence designates a beginner (learning) driver. This individual is only to operate a motor vehicle with adult supervision. In order to receive the L driver’s licence you must correctly answer at least 40 of the 50 questions that are listed on the written test. You will also be required to pay a fee for this licence.
An N (novice) driver’s licence may be applied for when the holder of an L licence has completed one year of on the road driver training with a qualified adult instructor. At this time you will be required to make an appointment for the Class 7 road test. After you have successfully passed your road test you will be eligible for an upgrade to the N driver’s licence.
With two years of safe and responsible driving experience to your credit you will be eligible for the Class 5 road test. This is the final step toward receiving a full privilege B.C. driver’s licence. The earliest time you will be eligible to apply for the regular driver’s licence will be 18-24 months after you receive the L licence. The date will be listed on the back of the N licence. When you complete an official BC driver training course it shortens the length of time you must wait to become eligible for a full BC driver’s licence.
*Drivers who want to apply for a full driver’s licence should not have any traffic violations or tickets listed on their driving record. Drivers must also not have been found to be at fault for any accident during the driver training period.
New Residents, Temporary Guests and Full-Time Students
New residents who have just moved to British Columbia will have a 90 day grace period in which to apply for a new B.C. licence.
Temporary visitors who are not planning to reside in B.C. for more than 6 months may not have to apply for a new British Columbia driver’s licence. Some full time students may also be allowed to operate vehicles in B.C. while using their original driving licences.
Any motor vehicle driving record or driving licence that is written in a non-English language must be translated before a BC driving licence will be issued. The translation must be performed by someone who is approved by ICBC. The licensing staff of BC will determine if an International Driving permit is going to be acceptable. There are various fees for these translation and approval services.
*If an individual is granted a new licence from British Columbia any previous driver’s licence must be surrendered to the appropriate B.C. officials.
*Only one driver’s licence may be held by any one person.
Reciprocating licence Facts to Know
British Columbia does offer reciprocal licensing agreements with some countries. If you are relocating to B.C from the US, Austria, Australia, France, UK, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales Guernsey, Jersey, Puerto Rico or the Isle of Man and have a valid driver’s licence then you should be eligible for a reciprocal BC licence.
Time to Retire
When you wish to stop driving in British Columbia you are required to hand over your licence. You can exchange your driver’s licence for a personal British Columbia ID card. This can be done at any of the B.C. licensing offices. An ID card will look quite similar to your former driver’s licence and can be used for formal identification purposes including travels either at home or abroad.