Getting a driving licence in Ireland

By Jacqueline Russe / November 26, 2019
Getting a driving licence in Ireland, woman driving car

Getting a driving licence in Ireland can be a long and slightly complicated process if you don’t know how the application procedure works. Before you can have a driving licence, you first need to get a learner permit. You are allowed to drive with a learner permit, but there are some restrictions. If you have a driving licence from an EU/EEA member state, you can drive in Ireland for up to one year, then you need to obtain an Irish one. If you have a driving licence from a country that is not recognised for driving licence exchange, then you have to go through the full driver licensing procedure to get an Irish  licence. 

Getting a learner permit

You must have a valid driver theory test certificate to get your first learner permit. You can take the driver theory test at any one of the test centres of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) all over Ireland. If your learner permit expired more than 5 years ago, you must pass the theory test again.

You must also have done the essential driver training (EDT) with 12 one-hour lessons together with an approved driving instructor. However, if you already had a driving licence before (e.g. from another country) you only need to take six essential EDT lessons instead of the usual 12.

Your progress is recorded in a special logbook. When you take your driving test, you may have to show your completed logbook to the examiner. A list of RSA-approved driving instructors is available on their website. You cannot take a driving test until you have had your first learner permit for at least six months.

Rates

Learner permits for cars and work vehicles are normally valid for two years and cost €35. If you are 70 years or older, you can get your learner permit for free. Any required eyesight tests or medical examinations are not free of charge.

How to apply for a learner permit

You have to apply in person at one of the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) centres for your first learner permit. If you want to renew it, you may be able to do it online. You need to fill out the learner permit application form (pdf). There are guidance notes (pdf) to help you with this form. You can also get the form and notes from NDLS centres, driving test centres, driving theory test centres and Garda stations.
You must bring your completed application form and the following documentation with you:

  • Your driver theory test certificate
  • Proof of Identity (see “Proof of Identity” below)
  • A Driving Licence Eyesight Report Form
  • A Driving Licence Medical Report Form (if required)
  • The appropriate fee
Rules and restrictions

All learner permit holders, with the exception of those who hold learner permits in category W, must display ‘L’ plates while they are driving. The letter ‘L’ should be at least 15cm high and appear as red on a white background, in a clearly visible position on the front and rear of the vehicle.

The ‘L’ plates of motorcyclists in the AM, A, A1 and A2 classes must be displayed on a yellow fluorescent tabard worn over the person’s clothing. The letter L should be at least 15cm high and appear as red on a white background and in a clearly visible position to the front and back of the person’s body.

All learner permit holders, except those who hold a learner permit in the categories AM to A2 must be accompanied by a qualified driver at all times while driving. A qualified driver is one who has held a full licence for a continuous period of two years in the vehicle category driven by the learner driver.

A person holding a category W learner permit is not allowed to carry passengers unless the vehicle is constructed to carry a passenger and the passenger is a qualified driver.

Getting a driving licence

When you pass the driving test, you can apply for a driving licence in the category of the vehicle you were tested in. To apply for a driving licence, you must be normally resident in Ireland. You are considered to be normally resident in Ireland if you live here for at least 185 days in each calendar year. 

When you apply for a driving licence, you have to visit an NDLS centre where your photo and signature are digitally recorded. You have to bring additional documentation to confirm your identity. If you have a learner permit or Irish driving licence, you need to bring evidence of your PPS Number and proof of address. If you do not have a learner permit or an Irish driving licence, you need to bring all additional documents needed to prove your identity.

Rates

You are entitled to apply for a driving licence if you have passed the driving test for that category of vehicle within the previous two years. If the certificate you were issued for passing the test is over two years old, you will have to pass the driving test again.

The cost of driving licences is:How to get a driving license in Ireland, man driving car

  • Ten-year driving licence – €55
  • Five-year bus or truck driving licence – €55
  • Three-year driving licence – €35
  • One-year driving licence (medical grounds) – €25

Adding a new category to your licence costs €35. Motorists over the age of 70 get their licence for free. Any required eyesight tests or medical examinations are not free of charge.

How to apply

You apply for a driving licence using the driving licence application form (D401) which is available in NDLS centres, driving test centres, driving theory test centres and Garda stations. You can also download the driving licence application form (pdf) as well as guidance notes (pdf).
You must bring your completed application form and the following documentation when applying for or renewing your driving licence:

  • Your current or most recently issued learner permit. If your learner permit has been lost or stolen, the application form must be signed and stamped by a Garda in your local Garda Station
  • Your current driving licence (if adding a category to the driving licence)
  • A Driving Licence Medical Report Form (if required)
  • A Driving Licence Eyesight Report Form (if required) 
  • A Certificate of Competency (issued after completing practical driving test)
  • The appropriate fee
  • Documentation to prove your identity 
Proof of identity

Since 9 April 2018, you can use your Public Services Card (PSC) as proof of identity. The name and address on your learner permit or driving licence application must match the name and address on your PSC, if you want to use your PSC as photographic ID and proof of address. If you are a citizen of an EU/EEA member state or Switzerland, you can also use the PSC as proof of your residency entitlement, otherwise you must provide a document from the ‘proof of your residency entitlement’ list below. If you don’t have a PSC, you need one document from each of the four sections below (some documents may apply to more than one category):

  • Photographic ID
    • Irish passport
    • Irish driving licence or learner permit
    • Current passport for all non-Irish citizens
    • Current national identity card for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens
    • Irish certificate of naturalisation
    • Current UK (photo) driving licence
  • Proof of your residency entitlement
    • Irish or UK birth certificate or adoption certificate
    • Foreign birth registration
    • Irish passport
    • Current passport for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens
    • Current national identity card for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens
    • Irish certificate of naturalisation
    • Current Certificate of Registration (Irish Residence Permit – previously GNIB card) for non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens
  • Evidence of your PPS Number
    • Public Services Card or Social Services Card
    • Correspondence from Revenue or Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection showing PPSN
    • P21, tax assessment or notice of tax credits
    • Receipt of social welfare payment
    • Medical card, Drug Payment Scheme (DPS) card, European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
    • Payslip, P60 or P45
  • Proof of address (see note below)
    • Utility bill from your provider of electricity, phone, gas, cable television or broadband.
    • Correspondence with an insurance company regarding an active policy.
    • Statement from your bank, building society or credit union.
    • Letter from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection or Revenue
    • Other official correspondence from an Irish State agency

Note: Proof of address documents can be no more than six months old at the date of application. Mobile phone bills and statements from store cards/catalogue companies are not accepted.

Category Vehicle type Minimum age
AM Mopeds and light quadricycles 16 years
A1 Motorcycles with an engine capacity not exceeding 125 cubic centimetres, with a power of 11kW or less and with a maximum power/weight ratio of 0.1 kW/kg. Motor tricycles with a power rating not exceeding 15kW. 16 years
A2 Motorcycles with a power rating not exceeding 35 kW, with a maximum power/weight ratio of 0.2 kW/kg and not derived from a vehicle of more than double its power. 18 years
A Motorcycles and Motor tricycles 17 years
B Vehicles with a maximum weight of 3,500kg, designed and constructed for the carriage of no more than eight passengers in addition to the driver.
The vehicle may tow a trailer (a) where the maximum weight of the trailer fully loaded is not greater than 750kg or (b) where the maximum weight of the trailer exceeds 750kg the combined weight of the towing vehicle and the trailer is not greater than 3,500kg.
Quadricycles (other than those covered by AM) are also covered by this category.
17 years
BE Combination of vehicles in category B and trailer of 3,500kg maximum weight. 17 years
W Work vehicles and land tractors with or without a trailer. 16 years
C Goods vehicles having a maximum weight exceeding 3,500kg, designed for the carriage of no more than eight passengers in addition to the driver and where the weight of the trailer is not greater than 750kg. 21 years or 18 with CPC*
CE Combination of vehicles in category C and a trailer with a maximum weight greater than 750kg. 21 years or 18 with CPC*
C1 Vehicles in category C having a maximum weight not exceeding 7,500kg, designed for the carriage of no more than eight passengers in addition to the driver and where the weight of the trailer is not greater than 750kg. 18 years
C1E Combination of vehicles in category C1 and where the combined weight of vehicle and trailer is not more than 12,000kg.
Combination of vehicles in category B with trailer with a weight of over 3,500kg and where the combined weight of vehicle and trailer is not more than 12,000kg.
18 years
D Vehicles designed for the carriage of more than eight passengers in addition to the driver and where the maximum weight of the trailer is not greater than 750kg. 24 years or 21 with CPC*
DE Combination of vehicles in category D and trailer where the maximum weight of the trailer is not greater than 750kg. 24 years or 21 with CPC*
D1 Vehicles in category D designed and constructed for the carriage of not more than sixteen passengers in addition to the driver with a maximum length not exceeding 8 metres. 21 years
D1E Combination of vehicles in category D1 and trailer where the maximum weight of the trailer is greater than 750kg. 21 years
*CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence):

When you want to have a learner permit or a driving licence in categories C, CE under 21 years or for D, DE under 24 years then you must complete CPC even when you do not wish to drive professionally.

Therefore, an application for a learner permit must be supported with a driver theory test certificate in the vehicle category and a two-hour case study theory test.

An application for a driving licence must be supported with the standard 90-minute driving test certificate of competency and a 30-minute practical test.

If you want to keep your CPC, you must:

  • Attend one 7 hour Driver CPC Training module per year with an RSA approved CPC Training organisation (35 hours over 5 years)
  • Attend a total of 42 hours of Driver CPC Training modules if you hold bus and truck Driver CPC and wish to maintain both (over 5 years)
About the author

Jacqueline Russe

Jacqueline is a German journalist and editor for Babylon Radio who likes comics, manga and video games. She is a state-certified translator for both English and German, currently working on her Bachelor's in Technical Translation.

Leave a comment: