New to Canada: Getting Your Licence | Onlia

New to Canada: Getting Your Licence

Find out what you need to do to get your licence as a newcomer to Canada.

by Team Onlia

New to Canada? Welcome! Bienvenue! 

Living in a new country can be overwhelming, and one of the first things you’ll need to master is transportation. You may already be driving using your foreign licence, but if you plan on staying for an extended period of time you may have some questions:  

  • How long can I drive with my foreign driver’s licence? 

  • Can I exchange my foreign licence for an Ontario licence?

  • What steps do I take to acquire an Ontario driver’s licence based on my situation?

We get it, it's a lot. But worry not, we’ve got you covered. Keep on reading for everything you need to know about getting your licence in Canada.  

 

How long can I drive with my foreign driver’s licence?

In Ontario, you can drive using your foreign driver’s licence for 60 days. 

The Government of Canada recommends you ask the licencing authority in your home country for an International Driving Permit (IDP). This document gives you a translation of your licence into English or French. 

 

Can I exchange my foreign licence for an Ontario licence?

In Canada, rules of the road and driver’s licences are administered at the provincial level. If you want to drive, you need a driver’s licence issued by your province or territory. 

If you’re immigrating from one of these countries, you may exchange your foreign licence for an official Ontario licence. 

Exchange eligibility also depends on your driving experience. Even if you’re relocating from one of the countries above you cannot exchange your licence if: 

  • You have a learner’s permit or novice-class driver’s licence

  • You have a motorcycle licence from Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Great Britain, Austria, Belgium, Isle of Man, or the Republic of Ireland

There are different processes to follow depending on the country your driver’s licence is from and the amount of driving experience you have. 

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What steps do I take to acquire an Ontario driver’s licence?

Ontario has a graduated licencing system. This means that new drivers pass different “grades” or “stages” (G1 and G2) before acquiring a full licence (a G licence).

It’s designed this way so that new drivers can obtain as much experience as possible before becoming fully licenced. 

Nevertheless, the system recognizes that drivers who are new to Canada likely have driving experience already. As such, they’ve designed processes that take this experience into account, even if the applicant is not from a country with an exchange agreement in place. 

Regardless of whether your licence can be exchanged, everyone must go through the following steps:

 

  • Take an eye test

  • Bring original forms of accepted I.D.

  • Bring your foreign driver’s licence

  • Bring any original supporting documents that show proof of your driving experience in English or French

  • Pay the applicable fees

  • Fill out an application form 

Once you’ve done this, the tests you take depend on your personal circumstances. We’ve outlined some of the most common situations and their requirements below.

   
Category Requirements

Fully licenced with 2+ years driving experience

AND

Your licence is from a country with an exchange agreement in place

  • Eye exam

Less than 2 years driving experience 

AND

Your licence is from a country with an exchange agreement in place


  • Eye exam
  • G2 road test which must be taken after you have 2 cumulative* years of driving experience 
 

*Will count experience in your country of origin and Canada

2+ years of driving experience

AND

Your licence is from a country without an exchange agreement in place
  • Eye test
  • Written test about the rules of the road and traffic signs
  • G2 road test (can book the test immediately)

Under 2 years of driving experience 

AND

Your licence is from a country without an exchange agreement in place

  • Eye test
  • Written test about the rules of the road and traffic signs
  • G1 & G2 road test
  • You can book your G1 road test immediately after your written exam and eye test
  • Need 1 full year of driving experience to book the G2 road test

 

This process can be tedious, especially if you have experience driving in your country of origin. But road rules vary from country to country, and even between provinces, so it’s never a bad idea to have a little extra practice before venturing out on your own. Once you get the wheels rolling, it’ll be no time before you’re fully licenced to drive in Ontario!

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