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Getting Your Driver’s License as an Immigrant in Canada

Getting your driver’s license as an immigrant in Canada should be a priority when you arrive in the country. Canada is 9,976,140 km2 and while public transit is available in larger cities it is not extensive in all communities. In some cases, a car is the fastest way to get from one place to another and having your driver’s license can make it easier for you to run errands or to get to work or school. In Canada, you need a provincial or territorial driver’s license to operate a scooter, motorcycle, car, or truck.

The license you get in your province will allow you to drive all over Canada. If you are an immigrant to Canada and wish to get a driver’s license, there are a few things you will want to do:

1) Take a look at your current driver’s license

Depending on which province or territory you settle in, you can generally use your home country’s valid license for 30 to 90 days. Review the laws of the province or territory where you will live to find out for sure. You may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your country of origin to ensure your license is properly translated for Canadian authorities.

2) Start the process of getting your full license as soon as you arrive

Some provinces and territories have reciprocal agreements with countries. Ontario, for example, has agreements with the United States, Australia, France and Korea, so if you have a valid license from one of these countries you can get a license in Ontario without undergoing additional testing. If you don’t have a license from such a country or if your province or territory does not have any agreement with your home country, you will have to follow the process for getting your driving experience confirmed. In some cases, you may need to start the process of getting your license as though you were a new driver.

3) Understand you need more than a driver’s license to drive in Canada

You need to be able to follow the rules of the road. You also need car insurance, which covers the costs or car repair and other costs if you are ever in a car accident. Insurance companies can offer you car insurance in exchange for monthly fees called premiums. In addition to a valid license and insurance, your car will require registration and your vehicle must meet the standards and rules of the road.

4) Get ready for winter driving

Driving in Canada means you must be ready to drive in winter. This means you need to get your car ready for winter with antifreeze and winter tires and you must know what to do if you encounter ice. You must be prepared to drive more slowly and to leave more space in front of you in case your vehicle skids. If you live in a rural area, you may also want to consider studded tires or ice chains to give your car more traction. It is a good idea to visit a driving instruction class for winter driving practice if you have never driven in ice and snow before so you can learn how to maintain control of your car and how to maintain visibility.

5) Start the process of getting your license if you don’t currently drive

If you do not have a driver’s license in your home country and arrive in Canada without a license, you may want to start the process of getting a license, which will be the same for you as for any new driver in Canada. To get a license, you will generally need to follow graduated licensing rules. This means you will first take a written test to get a permit, which allows you to drive with restrictions. Your province may require you to take a specific number of driver’s lessons and after that you may need to take one or two road tests to get a full license.

Are You Considering Moving to Canada?

If you are considering getting a Canadian driver’s license because you are thinking about immigrating, Immigration Direct has resources to help you apply for a work permit or permanent residency. We also have useful, free resources to help you get the facts about immigration.


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