Expat Diary- Applying for an Ontario Drivers License

It’s Been a Long Road to Get Here

So you’re thinking of moving to Canada? I’m going to let you in on a little secret… Being an expat in Canada requires one to obtain a Canadian drivers license (unless you are from an exempt country – which we are not). So yes, after 13 years of having a South African drivers license, we had to start from scratch.

Going on our first epic Canadian road trip wasn’t as simple as plotting a route and hiring a car. In order to embark on the aforementioned adventure, we had to study up, do the written learners test, go for lessons (to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road) and then do an actual full road test.

But now the road trip was booked and paid for thus we soldiered forth. I had little concern as between us we have 26 years of full-time driving experience. How hard could it be? Well, after three very wild months of attempting to unlearn bad driving habits, a few weeks of untold stress, a pinch of denial and 1 failed driving test later. We got our licenses and embarked on our road trip.

As an Expat: How to get an Ontario Drivers License

For expats and immigrants obtaining an Ontario Drivers License is a 3 phase process. Starting with a G1 written multiple choice test on the basic rules of the road, on passing this you qualify to book for the G2 road exam. G2 is a 20-minute road test, testing your key driving and parking skills. On passing G2 you qualify to book for the final road test – G. The G road exam is a 30-minute road test that assesses the same skills covered in the G2 plus highway driving.

Exemptions

Certain countries and provinces including (USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, Taiwan) have a license exchange agreement with Canada that allows you to obtain an Ontario drivers license without going through the test process. All you have to do is take your current license, a proof of ID and a letter of authentication, issued in the last 6 months, detailing the status of your license and length of driving experience. Armed with those documents head to your nearest DriveTest centre, have an eye test, fill out a bit more paperwork and boom, bang a few weeks later your Ontario license is mailed to you.

But for the rest of us…

Ontario drivers license_Algonquin

Step 1:

Apply and bring a driving declaration letter with you from your home country/ province. A driving declaration is an official document from your Ministry of Transportation or embassy detailing your license status and driving experience – it must not be older than 6 months.

Having this document will allow you to skip the G2 level thus speeding up the process and going straight to the final G road test.

Step 2:

Study up for the written test. MTO Drivers Handbook is available at Canadian bookstores, Drugmart or online. 

Once ready take your proof of ID, current drivers license (written in English or French, otherwise a translation must be provided from a qualified translator) and valid declaration letter to a DriveTest station. No appointment is required, simply arrive with all the documentation. You will be required to do an eye exam, pay the fee and write the G1 test right there and then.

The G1 driving permit is valid for a year and allows you to drive whilst accompanied by a fully licensed driver.

Step 3:

With 12 months or more prior driving experience from your home country, you can simply skip over the G2 exam and book the G road test. Provided you submitted your driving declaration letter. Then brush up on your driving skills, take lessons if needed and try to quash bad driving habits.

The G2 license is a valid driving license for 5 years with minimal restrictions. This license permits you to drive a vehicle unaccompanied on all roads and highways. Giving you the opportunity to really practise and hone your driving skills. There are a few conditions that apply with this license, mainly having a blood-alcohol level of zero whilst driving.

Book either the G2 or G road test at drivetest.ca

Step 4:

Final examination time. The G road test evaluates your basic driving and parking skills as well as highway driving. Once you have passed your G road test you will be a fully licensed driver.

Be warned, if you qualified to skip over the G2 test but fail the final G road exam you have to go back and take the G2 test and then the G again.

Recommendations:

  • If you are only in the country for 60 days or less you do not need to obtain a local license. You can hire a car and drive on your home country license as you qualify as a tourist.
  • Start the process as soon as you arrive. This will allow you to hire and drive a car for the 60 days window period.
  • Visit Settlement.org for a more detailed breakdown of the process or the DriveTest Ontario website
  • We did lessons with Darren at Golan driving school. He charges per lessons unlike many of the other drive schools which only sell lessons in packages of 10.

Tracey Pictor

Tracey is a South African expat living, travelling and working her way around the world with my dear husband and cat.

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