Are old-style paper driving licences no longer valid?

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Car Clinic: are paper driving licences no longer legal?

Q. My husband and I still hold our original paper driving licences and have never been asked by the DVLA to change them for the plastic photocard licences. However, when trying to use them as ID we have been told on several occasions that they “are no longer legal”. Is this true? Is the DVLA now going to require us to switch to the photocards? LB, Manchester

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A. The trouble you have encountered while trying to use your paper driving licences as ID may have arisen because the paper counterpart to all photocard driving licences was abolished early last month (except in Northern Ireland). But drivers with old-style paper licences — of whom there are more than 7m — can continue to use them and will not have to change to a photocard unless their details change or the licence expires, which is usually the day before the holder’s 70th birthday.

Changes in how driving endorsements are recorded will affect you, however. These are now held electronically rather than recorded on the licence — or on the paper counterpart in the case of photocards — and can be viewed at

There have been teething troubles since the change with hiring or test-driving cars, because companies usually want to check the counterpart/paper licence for any endorsements or bans. Now drivers wanting to hire a car have to show their record electronically.

One method of doing this, which is being used by Europcar among other companies, is for you to click on the Share Your Licence tab on the government website mentioned above, after entering your driving licence number, national insurance number and postcode. The site then generates a passcode valid for one use within 72 hours. Give this to the hire company and it will be able to check your driving record.

Alternatively you can call the DVLA on 0300 790 6801 and leave permission for your record to be checked verbally by a nominated person or organisation.

Whether your paper licence will continue to be accepted as proof of identity will depend on the requirements of the organisation in question. Some government departments and banks still accept the paper licence, but in other cases you may be asked to provide a form of photo ID as well. ES


Sunday Times Driving Car Clinic: Emma Smith, consumer advice

Emma Smith is a journalist specialising in consumer issues and is a regular Driving contributor – read more from Emma here.

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