Counterpart driving licence changes — what you need to know

Read this if you plan to hire a car in the UK or abroad

Changes to the counterpart driving licence

LET’S FACE it, the UK’s two part driving licence – a photocard and paper counterpart, which shows your endorsements – was never the most elegant solution. Since its introduction in 1998 the photocard part has proved useful, as it tucks neatly into your wallet, doesn’t crumple and clearly identifies you as the driver in question.

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However, anyone with the two-part licence (you didn’t need to replace your former photo-less paper licence unless it had expired or you changed your name/address) who has ever found themselves frantically checking through piles of paperwork to find their counterpart  will appreciate how frustrating it can be to need that second, important bit of paper.

The counterpart is sometimes needed – before hiring a car or after a speeding offence, for example – as it displays driving licence details that cannot be included on the photocard, such as some vehicle categories you are entitled to drive and any endorsements/penalty points.

The good news is that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has seen sense and, as part of its three-year “Strategic Plan” to remove red tape, the counterpart is being killed off. This is what you need to know about the changes.

N.b the changes do not affect photocard licences issued by DVA in Northern Ireland.

Additional reporting by Dominic Tobin

What is happening and when?

It is being abolished from June 8, 2015. After that date, your paper counterpart will no longer have any legal status. Endorsements will no longer be recorded on any counterpart licences; instead they will be held on an online database administered by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).


What will driving licences issued after the changes look like?

It will be a simple photocard-only licence.


What if I never upgraded to the two-part photocard licence?

If you’re still using a pre-1998 paper driving licence, do not destroy it as it will remain valid. Should you need to update your name or address, or renew your licence, you will be issued with a new photocard-only licence.


What should I do with my paper counterpart after the changes?

This is no longer needed. The government advice is to destroy it, although there is nothing to stop you keeping it. You still need to keep your current photocard driving licence.


Don’t I need a paper record of my convictions still?

No, the DVLA has gone digital, meaning all our convictions are stored in its computer system.

If you commit an offence after June 8, 2015, you will still have to pay any fines imposed and submit your licence to the court but they will only return the photocard to you. If you have an old paper (non-photocard) licence, the court send it back without having written on it – the offence will simply be marked on the central computer record instead.


How can I check my driving licence details and convictions?

Go to the DVLA’s View Driving Licence service. It’s free to access but you’ll need your driving licence number, National Insurance number and the postcode on your driving licence.


How will car hire firms in the UK be able to check my convictions?

At the moment, customers usually have to present their photocard and paper counterpart or old-style paper licence. From June 8, 2015 your photocard driving licence or old paper licence won’t provide an accurate account of any driving endorsements you may have.

The hire car industry will make the process far more complicated than it needs to be because rental firms have selected one of five different ways to check drivers’ details.

You will still need to present your licence but the rental company may require further information, so contact it in advance to find out which of the following five methods it is using to verify customers.

  1. The government’s checking site includes a Share Driving Licence service – click on the “Share your licence information” tab to find it. This will create a code that can be used by the hire car company to check your endorsements. The code is valid only for 72 hours, at which point another one will need to be created. Europcar is among the firms that will require the code.
  2. Motorists will also be able to download a printable PDF containing their driving history, which you can show at the rental desk. Hertz is among the companies accepting this method, as long as it has been printed less than 31 days before the hire date.
  3. Only the photocard or old paper licence will be checked, so you will need to check that any motoring convictions don’t breach the terms and conditions. Avis and Budget are operating this system.
  4. You will need to provide your licence and a second form of ID such as a passport. This is common abroad (see below).
  5. You must present your licence and sign a self-declaration form listing any penalty points you have. It is not known if any firms have opted to do this.


Does the one-time use code expire?

Yes, it lasts for 72 hours so make sure you factor this in if you’re travelling abroad and don’t plan on picking up your hire car straight away. You will need to generate the code at your hotel or holiday apartment up to three days before collecting the car.


Will I really need to go through this if I’m renting a car abroad?

Some foreign rental desks ask for the counterpart licence at the moment but most will continue to be satisfied with seeing your photocard and passport. However, it’s worth being on the safe side by printing out the summary from the licence-checking site and taking it with you. There’s no harm in bringing the defunct counterpart either.


What if I’m at the rental desk without my details and don’t have access to the internet?

You can call DVLA and give permission for your driving record to be checked verbally by a nominated person/organisation – you may have had to go through this process already if you forgot to take your counterpart with you when hiring a car.

  • DVLA telephone number: 0300 790 6801
  • DVLA textphone number: 18001 0300 123 1278

You can also fax the DVLA for driving licence details using these numbers:

  • DVLA fax number: 0300 123 0784
  • DVLA fax from outside the UK: +44 (0)1792 786 369

Please note, the DVLA is only available on these numbers from Monday to Friday, 8am to 7pm and Saturday, 8am to 2pm.


Can I email the DVLA?

Yes, do so here.


Can I contact the DVLA by post instead?

Yes, you can also do it by post: send a request form or a letter with your full name and address, your driver licence number (or your date of birth if you don’t know your driver number) and a cheque or postal order for £5 payable to ‘DVLA, Swansea’ (this is required) to:

Driver Licence Validation Service
SA99 1AJ


What do I do if my employer asks for my licence details for a company car?

Generate a licence checking code (as above) for them.


What do I do if I receive penalty points?

New endorsements will be added to your online database, meaning you will no longer have a physical record of them.




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