Thursday, July 10, 2008

Swansea? What, in Wales??

No, no ... we are not going to Swansea (in Wales). But it must be a pretty important place, because it's where they send stuff.

The Drivers Licence Debacle

When we first arrived in the UK, in Sheffield, last August, we lived in a house joined onto the police station. So, during the course of a friendly conversation, we asked the local police about drivers' licences, and whether us Aussies are allowed to drive here, and for how long, and how to get UK licences ...

And the nice policemen didn't know the answer, so he went away and researched it for us, and he still couldn't find out. It seemed that he could find out about every nationality except Australians. Even New Zealanders got a mention, but not Aussies.

We figured it must be something to do with the cricket.

The best he could come up with - phone the DVLA in Swansea. What? In Wales?

Nearly a year later and now we really do need to get our UK licences before 12 months is up.

So Peter went on-line to try to find out what we have to do. What the police in Sheffield said is true - everyone is mentioned except Aussies.

Europeans - driving on the other side of the road, not knowing the language ... can just swap their licence for a UK one. Commonwealth countries - again an easy swap.

Students from anywhere (even China) can get a UK licence after just six months here.

But Aussies seem to be in the "any others" category.

So we can:

drive on our foreign licences up to a year ... and then get a provisional licence, and eventually take the written test. But if we let it go over the year, then we have to take the practical test as well.

Aaaaaaaaah! I have to take a driving test and I have to parallel park - ? I guess I'll just catch buses.

Peter decided to lead the way. He got on with filling in the form on the internet, and then he had to print it out and sign it.

They wanted a photo - like a passport photo - and it had to be signed on the back BY SOMEONE WHO HAS KNOWN US IN THE UK FOR MORE THAN 2 YEARS! ... and all this has to be done before the 12 months is up!

Ok, so we found a teacher who has also worked in Istanbul, and was willing to say she knew us there two years ago.

So then Peter paid his 50 pounds for a provisional licence. And then they said "send us your passport". To Swansea (in Wales).

Nope. No way! He spat the dummy. We have learnt over the last few years that you don't let your passport out of your sight. Not even in England. This is the country where people leave files of secret documents on the train, and laptops full of secret information get stolen, and people find a CD of private information next to a roundabout ... not a secure environment!

The Local DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency)

Then we discovered there is a local one of these, not only in Swansea! Peter hopped in the car and headed down there between lessons.

Of course it wasn't anywhere near where they said it was on the map on the Internet, it had moved. But he eventually found it after a long walk, and the people were most helpful and efficient.

No, you don't have to get a provisional licence.
No, you don't have to take the written test.
No, you don't need a photo signed by someone who's known you for two years.
No, you don't even need to send you passport to Swansea (in Wales), just show it as ID.

And she even arranged to have the 50 pounds he'd paid on the provisional licence transfered to getting a new licence instead.

The only thing is that they take away your Australian licence, and send it back to Australia!

All's well that ends well.

So the other day Peter got one of those brown envelopes that come from government departments. He opened it up, and there were all his licence forms that he'd filled in at the local DVLA, sent back to him.

Oh no! At first it looked like they wanted his passport after all. But after we'd pawed through it , it looked like the problem was the 50 pounds. They sent it back. And wanted him to send another 50 pounds.

So he's still waiting for his new licence.

But I've got mine!!! I'm licenced to drive in the UK!! (Do you think that's wise? They've never even seen me park!)

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