UK driving ban on immigrants

April 23, 2010 at 7:59 pm 1 comment

Rumbidzai Bvunzawabaya
Rumbidzai Bvunzawabaya
Rumbidzai Bvunzawabaya is a solicitor at RBM Solicitors, based in Coventry. She was admitted on the Roll of Solicitors for England and Wales in 2003 and admitted in Zimbabwe in 1998 as a Legal Practitioner

UK driving ban on immigrants

Posted By Rumbidzai Bvunzawabaya on 21 Apr, 2010 at 12:03 pm
Posted in : Immigration and Legal Matters, News

ASYLUM seekers and some immigrants have been banned from applying for a British driving licence under changes announced by the government. Asylum-seekers will be prevented from driving until they get refugee status.

The move follows reports that some asylum seekers and short-stay immigrants moonlight as unlicensed cab drivers while waiting for a decision on their case.

The ban applies to any economic migrant or student who has not been granted permission to stay for more than six months. They face fines for driving unqualified and driving unlicenced cabs.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: “This is another example of us applying tough but fair rules to people seeking to live in our country.

“This will make our streets safer. Too many migrants think they can earn a living on the road while their cases are being considered.

“As a result we have seen unsafe, unregistered cabs with inexperienced drivers.”

Until now, anybody who had entered Britain legally was allowed to apply for a driving licence and take a test.

But a subtle amendment in the wording of the law means that only those who are lawfully resident in Britain – as opposed to lawfully present – can do so in future. Someone who entered the country on a student visa which has now run out, for example, would be classed as legally present but not resident.

Asylum seekers who have been granted temporary admission, and are classed as being lawfully present, can no longer apply for provisional driving licences, the first step to getting a full driving licence.

The changes, which were agreed by the Department for Transport and Home Office, will also apply to anyone who has not been given permission to remain in Britain for more than 185 days.

In the short term, anyone arriving in Britain from outside the European Economic Area can drive on an overseas licence for up to 12 months. After that, the motorist is legally obliged to obtain a British licence and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency handled 122,500 such applications last year.

It is understood one of the reasons for the change is to avoid those who have not been given permission to remain in Britain permanently obtaining a licence as a form of identity.

Announcing the move, Paul Clark, the roads minister, said: “It is right that those whose status remains undecided and those without leave should not be seeking to establish the benefits of ordinary settled life in the UK, including access to driving licences.”

There are many asylum seekers who are waiting for their fresh claims to be decided and have been living in Britain for years without being lawfully resident. This move will make an already agonising wait even more difficult to bear.

This move will not only clamp-down on taxi drivers working unlawfully but on drivers undertaking courier work on a self-employed basis. Many asylum seekers who are not allowed to work have been surviving through this type of work and supporting relatives and families in their countries of origin. It will no doubt close another door for the hundreds of thousands of people living in limbo in this country.

It is also worth noting that it is not worth risking committing a driving offence. I have often asked clients making an application for British Naturalisation whether they have any criminal convictions. The answer in most cases is “No, just driving offences.” Driving offences are criminal offences which affect applications for British Nationality.

Applications will normally be refused if the applicant has been convicted of a criminal offence and the conviction has not yet become “spent” in accordance with the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

The UK Border Agency will carry out criminal record checks on all applications from people aged 10 and over. Applicants must give details of all unspent criminal convictions. This includes road traffic offences but not fixed penalty notices (such as speeding or parking tickets) unless they were given in court. Applicants must include all drink-driving offences.

If a person has an unspent conviction, their application for citizenship is unlikely to be successful. They should wait until the end of their rehabilitation period before applying.

What is an unspent conviction?

If you have been convicted of a criminal offence, you must declare your unspent convictions but do not need to declare ones that are spent. A conviction becomes spent after a certain period of time has passed (this is called the rehabilitation period: see rehabilitation period for various offences).

The length of time it takes for a conviction to become spent will depend on the sentence. It starts from the date on which a person was convicted. The period may be shorter if a person was aged under 18 at the time of conviction.

If a person has been sentenced to more than 30 months or two and half years in prison for a single offence, this can never become spent. An application for citizenship is therefore unlikely to be successful.

If you have been convicted of a criminal offence and the rehabilitation period has not passed, you must include details of the conviction on your application form. If the conviction is unspent at the time of your application, it is unlikely that your application will be successful.

It is therefore important to think long term and desist from driving uninsured and without a license as this can cause long term difficulties.

Disclaimer: This article only provides general information and guidance on immigration law.. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. The writer will not accept any liability for any claims or inconvenience as a result of the use of this information.

Rumbidzai Bvunzawabaya is a Solicitor at RBM Solicitors based in Coventry. She can be contacted at or telephone: 02476520999


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. tsitsi hamandishe  |  May 8, 2010 at 7:19 am

    this is just making life hard for people.How funny they say any applicants with convictions will be refused and yet they gave papers to a lot of criminals and still after that they still break the law and get away with it.There are people who lived in this country for a long time but they have never committed any offence they are the ones they don’t trust and refuse their applications.I don’t think this will change anything


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