As a New Immigrant, How Do I Get an Ontario Driver's License?

Posted on December 12, 2016

In Ontario, those who want to legally drive must obtain an Ontario driver's license. The process usually depends on whether the driver is new, or if the driver has had a license previously. For new immigrants who have an International Driver's Permit (IDP), this can be legally used when first arriving in Canada. The IDP is typically valid for one year, but it can be renewed. It’s also required that a driver possess a valid driver's license from their native country to use an IDP.

In the Province of Ontario, a driver's license is blue – it’s a rigid plastic card with personal details, close-up photo, and signature. In Canada, it’s very common to use one’s driver's license as proof of identity. Carrying a valid driver's license is required when driving. The license also has a date of expiry, and must be renewed before that expiry. Ontario actually has different licenses, with each one depending on the kind of vehicle that will be driven. These are the common types:

  • G Class (which includes G1 and G2) is for cars; vans; small trucks 
  • M class (which includes M1 and M2) is for motorcycles; scooters; mopeds
  • Drivers can possess more than one type of license at the same time

In order to get an Ontario driver's license, drivers must be at least 16 years old. Applications and vision tests are undertaken at a Driver Examination Centre. Identity proof is required, in original documents (no photocopies) that are valid, and not expired. There are a wide variety of identity documents that are acceptable – applicants may show ONE document to meet their requirement:

  • Canadian passport or foreign passport
  • Canadian Citizenship Card (with a photo)
  • Permanent Residency Card
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residency
  • Study Permit or a Student Authorization
  • Work Permit or an Employment Authorization
  • Temporary Resident Permit
  • Acknowledgement of Refugee Status

For those who have a driver's license from another country, it may be possible to exchange it for a valid Ontario driver's license. The type of license that can be acquired will depend on how much driver experience the applicant has. Also, the native country must have a “reciprocal agreement” with Ontario. In some situations, applicants might have to proceed through Ontario’s graduated licensing system. This is simply a step-by-step process that will take extra time to complete.

There are some countries (USA, Australia, France, Korea) that have agreements with Ontario that allow licensed drivers to attain an Ontario license without going through the regular process. The so-called License Exchange Agreement is also dependent on driving experience, but with fewer restrictions on processing. In fact, the application process would be similar to a driver coming to Ontario from another Canadian province – in other words, a fairly simple transfer process.

For drivers who have never had a driving license, a Knowledge Test and two Road Tests are required. The Knowledge Test is written, and relates to traffic signage, driving rules, and safe driving practices (available in different languages). Road Tests are practical driving tests, with an examiner that monitors driving style and habits
 

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