Getting a Driver’s License

If you are a full-time student from another country, and already have an international license from another country, you do not need to get a Canadian license just yet (just make use to insure your vehicle and carry a study permit with you when driving). Otherwise, you will need to contact ICBC in order to get a Canadian driver’s license. ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) is an agency that manages the process of licensing new and current drivers.

How to get a Canadian Driver’s

License in BC?

In a nutshell, the process of acquiring a permanent license consists of 3 stages: “Learner, “Novice” and “Class 5” (full license). Learner’s and Novice will have restrictions on the driving.
For instance, if you have your L license, you must have a 25+ year old supervisor with a valid class 5 license with you at all times, and are only allowed to have 1 other passenger. You are not allowed to drive between 12 and 5 AM, and must have 0 blood alcohol level. You must also display a goofy red “L” sign at the back of your car.

With the N license, you are allowed 1 passenger, or 4 immediate family members (brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins; basically, everybody who is invited to Christmas family dinners). Still 0 blood alcohol level. Must display a less goofy green “N” sign at the back.

In order to receive an “L” license, you need to pass a computer-based test in an ICBC office (link to the locations is below). You do not need to make an appointment, and the test may be taken in either English or in several other languages. You can also drop by prior to the test to get a study material free of charge. I used a free copy, which I downloaded from their website as a .PDF file on my smartphone. You can also download a free sample test app for Apple OS/Android. There are 50 questions, and you need to answer at least 40 in order to pass. They are relatively easy and are not oriented towards making you fail and re-take.

The test costs $15, and $10 for the license. If you are below 19, you will need to get your parent/guardian to sign a release form.  Right after the test, if you passed, they will perform a vision exam (if you need glasses, make sure to bring them). You will receive a temporary paper license, and the card will follow in the mail in 2-3 weeks. ICBC also requires a proof of address, for instance, a legal letter with your name beside the address, or a bank statement. ICBC will provide a study material for the N test, and the “L” sign to put on the car. If lost, the sign is replaceable free of charge. The driver’s license is a government issued ID, which gets you admissible into night clubs, bars and liquor stores.

In 12 months after you have received your “L” test you can take an “N” test, which would involve you booking an appointment with an ICBC instructor and driving him/her around the city for several hours. They will test your ability to drive, parallel/stall park and 3-point turn. The test costs $35 + $75 for the license itself.

24 months after the “N” test you can take the class 5 test, which also is a road test. It costs $50 all-in, and upon passing you are allowed to drive as many people as your vehicle fits, and lave a .05 blood alcohol content. Note: impaired driving is a very serious offense in Canada. 

I have taken my “L” test in July 2012 (way later than I should have), and have scored 88%from the first attempt. Getting a license took me 20 minutes including standing in line, taking the test and having my eyesight tested. It was very easy and quick!

#class 5 license#ICBC#L test#N test