Returning to Ireland: Driving licences and insurance

Returning emigrants may be asked to pay a hefty premium for car insurance, but there can be ways around it

If you have a foreign driving license you may need to exchange it for an Irish one when you return home. Typically, you will need to get an Irish license if you have been living here for 12 months or more, or it may be prudent to get one earlier if it makes it easier to shop around for car insurance.

Depending on where you lived, you may find it a straight forward experience. If, for example, you lived in an EEA country, or Australia, Manitoba State of Canada, Switzerland or South Africa (for a full list see, you can exchange your license for €55.

If however, you lived in a country which does not have an approved exchange process with Ireland, you will have to go through the application process in Ireland, starting with a driver’s theory test.

Another problem you may face when you come home is getting a competitive price on car insurance. While the introduction of the Gender Directive in 2012 has pushed the cost of insurance for men down (and women up), if you’ve been away for more than two years, your no-claims bonus will likely have expired.

According to Michael Horan of Insurance Ireland, while there is no explicit standard practice, no claim discounts (NCDs) are generally valid for two years after expiry of a policy.

This means that if you’ve been away for longer than two years, you will likely be stuck paying a hefty premium for your car insurance. However, there may be a way around it.

According to Horan, if you can produce confirmation that you have been continuously insured in you own name and were claims free while away, this may be taken into consideration by the insurer.

“A letter from the overseas insurer to the policyholder confirming that he/she has been continuously insured in their own name and claims free while away would generally be required,” he says.

If you didn’t have insurance while away or can’t access such a letter, you will likely face exorbitant prices.

Brady Burns Insurance Brokers.