As a new immigrant, you need a driver’s licence issued by the government to drive a car legally in Canada. And this must be with you whenever you are driving irrespective of where you are going. The process to get a driver’s licence in Canada depends on the province or territory where you live and on your driving background. We tried to address this in an earlier article on how to get a driver’s license in Canada as a new immigrant. If you are yet to read it, we suggest you do so before you continue. This article will focus on how to get a driver’s licence in Ontario. If you are not living in Ontario, there will be other articles to address the processes for your province and territory.
If you live in Ontario and want to drive, you must have an Ontario driver’s licence. The process to get a driver’s licence depends on if you are a new driver, or if you have had a driver’s licence before. If you are at least 16 years old, you can apply for driver’s licence in Ontario. As a new driver, you will need to practice driving and gain experience over time. For most people, the two-step process takes about 20 months to finish.
Driving in Ontario As a New Immigrant
As a new immigrant, if you have a International Driver’s Permit (IDP), you can use this when you first arrive in Canada while you work on the process to get your driver’s license in Ontario. The IDP is valid for 1 year in most countries and you can renew it. The IDP is a translation of your driver’s licence from another country into many languages.
You must have a valid driver’s licence from another country to use an IDP in Canada. Please note that you must apply for an IDP from your home country before you arrive in Canada, Since you plan on living in Ontario , as a permanent resident, you need to get an Ontario driver’s licence within 60 days of moving to Ontario.
- carry a valid driver’s licence, at all times
- have a valid owner’s permit, licence plate and insurance
- obey traffic laws and drive safely
Basic Information To Know
The Ontario driver’s licence is a blue, plastic card. The card has your photo, name, address, date of birth and signature on it. It is common to use a driver’s licence as an identity document. You have to carry your driver’s licence with you when you drive.
The licence has an expiry date. You have to renew it before it expires.
Types of Driver’s Licences
Ontario has 15 types of licences. Each licence certifies you to drive a specific type of vehicle. To drive a car, van or small truck, you will need a G class licence. These are common types of licence:
- G class (includes G1 and G2) – For cars, vans and small trucks
- M class (includes M1 and M2) – For motorcycles, motor scooters and mopeds
You can have more than one kind of licence. You do not need a licence to ride a bicycle. All licences come with certain conditions. For more details, see Ontario’s full list of licences.
Apply To Get a Driver’s Licence In Ontario
To apply for a driver’s licence in Ontario, you need to:
- be at least 16 years old
- pass an eye or a vision test to show that you can see well enough to drive safely
- pass a written test about the rules of the road and traffic signs
The process depends on if you are a new driver or if you have had a driver’s licence before. In all cases, you have to go to a Driver Examination Centre. You have to show:
- Proof of name
- Proof of your age / date of birth
- A document with your signature
As a new immigrant, your situation will fall between the two paths below:
- I have a driver’s licence from another country – outside of Canada.
- I don’t have a driver’s licence.
There are different process for each of the paths and we will try to address them.
How To Get a Driver’s Licence in Ontario if You have a Licence from another Country
If you have a driver’s licence from another county, you may be able to exchange it for an Ontario driver’s licence. The type of licence you can get depends on how much driving experience you have and if the country has a reciprocal agreement with Ontario. Otherwise, you may have to go through the graduated licensing system.
Which Countries Have Reciprocal Agreement?
If you have a driver’s licence from one of these jurisdictions with Licence Exchange Agreement, you can benefit from this privilege. Some countries, like the United States, Australia, France and Korea, have an agreement with Ontario which allows licensed drivers to obtain an Ontario licence without having to go through the regular process for obtaining a licence in this province.
The type of licence you can get depends on how much driving experience you have. You follow the same process as drivers with a licence from another Canadian province and from Canadian Forces – Europe. You can read about the Licence Exchange program on the DriveTest website to learn more about the process and the documents required.
Countries With No Agreement
If your licence is from a country that is not in the list above, you must present official, written confirmation of your driving experience. Written confirmation is an original letter from the original licensing agency (such as the ministry of transportation in your country or state), or from the Embassy, Consulate, or High Commissioner’s offices representing your country. The letter must be:
- Written on official letterhead
- Written in English or French – If it is written in another language, you must submit a letter of translation from a qualified translator.
- Dated – It cannot be more than 6 months old.
This letter must include information about:
- The date first licensed
- Licence expiry date
- Class of licence
- That the licence was valid for the relevant period of time for the purposes of exchange and experience
If any of this information is missing, it may delay processing of your licence exchange.
Type of Licence You Can Get
The type of licence you will get depends on how much driving experience you have.
Less than 12 Months of Driving Experience in the Last 3 Years
If you fall within this category, you are in the graduated licensing system. You must get 12 months of driving experience before you can take the G1 road test.
12-24 Months of Driving Experience in the Last 3 Years
This also places you in the graduated licensing system. You can take the G1 road test whenever you are ready. If you pass this test, you will get a G2 licence. In addition, you may get written confirmation of your foreign driving experience. If the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) recognizes your driving experience, you can use this time towards the 12-month waiting period for the G2 road test.
24 Months or More of Driving Experience in the Last 3 Years
Most new immigrants fall within this category. So, need to get written confirmation of your foreign driving experience for this to be recognized. You can then take the G1 or G2 road test whenever you are ready.. If you pass, you will get the next licence in the graduated licensing system. For instance, if you pass the G2 test, you will get a G licence. The G licence is a full driver’s licence.
How To Get a Driver’s Licence in Ontario if You Don’t Have a Licence
If you have never had a driver’s licence before, even if you are a new immigrant, you have pass a knowledge test and 2 road tests to get a full driver’s licence.
The knowledge test is a written test. The test is about traffic signs and lights, safe driving and other driving rules and practices. You can prepare for the knowledge test by reading the Official MTO Driver’s Handbook. You can also get handbooks for motorcycle drivers, bus drivers and truck drivers.
Ontario’s Official Driver Handbook will help you prepare for your written knowledge test. It covers rules of the road and practical driving tips. You can buy the handbook:
- online through ServiceOntario
- at a DriveTest centre
- from many retail stores
To apply and take the required written tests, visit:
- the ServiceOntario Bay and College location in downtown Toronto
You must book an appointment online in order to complete a written driver’s licence test. You will need to bring original identification that shows your legal name, date of birth and your signature.
If you are applying for a licence to drive a car (G class licences) you will drive a car with an examiner beside you. The examiner will tell you where to go and watch you drive. Depending on your confidence level, you may choose to take professional driving lessons to learn to drive, gain experience and prepare for the driving tests. If you feel you need to take some lessons, see a list of government-approved driving schools.
To book a road test appointment, you will need to provide:
- your valid Ontario driver’s licence number
- a preferred location for taking the test
- a second and third choice of location
- a preferred date and time
You can book, cancel or reschedule a road test appointment:
You need to cancel a test at least 48 hours ahead of your appointment to avoid a cancellation fee.
Learning to drive: graduated licensing
Once you pass your eye and written tests, you get a G1 licence. Before you can get a full G licence, you have to:
- finish two learning levels: G1 and G2.
- pass two road tests
This process is called “graduated licensing” and is designed to give new drivers time to practice and gain driving experience over time. You have up to five years to finish the whole process. After five years, if you do not get your full G licence, you will need to start over.
By law, when you have a G1 licence, you must:
- maintain a zero blood alcohol level (no alcohol in your blood)
- make sure every passenger with you wears a properly working seat belt
- not drive between midnight and 5 a.m.
- not drive on 400-series highways or high-speed expressways (e.g., 401, Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), Gardiner Expressway)
- drive with a fully licensed driver who has:
- at least four years of driving experience
- a blood alcohol level of less than .05 (if this person is 21 and under, their blood alcohol level should be zero)
The driver accompanying you must be the only other person in the front seat. If you are driving with a driver instructor certified in Ontario, you can drive on any road.
In most cases, you practice with your G1 licence for 12 months.
G1 road test
The G1 road test is the first of two you need to take as a new driver.
- you can take your first road test after 12 months with a G1 licence
- this exam tests basic driving skills (e.g., turning left and right, stopping, parking)
- once you pass, you get your G2 licence
If you finish an government-approved driver education course, you can take your first road test after just eight months.
After passing your G1 road test, you get a G2 licence. You practice with your G2 licence for 12 months. You can now drive:
- without another experienced driver in the car
- on all Ontario roads
- at any time of the day, in most cases
You also need to ensure the following:
- have a zero blood alcohol level
- carry only as many passengers as there are working seat belts
If you are 19 and under, some other restrictions still apply.
G2 drivers: 19 and under
Between midnight and 5 a.m.: you can only drive with one passenger who is 19 or under in your car.
This condition applies for the first six months of G2. After six months, you can drive with up to three passengers 19 or under between midnight and 5 a.m.
This condition does not apply, if:
- you have a fully licensed driver in the car (with four years plus experience driving)
- your passengers are immediate family members (e.g., a parent, brother or sister)
G2 road test
This is the second of two road tests you take as a new driver.
- you can take the test after 12 months with a G2 licence
- the test covers more advanced driving skills (e.g., driving on a highway, parallel parking)
- once you pass, you get a full G licence
What happens if you fail a G1 or G2 road test?
- If your G1 licence is not expired: you can try the road test again.
- In case your G1 licence is expired: you will need to start all over and pay the test fees again.
- If your G2 licence is about to expire: you can take your G1 road test again and get five more years as a G2 to finish the process.
Accepted Identity Documents
To obtain your driver’s licence, you must present acceptable, valid ID. Documents must be ORIGINAL and VALID. Copies, including certified copies, are not acceptable unless noted in the lists below. The type of identity documents accepted depends on your status.
Documents for Permanent Residents
As a permanent resident, you will need to show any of the following
- Permanent Resident (PR) Card
- Record of Landing (IMM 1000)
- Confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM 5292) accompanied by a valid passport from country of origin
- Ontario Photo Card
Documents for Temporary Residents
If you are on a temporary resident visa, you may show any of the following
- Study Permit / Student Authorization (IMM 1442)
- Work Permit / Employment Authorization (IMM 1442)
- Visitor Record (IMM 1442)
- Temporary Resident Permit (IMM 1442)
- Refugee Status Claim (IMM 1434)
- Acknowledgement of Intent to Claim Refugee Status (IMM 7703) with photo
- Report Pursuant to the Immigration Act (IMM 1442) with photo
- Ontario Photo Card
For more information, see a full list of accepted documents.
If you still need more information, you can check out the websites below:
- Driver Examination Centres – You can take written tests and driving tests at these centres..
- Driver and Vehicle Licence Offices – You can renew your driver’s licence, change your address or other information on your licence, get a driver’s handbook and get other routine services at these offices.
- Driver’s Handbook Online – The official guide to the rules of the road, safe driving practices and how to get your licence to drive a car, van or small truck. From the Ministry of Transportation.
- Out of Country Drivers – Information on how to get an Ontario licence if you have had a driver’s licence before but are not eligible for a licence exchange. From the DriveTest website.
- Ministry of Transportation (MTO) – The provincial government agency responsible for the transportation industry and driving. The website has information about driver and vehicle licensing and Ontario transit systems.