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Driving in Alberta for New or Returning Canadians

People often call us to find out about how to help a new (or returning) Canadian to get an Alberta driver’s licence. The truth is that there isn’t one simple answer – the process of getting an Alberta Driver’s licence will depend on which country the individual is coming from, what type of licence he or she had and for how long, and his or her age.

Reciprocal Countries

Individuals arriving to Alberta from a country which has a Reciprocal Licensing Agreement with Alberta will be able to exchange his or her licence for an Alberta licence. These reciprocal countries are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Isle of Man, Japan, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States.
In order to change over your licence, you will have to surrender your licence to us (you will not be able to keep it as we have to retain it and send to the Special Investigations Unit for verification). You will also need to provide us with Proof of Residency in Alberta and Proof of Legal Entitlement to Be and Remain in Canada and pass a vision screening. Please refer to this chart for documents to bring with you.

Note: Reciprocal licensing applies to Class 5 licences. Please visit us for details about other classes. 

Non-Reciprocal Countries

If you are arriving to Alberta from a non-reciprocal country, you will likely still be able to get a full Alberta driver’s licence, but you will have to go through the GDL Exemption process.

1. First, you will have to come to East Calgary Registry to surrender your licence. As above, we will forward it to the Special Investigations Unit for authentication. If your licence is not in English, you will need to submit a translation of your licence. We can provide the translation service to you from many languages including Arabic, French, Polish, Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. If you have an International Driver’s Permit, please submit this as well. The IDP on its own is not a licence and will not be sufficient for SIU to exempt you from the GDL program. Keep in mind that it is an offense to hold more than one driver’s licence at a time or to submit documents which are not authentic.

2. Second, you can take the Knowledge Test either on the same day you surrender your licence or at any time in the future. We will need to first see Proof of Entitlement to Be and Remain in Canada as well as Proof of Alberta Residency. Please see this chart of acceptable support documents to bring with you. The cost is $17 and there is no limit to the number of times you can attempt the exam. You just can’t take it more than once per day.
The computer test for your driver’s licence is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Hindi, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. You can bring a translator with you, but the translator must have a TIN (certified by Alberta Transportation). We can provide referrals to translators who are approved by Transportation. If you bring a translator or if you wish to take the English audio version, the cost is $30.
If you don’t pass the test the first time, don’t be discouraged – it is a challenging test and many people take it a number of times. We also sell driver’s guides in Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Punjabi and Amharic. Or you can view the English Driver’s  or Guide du conducteur. If you are still having difficulty, we also sell Flash Cards which many people find to be very useful.
If you pass the test, you will need to pass a vision test before you can get your Class 7 learner’s licence.

3. Wait at least 14 days for Special Investigations to authenticate your driver’s licence. They will put a note on your motor vehicle file to let us know how much credit you have been given. From there, we will be able to tell you which road test you are eligible to go for. SIU will take into account the age of the applicant and licence issue date in determining which road test to approve the applicant to take. Unfortunately, we need you to come into the office so that we can verify your identity. We can’t pull up your motor vehicle file without having you in our office to show your ID. This is to protect your privacy.

4. If SIU determines that you have more than 2 years driving experience, you will be cleared to go for the Advanced Road Test. However, you can opt to take the Basic Road Test instead if you prefer. If you pass the Basic Road Test, you will receive a Class 5 GDL Licence, which means that you can drive wherever and whenever you want, but with zero alcohol, no more passengers than seat belts and not as an accompanying driver to a learner. In addition, a Class 5 GDL licence will be suspended if you accumulate 8 demerits rather than 15.
The Advanced Road test is a much more challenging test which allows the driver to exit the GDL program and receive a full, non-GDL Class 5 Driver’s Licence. Please note that the Advanced Road Test is a one-hour road test which measures advanced driving skills including merging onto high speed roadways, controlled and uncontrolled intersections and parallel and hill parking.

For more information on the GDL program in Alberta, please refer to the Alberta Transportation website.
If the process sounds confusing, don’t worry – we have been helping people with foreign driver’s licences to get licensed in Alberta for many years. We can answer all of your questions and we offer Alberta Registry services in 19 languages including Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, Cantonese, Igbo, Korean, Mandarin, Pashto, Punjabi, Vietnamese, Bosnian, Serbian, Somali, Croatian, Spanish, Tagalog, Yoruba, English and French. You will be driving in no time!