South Africa’s 5-year driving licence vs Australia, the UK, Canada, and more

 ·27 Aug 2023

The Department of Transport has faced mounting calls to extend the validity period of driver’s licences in South Africa, which is currently held for five years – well below the global standard.

Last year, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) provided former minister of transport Fikile Mbalula, with a position paper motivating the extension of driver’s licences’ validity period to 10 years.

“Extending the period of validity of driver’s licence cards from five to 10 years will immediately bring an end to the backlog chaos that is not going to be resolved for a long time if the status quo remains,” Outa said.

The data provided by Outa showed that the global average period of licence validity was 8.5 years, ranging from three to 20 years.

Africa and the Americas had the lowest periods at five and six years, respectively, while the Middle East/Asia, Australasia and Europe had the highest at 8.6 years, 10 years, and 11.5 years, respectively.

Considering this, BusinessTech compared South Africa’s current five-year validity periods with 20 other countries to see where we fit in.

Interestingly, India has the highest validity period out of all countries compared, ranging from five years to as long as 20 years. This, however, is age dependent.

This is because India operates a progressive validity system. A driver’s card can be obtained at 18 years old and is valid for 20 years until the age of 40. Motorists must then renew their license every 10 years at the age of 40 and every five years at the age of 55.

Germany’s driver’s licence for your average car technically doesn’t expire; however, its citizens need a renewal of the plastic card that is their driver’s license every 15 years.

New Zealand and Russia have a flat 10-year duration, which is the same for other European countries like Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands.

The other countries on this list, such as Australia, Canada, or the United States, have different validity periods because licences are issued at a state or provincial level rather than a nationwide standard set by the federal government.

In Canada, citizens living in British Columbia or Ontario have a license renewal every five years, while those living in Quebec can renew their license every eight years. Individuals in different cities in Australia also have varying license renewal periods.

For example, those in Melbourne, Victoria, can use their license for 10 years, while those in Perth, Western Australia, need to renew theirs after five. Victoria also requires that people over the age of 75 renew their cards every three years instead of five.

The validity period of a driver’s licence in the countries mentioned above, including South Africa, is given in the table below.

CountryValidity period
India5 – 20 years
Denmark15 years
France 15 years
Germany15 years
Ireland10 years
Isreal10 years
Italy10 years
Netherlands10 years
New Zealand10 years
Russia10 years
Spain10 years
United Kingdom10 years
United Arab Emirates (UAE)10 years
China (Hong Kong)6 (10 years)
Australia5 – 10 years
Brazil3 – 10 years
Canada5 – 8 years
United States4 – 8 years
Portugal5 years
South Africa 5 years

Licence validity period extension in South Africa

Following calls to extend the validity period of licences in South Africa, The Department of Transport indicated that the new licence would be aligned closer to international practices, with the new card also allowing for the incorporation of new technologies.

A new driving licence card in South Africa will have improved security features, including biometric data, holograms, and watermarks, to reduce fraudulent licences and improve road safety.

A new system will be introduced with driving licence cards linked to smart-card technology. 

The department confirmed at the end of 2022 that it was working towards a pilot of the new licences between 1 November 2023 and 31 March 2024, while the extension of the validity of the cards was also coming.

The department also suggested that the current five-year validity of driving licences could be extended to eight years and that current cards will continue to be recognised as valid until 31 March 2029.

The current driving licence cards will be phased out, with the printing machine that produces them expected to be decommissioned in 2023.

Read: Body cameras for police back on the cards in South Africa

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