Why newcomers should apply for a driver’s licence as soon as possible
Consideration should be given to having a newcomer in Ontario obtain his or her G1, G2 or G driver’s licence as soon as possible. Having a driver’s licence can be a valuable asset for some types of work. The reason for obtaining a licence as soon as possible is that, in Ontario, there are prescribed waiting periods of up to 12 months between the issuance of one level of licence and eligibility to take the road test for the next level of licence. Especially if the newcomer already knows how to drive and has been licenced in a foreign country, the sooner this clock starts ticking, the better.
A G1 licence may be obtained easily by passing a vision test and a written test (which can be taken in Arabic and other languages.) No road test is required. The newcomer’s foreign driver’s licence is also to be presented and if it is not in English or French, is to be accompanied by a written translation from a qualified translator.
Normally, a newcomer must then wait 12 months (eight months with successful completion of a driver’s education course) before being eligible to take a road test to move up to a G2 licence. However, a newcomer may be able to speed up the process. With adequate authentication of 12 months of foreign licenced driving experience (or an applicant’s declaration of his or her foreign licenced driving experience of 12 months), the newcomer may immediately take a road test, in order to graduate to a G2 licence. If the newcomer passes this road test, he or she will be issued a G2 licence and will not be subject to the six restrictions of the G1 licence, including the requirement to have a fully licenced driver accompany him or her in the vehicle and prohibition from driving on 400-series expressways.
To move up from a G2 licence to an unrestricted G licence, the newcomer must normally have 12 months driving experience with a G2 licence. This waiting period can also be reduced, but with more strict documentation. The newcomer must provide written authentication of at least 24 months foreign licenced driving experience within the preceding three years from the originating licensing agency, or from the embassy, consulate or high commissioners’ offices representing the jurisdiction. The authentication letter must be on official letterhead and be written in either English or French.
If the newcomer can prove a minimum of 24 months of foreign licenced driving experience within the preceding three years, he or she will be immediately eligible to take the road test for a full G licence.
In May, 2020, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled, as reported in the Toronto Star, that “refugees in the province are immediately exempt from the one-year waiting period for the G2 exit test, as long as they can produce a valid licence from their country of origin… [even if they are] from non-reciprocating countries, such as Syria.”
A full “G” licence is typically needed for driving as part of a job. However, employed and self-employed individuals can legally drive to/from/for work with a “G2” licence as long as they respect its restrictions.
Reports of refugees frustrated by driver licencing requirements in Canada
For media coverage related to refugee newcomers and claimants frustrated with the obstacles they have been facing to obtain a driver’s licence in Canada, see these stories:
- Refugee driver scores victory in licencing discrimination case (May 8/20) [Toronto Star]
- Syrian refugee taking fight over driver’s licence to rights tribunal (Aug 24/18) [Toronto Star]
- Refugees can now apply for Alberta driver’s licence while waiting for claim (Jun 30/18) [CBC]
- Syrian refugee’s claim that Ontario road test wait-time is discriminatory gathers steam (Dec/17) [CBC]
- Ontario Should Revise Discriminatory Policy Against Refugee Drivers (Dec 11/17) [U of T Faculty of Law]
- Syrian refugee truck driver challenges MTO over licensing wait (May 29/17 [Toronto Star]
- Driver’s licensing a frustration for some Syrian refugees (Dec 7/16) [CBC]
Links to more info on Province of Ontario website
For more information on obtaining a driver’s licence in Ontario, see Getting Your Driver’s Licence, Exchange an out-of-province driver’s licence, and I Have a Driver’s Licence From Another Country. How Do I Get a Driver’s Licence in Ontario?