Getting a Canadian Driver’s License


All along I thought that I was one of the best drivers in the world. Having 15 years of driving experience in the Philippines, I modestly say that I’m an excellent defensive driver. My fellow Filipinos get my point about this one. However, it doesn’t automatically make me a best driver to pass the Canadian driver’s license tests, both written and actual (road).

Driving habits in the Philippines is surprisingly my worst enemy on the roads of Canada. This blog is dedicated to help you pass the written and road test for just one try/take. It may not be totally specific, but I will give the important points that made me take this once only. This blog’s content is also a collective experience of my family, friends and yours truly.

It’s always advisable to use the Canada government’s website as the primary source of information:

For New Brunswick (NB) newcomers, there’s a step-by-step process at the bottom of this blog.

Driving using a foreign driver’s license (yes, it’s allowed)

Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

You need an IDP if ONLY you need an English or French translation of your foreign driver’s license. For Filipinos, you won’t need this as our PH license is written in English. To make you more comfortable, it was mentioned by a facilitator in our CIIP session that we are moving to Canada as a permanent resident so an IDP is irrelevant. I actually rented a car twice using a PH license.

Do I need an LTO Driving Certification? (For Filipinos)

In general, yes. In NB, not for driver’s license purposes but yes for car insurance. You read it right. There are insurance companies that help you reduce your insurance premium by having this certification. This is apart from the LTO Certificate of No Apprehension (which I was told before landing that it’s irrelevant but apparently accepted by some insurance companies).

Most people who landed in NB informed me that these LTO documents are irrelevant in NB. Well, I did my research. It’s good for insurances. And it helped me manage to lower my insurance between $100-$160 per month. Yes, you can’t go higher than $200/month. Contact me. I’ll help you out. I’ll have a separate blog for car purchase and insurances.

How long can you use your foreign driver’s license?

It depends on the province where you’re residing. You may check the CIC link that I shared above. In my opinion, I’ll stick to 2 months and I should take the road test on my 3rd month. Well that’s what I did. I focused on the conservative approach.

For NB newcomers, some say you’re allowed to use the PH license for 6 months from landing. Some say it should be 6 months from the issuance of the written test. Some say you’re allowed for 2 months only. Some say you should take the road test first and get the class 5. So, what’s really the rule? Pardon me for the inconclusive statement. My blog is in public. The written rule in NB is vague unless you ask Service NB. If you ask me, it’s safe to abide by the written rule.

Should I take the driving school?

It’s your choice. It’s either you want to take schooling to get a lower insurance premium or you want to refresh so you take the tests once only. I did both.  Well it saved me for around $1,000/year vs. the $610 driving school fee. That gave me a net savings of approximately $510. If you have a an LTO certification (for Filipinos) and certification from your private insurance in your home country, it also helps you reduce your insurance premium.

Conversely, one of my charities at present is to help my fellow newcomers pass the road test by acting like an examiner. All of them passed already. I guess I’m a bad teacher.

Passing the written test

Read. Read. Read. Study the province’s handbook. Focus on the signs and distances. For Filipinos, we’re somehow good on the situational questions. The signs and distances are a little different from what we know. Try to interview people who have taken the test so you have an idea. The test is categorized into a matching type (signs) and multiple choice (distances and situational) set of questions.

Ace the road test

When you hear or read stories about failing the road test, it’s nerve-racking. It’s easy if you prepare very well. You should eliminate your previous driving habits. In the Philippines, it’s a “strong defensive-minded” approach. In Canada, it’s the “right-of-way” approach. While we stop or step on the brakes on every intersection (assuming without a Stop Sign and Stop Light) in the Philippines, thinking that there are bully drivers or motorcycle riders on multiple and unspecified lanes, well, in Canada, if you’re on right-of-way, you should maintain your speed.

Side mirrors are actually not highly encouraged but the “blind-spot” or “shoulder” check is a MUST. How does this work? Well, if you’re driving, look at every passenger window at the back of your car every 10-15 seconds especially if you’re planning to change lanes or to turn.

To pass the road test, whole-heartedly learn the signs and distances. Do your shoulder checks. Watch out on pedestrians. They are the priority. Do not reduce speed if you’re right of way on intersections unless it’s a pedestrian (even if they’re jaywalking). Both hands on the wheel (it’s automatic transmission here generally). If there’s a stop light and it’s going from green to orange, if it’s not safe to stop, then keep moving forward. Do not step on lines. You should be inside and within your lane. Know the difference of a white and yellow line. A broken or straight line. Practice parking. Well the parallel one. Make sure to limit into max 3 adjustments only.

Be familiarize on the routes. Ask friends who already took it. Identify their routes and practice. Before you sleep, use google maps. Study the map and look at the 360-degree view. It will help you become aware of all the roads and signs.

Most importantly, ask a friend to be your practice examiner. It helps. Do it at least thrice a week. It’s also awesome to practice hours before your actual road test. It’s best that your friend took the road test recently so the road test routes are still familiar.

For Filipinos, break your driving habits. It’s really different. I adjusted too.

Driver’s License process (NB province as example)

If with foreign driver’s license: once you’ve passed the road test, you get class 5 (sort of non-professional license in PH)

If first-time driver in Canada (assuming your 21 years old & above): Class 7.1 (learner/student) permit, after passing road test, you have a class 7.2 (non-pro but with restrictions on time and # of passengers). This is good for 8 months (with driving school) or 12 months (without driving school). Then that’s the time you apply for a Class 5.

Step-by-Step process in NB (other provinces should read it too)

 (assuming you just landed and let’s take the PH license as the sample foreign driver’s license)

Here’s Service NB’s link:

  1. Wait for your first billing cycle (e.g. NB Power, Internet, phone, etc.). You need at least 2 proof of residency (1 proof is automatically you’re lease contract). Somehow a certification from a bank is not acceptable when I applied.
  2. Take the written test first. Submit your PH Passport, COPR, PH Driver’s License and the 2 proof of residency in NB. There’s a fee, of course.
  3. After passing the written test, you’ll be given a temporary class 7.1 driver’s license (yellow card). This yellow paper is valid for 6 months and they won’t get your PH license yet. If you have a PH license, a yellow paper is issued. Once you pass the road test, you earn a Class 5 license. If you’re a first-time driver, you get your official 7.1 card and to pass the road test you’ll earn a 7.2 card. I won’t discuss about first-time drivers. Helpful links:

  1. Practice on your road test. Take a driving school. If not, practice with a friend who recently got a Class 5 license. Yes, most recent ones. Use google maps to study the roads and signs while you’re at home. You may or may not maximize the 6- month grace period (for not surrendering the PH license yet).
  2. Take the road test. It is advisable to pay the required fees for at least an hour before the road test. This will give you enough preparation to be mentally and physically ready. If you can pay the fees days before the road test, the better.
  • If you pay within hours before you take the said test, your PH license and yellow paper will be surrendered and they will issue a class 7.1 (learner/student) permit. There’s a white payment receipt that they provide.  You just wait for the actual time of your test.
  • If you pay in advance (days prior), you’ll get a receipt and you will surrender your PH license during the day of your road test.
  1. Passed or Failed?

If pass…

  • If you pass the road test, you’ll be instructed to go inside their office again. This is actually your biggest clue if you’ve passed the road test. Your class 5 license will be issued. It’s pretty funny ‘though when you pass the road test for one attempt, the class 7.1 that was previously issued just a few hours or even minutes before your road test, is surrendered. And then the class 5 is issued.


If failed…

  • You should retry again. There’s a ruling for every nth time of failure, a corresponding waiting period for you to retake again (first take – 1 week; second take – 2 weeks; third take – 3 weeks). You’re PH license is surrendered. You have a learner/student permit (7.1).
  • Here are some of the indicators If you actually fail:  it didn’t take you 20 minutes to do your road test, the examiner will discuss your errors and you won’t be advised to enter their office again.
  1. Class 5 is issued. Congrats. You got your Canadian driver’s license. Now you just have to switch this powerful card in case you transfer to another province or country outside Canada (this country has many agreements).




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