Monday, 14 May 2012

UK Driving Licence Conversion - Part 1 (Application)

This is one of the things I had put off doing for a long time, largely because it seems to have proved very frustrating for many people.  I finally got round to doing it and here is a brief summary of my findings.

The MM2H office issues some very helpful (and still accurate) guidance on this and it can be found here.  There is also guidance on the JPJ site which confuses things somewhat as it states that licence holders need an embassy letter to validate their licence.  Trust me, stick to the MM2H guidance.

Essentially when you wish to convert ('convert' is a bad term really as you still keep your original licence but the term seems to describe what needs to be done well) a driving licence from another country to a Malaysian licence your do it through the Road Transport Department (JPJ) and your licence generally falls into either Category A or Category B.  I say generally merely because some licences are not listed and may require a specific enquiry to JPJ.  Category A simply means that certain countries have signed reciprocal agreements with Malaysia and the issue of a Malaysian licence to holders of licences from those countries is automatic and is done on the day, either at JPJ HQ in Putrajaya, KL or at any local JPJ office.  Most other licences will be in Category B and this simply means that you have to send your application off to Putrajaya for an approval letter to be issued before you get the licence, copies of your documents have to be certified by a local JPJ officer unless you are applying AT Putrajaya JPJ itself.  The countries to which Cat A and Cat B apply are listed at the end of the JPJ guidance.  The UK driving licence is Category B.

Now I must say I have seen loads of crap, theories and speculation about why the processes are different when people contemplate changing licences (e.g. "maybe it's because we drive on the left") when in truth the reasons are crystal clear and written in black and white.  I've also see people giving advice and being insistent that "you need to do this / don't need to do that" when talking about how they got their licence, failing or refusing to acknowledge that the process varies by country and that the MM2H guidance explains that fully.  Personally I can't see what's so difficult about it all, in terms of the theory / policy at least.

Anyway, moving on. I am resident in Penang so my experience is based around that and a postal application to Putrajaya seeing as I have no imminent plans to go to KL.  I used the JPJ office in Butterworth for my application.  I did try the office in Bayan Lepas but drew a bit of a blank there.  Butterworth clearly processes many more licences and the the staff there ultimately I think are a little more familiar with the procedures affecting different countries.

Having driven to the JPJ Butterworth office I went the main processing area which is in Block A, you actually have to go right round, past the food sellers, to what is the rear of block A (looking from the main road you enter the complex from), go to the ticket desk on the right and collect your ticket.  I was told counter number 2 (which unlike the other desks thankfully had no queue) and this is where I initially encountered a similar problem to that I found at JPJ Bayan Lepas.  They told me I'd need a letter from the British Embassy to validate the licence.   I was sure this wasn't correct so returned to the ticket counter (that actually had a JPJ officer), explained that I was MM2H, that my licence was UK (and of the computer printed variety) and, in light of the MM2H guidance which I showed him, questioned whether I really DID need an embassy letter.  He made a quick phone call and I was told to return to counter 2 but this time go through a side door and ask for a certain JPJ senior officer.  SUCCESS!!!!!!!  After that it was plain sailing.  All I needed was (as per MM2H guidance):

1) Copy of UK passport (details and MM2H page)
2) Copy of UK driving licence (paper and card part)

3) Application form JPJ L2 which he showed me how to fill in

4) In light of the 'NB Update' below - a copy of the Conditional Letter of Approval (CLA) from Immigration confirming MM2H approval

The officer explained that asking for an embassy letter is the standard procedure which is largely to cater for those dodgy countries where a DL can be purchased on a street corner and that, checking his list, the UK wasn't one of them (he obviously doesn't know the same street corners I do).  I did say it was a shame the processing desks didn't refer to the same list, I wonder how many people walk out the door thinking they have to go the embassy letter route?  He DID countersign all the the document copies (for which there is no charge) which makes it all essentially in accordance with MM2H guidance.  I was then advised to post the lot of to the Putrajaya address which I did by registered post at a cost of RM 2.40.  He said the authority letter should take about 10 days, after that, bring the letter back in with a passport photo and the fee and pick up the licence.

So it DOES seem that MM2H guidance is correct but you just have to go to a JPJ office big enough to have staff who understand the correct procedure and be fairly persistent if the counter staff try to fob you off with the 'embassy letter' routine.

JPJ in Butterworth is not TOO hard to find.  You drive across the Penang Bridge and at the other end go straight ahead.  You then follow the road until you see the exit for the E163 which is signposted Kulim.  Go down that slip road and turn right at the roundabout, again towards Kulim.  JPJ is a large sprawling brown building complex on your left, not far down that road from the roundabout.  It's perhaps easy to miss if you're not expecting it to be that close.  If you come to another slip road next to a fly over again saying Kulim straight on, you've gone past it (this is actually the slip road you take when you exit JPJ and need to U turn to come back to Penang island.

Map: JPJ Butterworth

As yet my authority letter has not arrived. When it does I will update this post with a Part 2.

Some discussions about this matter can be seen on the MM2H forum here but please be aware that at times people are talking about licences from different categories!!

NB: Update 28 May. I received a letter from JPJ which asked me to send in a copy of the letter from Immigration confirming that I had been accepted for MM2H. This is despite the application containing a copy of the actual visa! I have now sent a copy of the letter off and await the next contact. While none of the guidance asks for a copy of this letter I would suggest that as a 'belt and braces' approach, any applicant ALSO includes a copy of their visa approval letter.

NB: An update post regarding the approval of my licence application and the process involved in collecting it can be found here.


  1. Hi, thank you for your site, i spoke to the jpj recently and they refered me to Seksyen 28, Akta Pengangkutan Jalan (APJ) 1987 which you can google (its on their JPJ website at the translation states i can use domestic UK licence until it expires so am not sure where you got the information about UK licence lasting only 3 months

    1. Hi, thanks.

      Yes I've seen the above legislation and it has been discussed at length on a number of forums. There has also been much discussion around a more recent Road Traffic Act that repealed it. As yet I have been unable to find the detail.

      I have not mentioned the above Act mainly because of the lack of clarity around it AND the fact that when I asked the JPJ officer in charge of the foreign licence section at Butterworth he specifically said you can drive on a UK (or other acceptable foreign) licence for 3 months only. There has also been much discussion, and as yet no 100% conclusion, around the acceptability of a UK licence by Malaysian insurance companies in the event of a serious / fatal accident.

      There comes a point though where researching all this and being bothered about it just takes too much time, life's too short. So, in light of the uncertainty and the ease with which a Malaysian licence can be obtained I chose to go down that route and avoid ANY risk. It's a call people will need to make for themselves. Down to the individual.


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