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B.C. Driving Instructors Question Foreign Licenses: “We Have Standards”



RCMP and ICBC have resolved concerns regarding the legality of driving with a Chinese-issued licence on B.C.'s roads. (CBC)

RCMP and ICBC have resolved concerns regarding the legality of driving with a Chinese-issued licence on B.C.’s roads. (CBC)

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) will no longer be issuing citations to foreign driver’s particular Asian ones with licenses from China. The Mounties arrived at that decision after receiving guidance from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) which states that it is lawful to use foreign licenses for up to six months for visitors.

Those foreigners who are granted residency status may continue to use their foreign driver’s licenses for three months. In addition, there appears to be a form of reciprocity that allows foreigners the ability to exchange their native driver’s licenses for ones issued by British Columbia sans any formal driving instruction.

This has driving instructors raising up red flags. In part, they may be motivated by self-interest because this will mean less customers for them and hence less money. However, they are not citing that as a motivation. Rather, they are raising the issue of fraud which is a legitimate concern.

“It’s a danger,” said Kurtis Strelau, who has worked for Young Drivers of Canada in Richmond for 25 years.

“I think it’s wrong, that’s my opinion. We have standards, and if they can’t meet those standards, I don’t see why they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops [to get a B.C. licence] to make sure its safe,” the regional education manager said.

There is a budding black market in British Columbia for foreign driver’s licenses from the Philippines, Taiwan, China, and South Korea. Obviously, any one making it into the country illegally would be able to purchase a fake foreign driver’s license and then exchange it for a valid provincial one.

It should be noted that the RCMP had been ticketing drivers using Chinese driver’s licenses precisely because there is no was no way to authenticate the license. When there’s no way to authenticate a license, there is a potential for that fact to be exploited. Driving instructors also raise the concern of driver safety stating that the province has much more stringent driving requirements than what some foreign nations require. In this point, they also likely make a valid argument.

However, it is probable that the answer will lie not with the RCMP as they merely enforce the law. The solution will remain with the provincial parliament.

‘We have standards’: Driving instructors question qualifications of foreign licence holders in B.C.