If you’re a learner driver in Northern Ireland with a valid theory test certificate, we’ve got some good news for you… the infrastructure minister has announced a theory test certificate extension. This means you will be able to take your driving test before your theory test certificate expires. Here’s what we know.
If you have a theory test certificate that expires between 1 March and 31 October 2020, it will be valid for an additional eight months. Northern Ireland’s infrastructure minister, Nichola Mallon, announced the theory test certificate extension on 8 July, and said that current driving regulations would be changed.
The validity of off-road motorcycle test pass certificates that expire between 1 March and 31 August 2020 will be extended by a further six months under the amendments.
Northern Ireland Theory Tests Restart
Driving theory tests in Northern Ireland restarted on 6 July, with strict social distancing measures in place to protect test candidates and staff.
The theory test extension measure will come into effect from September and 1,300 learner drivers are expected to benefit.
Mallon said: “This will be a welcome relief for many learner drivers who are worried about losing out due to the impact of COVID-19 on our services. My priority during this crisis is to keep people safe and to minimise disruption and inconvenience to our customers. This legislative change will come into effect in September and will be applied retrospectively.”
Although officially part of the UK, driver testing in Northern Ireland is overseen by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) and not the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which oversees driver testing in England, Scotland, and Wales.
COVID-19 Impact Prompts Theory Test Certificate Extension
Commenting on the impact of coronavirus on the DVA, Mallon said: “As many will be aware a number of DVA services have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately as we now look to recovery, the Department has been able to confirm that a number of services will now return.”
“As previously announced, the DVA plans to reinstate some driver testing services in July for those licence categories where testing can be done safely, in line with current PHA advice and guidance on social distancing requirements,” she added.
The DVA has restarted motorcycle testing, while tests for buses, tractors, and module 4 CPC tests for trucks and coaches are scheduled to resume on 20 July.
Return of Practical Tests
The Department of Infrastructure has said that it will look into how practical tests for cars and lorries could ‘resume safely,’ in the coming weeks.
Minister Mallon said: “While a date for the resumption of these services has not yet been confirmed, this legislative change is a step forward for drivers who have already passed their theory test and are keen to take their practical driving test.”
“My Department continues to work at pace to find solutions to ensure the safe resumption of all services, working in partnership with staff and the unions. I will continue to keep the public updated during this changing and challenging time,” she added.