Driving in Canada can be a great way to get to know a new country. After all, there’s plenty of beautiful scenery to take in, from coast-to-coast. In order to legally drive in Canada, you’ll need a driver’s licence that is authorized by your local province or territory. For newcomers looking to settle in Quebec, here’s everything you need to know about obtaining your driver’s licence and some of the specific rules to keep in mind when you’re behind the wheel.
In this article:
- An overview of licencing rules
- How to get your driver’s licence from scratch as a novice
- How to get your driver’s license based on previous driving experience in your home country
- Fee structure for a driver’s licence
- Things to note about driving in the province
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See Getting around in Canada: How to get a driver’s licence for licencing and driving rules in Canada, and whether to rent, buy, or lease a car.
Quebec operates on a graduated licence system, as it helps to reduce the risks that new drivers face. In order to possess a full driver’s licence, drivers in Quebec are required to do a mandatory Class 5 driving course, as well as pass one written knowledge test and one road test. This system is designed to give novice drivers plenty of hands-on experience before they drive independently with little-to-no restrictions.
Driver’s licences are issued by the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ). Applicants must be 16-years-old or older. Applicants under the age of 18-years-old must have a parent or guardian consent.
Here are the different stages of getting a driver’s licence in Quebec:
1. Register for a driving course
In Quebec it is mandatory to take a Class 5 driving course. You have to register at a driving school that is recognized by the Association québécoise des transports (AQTr). In order to apply for a learner’s licence, you are required to complete four modules of the Phase 1 of the driving course. Each module includes an in-class two-hour theory, as well as a self-study component available in the online Driving Course. You’ll also have to pass the knowledge test given by the driving school.
2. Learner’s licence
A learner licence is the second stage in becoming a driver in Quebec. Once you have passed the knowledge test administered by the driving school, you can visit a Quebec service outlet to issue a learner’s licence. You’ll also be required to pass a vision test and fill out a Declaration of Illness or Impairment form. You will be issued a learner’s permit for 18-months and may drive with a licensed driving instructor or an accompanying driver who has a valid Class 5 driver’s licence for at least two-years. You will continue with the driving school course where you’ll receive 24 hours of theory and 15 hours of driving on the road with an instructor. You must hold a learner’s licence for at least 10 months.
This type of licence has the most restrictions, including:
- Drive with a supervised driver in the passenger seat who has a full valid Class 5 licence for at least two-years or qualified driving instructor
- Zero alcohol consumption and zero drugs in their system
- No driving between midnight to 5 a.m.
- No use of handheld electronic devices
- Restricted to a four demerit point bracket
3. Probationary licence
The next stage is obtaining a probationary licence. In order to do this, you’ll need to have had your learner’s licence for at least 12 months, passed a recognized driving course, pass a knowledge test from materials covered in the Driving Course on the SAAQ website, Driving a Passenger Vehicle, and the Driver’s Handbook, as well as a road test.
There are restrictions that apply, including:
- Restricted to a four demerit point bracket
- Zero alcohol consumption and zero drugs in your system
- Limit of one passenger (immediate family are exempt) for the first six months or less and a limit of three passengers after more than six months on a probationary licence, unless with a supervising driver with a full licence and two or more years driving experience.
- No use of handheld electronic devices
4. Full licence
A full driver’s licence is the final step in Quebec’s graduated licence system. If you maintain a good driving record for two-years, then you may obtain a Class 5 driver’s licence. There is no road test associated with getting a Quebec Class 5 licence, but you will have to demonstrate safe, capable driving over the two-years on your probationary licence.
- Every car you drive must have auto insurance
- Cannot have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.05 per cent
How to get your driver’s licence in Quebec
If you are a new resident to Quebec and have a valid driver’s licence from another country, you can legally use it for the first six months. After that time, you would require an international driving permit. If you become a new resident in Quebec, you are able to apply for a Quebec driving licence as soon as you settle in the province.
If you don’t have an existing licence and would like to get a Quebec driver’s licence, you have to be at least 16-years-old to apply. Applicants under the age of 18-years-old must have a parent or guardian consent.
- Register for a Class 5 driving course at a school recognized by the Association québécoise des transports (AQTr).
- Complete Phase 1 of the driving course.
- Study the online Driving Course.
- Pass the knowledge test given by the driving school.
- Visit a Quebec service outlet to apply for a learner’s licence.
- Pass a vision test and fill out a Declaration of Illness or Impairment form.
- Pay the fee $72.58 CAD for an 18-month learner’s permit.
- One you pass, you will receive your learner’s licence and are considered a beginner driver and continue with the driving school course.
- You must hold a learner’s permit for at least 10 months before applying for a probationary licence.
Most auto insurance companies offer a discount or reduced premium for new drivers who have completed a recognized driver training program. Some insurers also provide discounts for drivers who have taken a defensive driving course.
Applying for a new driver’s licence in Quebec based on previous driving experience in your home country
If you have previous driving experience and a valid licence in your home country, you may belong to one of the following categories:
- You’re moving from a country where Quebec has a reciprocal arrangement for driver’s licence.
- You’re moving from a country where Quebec does not have a reciprocal arrangement for driver’s licence.
1. Moving from a country with a reciprocal arrangement for driver’s licence
Eligible countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Isle of Man, Japan, the Netherlands (including Sint Maarten, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba and Sint Eustatius), South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom (including England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), United States.
Process to get a local driving licence in Quebec: Exchange your existing licence from your home country at a service outlet.
Key eligibility criteria: At least two year’s driving experience, proof of right to stay in Canada and proof of residency in Quebec.
Steps involved: Book an appointment to visit a Quebec service outlet and bring:
- Proof of right to stay in Canada, proof of Quebec residency.
- Bring your current, valid foreign driver’s licence and proof that you were a resident in that country within the last three years.
- Translation of your driver’s licence, if it is written in a language other than French or English.
- Pay the fee: Regular licence is $98.73 CAD per year.
If you have less than two years of driving experience in a reciprocal country:
- If you cannot prove two years or more driving experience, you will have to apply to obtain a probationary licence.
- You will need to pass a knowledge test and a road test. Once you can prove a good driving record for two years, you can apply to obtain a full Class 5 driver’s licence.
2. Moving from a country with no reciprocal arrangement for driver’s licence
If you are moving from a country that does not have a reciprocal agreement with Quebec you can still exchange your driver’s licence. You must hold a foreign driver’s licence that is equivalent to a Class 5 driver’s licence in Quebec for at least one year. You will also have to prove that you are allowed to stay in Canada and are a resident of Quebec. In addition, you’ll be required to pass a knowledge test and a road test.
- Prepare for the knowledge test in advance by studying:
- Book an appointment to visit a Quebec service outlet
- Bring proof of right to stay in Canada, proof of Quebec residency.
- Bring your current, valid foreign driver’s licence and proof that you were a resident in that country within the last three years, in addition to a translation of your driver’s licence, if it is written in a language other than French or English.
- At the appointment, you may be eligible to take the knowledge test immediately, or will have to book another appointment.
- When you take the knowledge test, pay $11.70 CAD.
- Once you pass, schedule an appointment to take a road test and pay the fees for the test: $29.25 CAD.
- Once you have passed the road test, you will be issued a Quebec driver’s licence. A regular licence is $98.73 CAD per year.
If you have less than one year of driving experience in country without a reciprocal agreement:
- You cannot swap it for a Quebec driver’s licence.
- You will need to apply to enter the graduated licensing process.
|Countries with reciprocal agreement with Quebec with at least two years’ experience||Countries without a reciprocal agreement with Quebec with at least one year experience|
|Do I need proof of driving?||Yes||Yes|
|Is a knowledge test required?||No||Yes|
|Is a road test required?||No||Yes. You will receive a full licence when you pass.|
|What should a driving extract include|
A driving extract, also known as a driving record, is official proof of your driving experience. It is an official letter from the agency that issued your licence. This will be taken into account by the SAAQ to determine your driving experience.
A driving extract must be:
It must also provide the following information:
The fee structure for a Quebec Class 5 driver’s licence is as follows:
|Knowledge test||$11.70 CAD|
|Learner’s licence||$72.58 CAD|
|Road test||$29.25 CAD|
|Probationary licence||$181.06 CAD|
|One-year licence||$98.73 CAD|
|Yearly licence renewal fee||$87.28 CAD|
Even if you’ve been driving for over 20 years, it’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Highway Safety Code in Quebec before getting behind the wheel of a car. The reason why is there are some rules that you may not be familiar with in your home country.
Here are some common road rules for Quebec:
- Road signs and road information is usually in French, not English. A highway is called an “Autoroute.”
- You and your passengers must always properly wear a seatbelt while driving.
- Speed camera warning devices are illegal in Quebec.
- Speed is measured in kilometres per hour. Where there are no speed limits posted, the maximum speed is 30 km/hour in school zones, 50 km/hour in cities, towns and villages, 90 km/hour on rural roads, and 100 km/hour on major highways.
- Cyclists must also follow the rules of the road, but drivers must be aware of them.
- Except for on the island of Montreal, It is legal to turn right at a red light, as long as you come to a complete stop first and wait until the way is clear. At some intersections, there may be a sign prohibiting a right hand turn on a red light.
- Come to a complete stop at a four-way stop and drivers take turns driving through in order of arrival at the stop.
- Drivers in either direction are required to stop for stopped school buses with its red light flashing and/or stop sign activated. This includes if the driver is behind the bus, or the bus is oncoming. When you see a bus with flashing amber lights, slow down and prepare to stop. Stay stopped until the bus moves on or the bus driver signals it is safe for you to proceed. The exception is for oncoming traffic where there is a median wall between your vehicle and the bus.
- At a pedestrian crossing, you must yield to pedestrians and allow them to safely cross before proceeding.
- You are required to slow down and move over for all emergency vehicles, tow trucks and surveillance vehicles stopped by the side of the road with its yellow arrow light signal or flashing lights activated.
- Distracted driving is not permitted, this includes hand-held use of mobile phones. Failure to obey this rule can result in heavy fines and possible licence suspension.
- Driving while intoxicated is punishable by law. The maximum legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Quebec is 0.05 per cent.
- It is legal to pass on the right or the left, but passing on the left is generally more common and predictable, making it a safer choice for passing. In addition, the Highway Safety Code says you cannot drive in the left hand lane on a multiple lane road, unless passing or turning left. Unlike other provinces in Canada, this rule is enforced in Quebec.
- The Quebec Automobile Insurance Act states you must have valid car insurance when driving. If you are caught without insurance, you can be fined and may automatically lose your licence.
Another major difference you may encounter when driving in Quebec is winter driving. If you are not experienced with winter driving, getting behind the wheel of a car during a snowstorm may feel like a scary experience. Depending on your comfort level, consider investing in some driving lessons with a professional instructor on winter driving. They can take you through common scenarios you may face in winter such as skid control, collision avoidance, rear crash avoidance, and braking on slippery surfaces.
The Canada Safety Council has some winter driving tips. Some important things to remember are:
- Make sure that your vehicle is prepared for winter driving.
- Consider investing in winter tires, which provide better traction under ice and snow.
- Drive smoothly and slowly.
- Don’t tailgate – this will make it harder to stop safely.
- Brake before you make a turn.
- Keep your lights on during snow to increase visibility.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the process of obtaining a local driver’s license. Brush up on your road rules ahead of time and stay safe. Having a provincial driver’s licence will give you the freedom to commute to work, explore your new neighbourhood, even take a road-trip and see more of British Columbia!
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