PCO stands for the Public Carriage Office, which is a department of Transport for London (TfL). A PCO licence is an essential document if you want to become an Uber driver or drive for similar platforms such as Bolt, Ola, or FREE NOW. It’s basically a licence for you, as a driver.

Its official name is Private Hire Driver Licence (PCO licence), but most people simply call it a PCO licence. Don’t let this confuse you.

What do I need to do to apply for a Private Hire Driver licence (PCO licence) in London?

We’ve outlined the steps to help you obtain your PCO Licence in London.

1. Make sure you’re eligible for a PCO licence

To be eligible for a PCO licence, you need to meet the following requirements:

  1. Be 21 years or older
  2. Have at least 3 years of driving experience in the UK
  3. Have the legal right to work in the UK

If you meet these criteria, you need to have the following documents ready and valid:

  • Passport
  • UK driver’s licence (with at least 3 years of driving experience)
  • National insurance number
  • Proof of address (bank statement/utility bill dated within the last 3 months)
  • A unique tax check code which confirms your registration to pay tax
  • Your debit or credit card to make the necessary payments
  • TfL-approved English language qualification – B1 or higher level (more on this here)
  • DVLA Check Code a.k.a. Electronic Counterpart Code (you can generate this here)
  • Additional documents, if you have changed your name or lived abroad over the last 3 years.

2. Complete an enhanced DBS check

TfL states that in order to apply for a PCO licence, you must be of good character, so they require you to take an enhanced criminal records check from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

TIP: DBS checks are only valid for three months, but you can save time and money in the long run if you sign up to the DBS update service.

This lets you keep your DBS certificate up to date while allowing employers to access it online, with your consent. This only costs £13 – significantly cheaper than the ~£52 fee you’d otherwise have to pay for every new background check.

Complete an enhanced DBS check

3. Get a medical exam

You must be medically fit in order to get a PCO licence, meaning you must pass the Group 2 standards of the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA).

You’ll need to print and complete the TPH/204 medical form. Visit your General Practitioner, so they can sign the form and confirm that the information you provided is correct.

TIP: Make sure your local GP offers eye tests, otherwise you’ll need to complete it separately.

4. Get the right to work check

You must confirm that you’re allowed to work in the UK. For that, you will need to fill an online check completed by TfL on the Government website after you submit the PCO licence application. If something is not clear, you might be asked to provide extra documents for a manual check.

IMPORTANT: If you have lived outside the UK in the past 3 years, for 3 months or more, you have to complete the Living and working abroad form.

From July 2021, EU EEA and Swiss nationals must have a valid immigration status in the UK and can no longer rely on a passport or ID card to prove their right to work. 

Read more on the EU/EEA nationals guidance.

5. Register with HMRC

As a new applicant, you need to prove that you acknowledge the HMRC guidance about your tax obligations in the UK. For this, you must complete a tax check with HMRC, using your Government Gateway ID and password. You will get a unique 9-character tax check code valid for 120 days. This code is mandatory for processing your PCO licence application.

6. Complete the Safeguarding awareness training course

Before taking the English test, you must complete the online Safeguarding Awareness training course. This course contains important information on protecting children and vulnerable adults at risk from harm and abuse, a topic covered by the SERU assessment from the TfL English test.

7. Take the TfL English test

In order to be an Uber driver in London, TfL requires a good level of English language. For proving your skills, you need to take the TfL English test.

There are two separate assessments to prove you meet the English Language Requirements:

  • The SERU (safety, equality, and regulatory requirements) assessment to evaluate reading and writing abilities, as well as to determine the understanding of safety and equality matters
  • The speaking and listening assessment to evaluate conversational skills

Both assessments need to be passed in order to be eligible for applying to a PCO licence.

8. Apply online for the PCO licence

Once you’ve got all the papers and completed every assessment, you’re ready to submit your PCO licence application online.

Register here, sign in and follow the instructions.

IMPORTANT: Once the application is started, you’ll be unable to press a “Go Back” option, so it’s crucial to take the time to read and select the right answers during each step of the process.

9. Take the TfL topographical test

Once you’ve submitted your Private Hire Driver licence or PCO application, you will be invited to take the TfL topographical test (map-reading test). You are exempt from taking this test if you’re:

  • A previously licensed PHV driver who already passed this test
  • A licensed London taxi driver
  • A professional London tourist guide

10. Start earning a flexible income

If you’ve completed all the steps above, you’re ready to start earning an income with on-demand platforms. It’s up to you which one you choose, but we suggest signing up to several ridesharing and delivery apps to make the best use of your working hours and maximise your income.

PCO licence FAQ

How much does the PCO application cost?

Depending on your situation, the cost is around £500 in total. You may spend more if, for example, you need courses to prepare for examinations or if you fail an exam.

The table below gives you an idea about how much getting your PCO licence will cost you:

PCO licence application costs
Licence application fee (non-refundable) £124
Grant of licence fee £186
Medical ~£80 (or set by your GP)
DBS check £52 (online) / £54 (paper)
Topographical assessment £36 / £16 each retake
SERU assessment £36
Speaking and listening assessment £36
*Post Office ‘Check and Send’ transfers £7.15 (unless paid via credit/debit card)

How long does it take to get the PCO licence?

It generally takes between 12-16 weeks for your PCO application to be fully processed. It’s always a good idea to start gathering your documents as early as possible.

How long is the PCO licence valid?

Your PCO licence is valid for 3 years. You should receive a PCO licence renewal pack in the post about four months before it expires, but it’s always a good idea to set a reminder to contact TfL. Especially because the PCO renewal process can take up to 8 weeks.

Keep in mind that when you apply to reapply for a PCO licence, you’ll also have to renew your criminal record.

What happens if my PCO application is refused?

If this happens, TfL will notify you via email. The notification should include a confirmation that your application has been refused, the reason(s) for the refusal, as well as your right to appeal the decision – including what you need to do and by when. You can normally appeal the decision in 21 days.

How do I renew my PCO licence?

You need to renew your PCO licence every 3 years. About 4-6 weeks before your current licence expires, TfL will send you a renewal pack, containing forms that you need to sign and send back. However, you can also send the papers online.

IMPORTANT: It’s illegal to drive with an expired PCO licence. So make sure you send the renewal application form as early as possible before your current PCO licence expires.

When renewing your licence, you’ll also need to complete a new DBS check (valid for three months) and get another medical check.

You have three months to renew your licence after it expires. If you don’t renew it within this time, TfL will remove you from their system. This means you’ll need to re-apply for a new licence from scratch. Also, keep in mind that the starting date on your renewed licence will be from when the licence is issued, not from when you applied to renew it.

For renewal, you need to submit the following documents:

  • Recent photo of yourself
  • Completed renewal form
  • Completed medical declaration form
  • Completed DBS check
  • Renewal payment

IMPORTANT: You must also sent a physical copy of your last PCO licence to TfL within the first week of its expiration.

The PCO licence renewal costs £170 and it usually takes around 6 weeks to process.

Is the PCO licence the same as the Uber licence?

No. The PCO licence is a document issued by TfL mandatory to do rideshare driving on any available platform, Uber, Bolt, Free Now, Ola etc. To drive for Uber, you need the Uber licence you can get if you meet all Uber driver and car requirements and submit your application that must include your valid PCO licence.

About Splend

We’re PCO car specialists enabling on-demand drivers to make money by driving. Our vision is a future where every on-demand driver can be successful.

We can set you up with a brand-new or new-model car, and provide the training and support you need to become a more profitable, safer, and fulfilled driver. Don’t take our word for it — Uber drivers rate us excellent on Trustpilot.

Make an appointment at our London Hub at 393 Edgware Road Cricklewood, Londonemail us, or say hello on 0333 016 4331