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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
feature creep

You're going to need a PSC to get any kind of driving licence or learner permit from April

Driving licence applications will become the latest state process to be added to the Public Services Card’s remit in just under seven weeks.

psc The Public Services Card

IRISH PEOPLE SEEKING to apply for a driving licence or learner permit will soon need to hold a Public Services Card (PSC) in order to process their application.

The website of the Road Safety Authority is now sporting, as of yesterday, a disclaimer saying that the controversial PSC will be the only acceptable form of identification when it comes to applying for a new licence or renewal from 9 April this year – just under seven weeks’ time.

Applications for the driver theory test had required a PSC of citizens since last June.

The PSC has come in for sustained criticism from experts in data protection and privacy since its expansion was first announced (the card was first introduced for welfare services like jobseekers’ payments in 2012) in May 2017, both due to the dubious legislative basis for the expansion itself and the extent to which the card complies with the forthcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

While the need to hold a card in order to apply for a licence proper had long been expected (the move is included as part of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s expansion plans for the card, with a deadline of March 2018), the disclaimer on the RSA site is the first indication that the feature’s rollout is imminent.

“From Monday 9 April 2018 you will need a Public Services Card to apply for a driving licence or learner permit,” it reads.

6 An Irish driving licence

This change will simplify and increase the security of the application process, help combat fraud and keep unlicensed drivers off our roads.

“The Public Services Card will now be the only form of identity accepted at National Driving Licence Service (NDLS) centres when applying for the first time or renewing your driving licence or learner permit. It will be used to verify your name, PPS number, address and identity.”


The RSA’s usage of the phrase “only form of identity” is problematic to some extent (it uses the same phraseology when describing the driver theory test application process) given that the PSC is not supposed to be an identity card, despite accusations that the it represents an attempt to introduce a national ID card by stealth.

Driving licences are just the latest service to be added to the PSC’s remit, which already includes theory tests, first time passport applications, and all welfare services provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP).

The driving test proper, however, is not affected.


While the physical need for a PSC will apply to all applications made to NDLS centres, the RSA has confirmed that it will launch an online service (for renewals only at first) on 30 April.

An advertising campaign, including radio spots, will also follow.

That renewal service will require a verified MyGovID account (MyGovID is the online partner system for the PSC).

“The main thing we want is that people are aware of the 9 April deadline so they have time to get their PSC if they need it,” a RSA spokesperson told

The same spokesperson stressed that fraud reduction is a key component to the use of the PSC for such licence applications.

“Because the PSC has a greater degree of identity validation, it means there’s a higher standard of fraud prevention,” they said.

‘Enforcement dimension’

There’s an enforcement dimension to a driving licence, an anti-fraud dimension. A number of prosecutions happened last year because people were using false identities to acquire driving licences.

The spokesperson suggested that drivers will carry out such fraud in order “to avoid penalty points for dangerous driving, for example”.

The move to expand the PSC to driving licence applications comes amid heightened criticism of the card itself ahead of the go-live date for GDPR on 25 May.

Earlier this month, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties called for the card to be discontinued in its current guise as there is no clear legal basis for it.

Another problem that has been widely discussed is that, in requiring a PSC to obtain a passport or driver’s licence, the state is giving precedence to its own, in-house SAFE2 form of identity verification over internationally-recognised documents that allow safe passage between countries.

The seeming contradiction of needing a passport to get a PSC but then needing that PSC to renew your passport has also been a bone of contention for consumers.

Over three million PSCs had been distributed to the Irish public as at end 2017, with the project costing in the region of €60 million.

Read: The government wants to exempt itself from the EU’s new hardcore data protection rules – but why?

Read: Woman has request to see changes made to her own data refused as database ‘is blanked every two weeks’

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