International bus and coach services: operator licences, permits and documents

Find out how to apply to operate bus or coach services overseas and download application forms.

To operate a bus or coach service overseas you need an authorisation from the country or countries on the route. To get an authorisation you apply to the International Road Freight Office (IRFO) who approach the countries on your behalf.

The authorisations you need depend on which countries the service will operate in and whether the service is regular or non-regular.

Regular services

A regular service picks up and sets down passengers at fixed stopping places on a specified route.

IRFO will approach each country in which the service will operate for their approval. For operations entirely within the EU, one authorisation document will be issued. For non-EU services each country will issue its own authorisation.

Within the EU, member states have 4 months to reach a decision from the date they receive the application. If IRFO doesn’t receive a decision within that time the application will be deemed to have been acceptable.

Once the application has been approved IRFO will let you know by sending you a fee request for the grant charges – see fees section below.

The authorisation, which is uniquely numbered and printed on pink paper, incorporates the timetable, fare table and drivers’ hours schedule. It’s endorsed by IRFO and date stamped. Certified true copies are also issued for carriage on all the vehicles to be operated by all partners and/or sub-contractors on the route.

Once the authorisation has been issued you must make sure that the following documents are carried on the vehicle:

  • a copy of the authorisation of the regular service
  • a copy of the contract between the operator of the regular service and the undertaking providing the additional vehicles or an equivalent document
  • a certified true copy of the community licence issued to the operator providing the additional vehicles for the service

How to apply

Download and complete the relevant application form:

You should return the completed form with payment to:

International Road Freight Office (IRFO)
Hillcrest House
386 Harehills Lane

You must send the following information with your application form:

  • the timetable
  • fare scales
  • a certified true copy of the community licence for the international carriage of passengers by road for hire or reward, provided for in Article 3(a) of Regulation No. 1073/2009 for all operators / sub-contractors / partners listed on this service
  • information about the type and volume of the service that you plan to provide in the case of a new service, or that has been provided if you’re applying to renew an authorisation
  • a map on an appropriate scale that shows the route and the stopping points where passengers are to be picked up and set down
  • a driving schedule to so that driving and rest periods can be checked for compliance against (EC) No. 561/2006 drivers’ hours regulations
  • list of vehicles to be used (non-EU only)

You should provide any additional information in support of your application that you consider relevant or that’s requested by the issuing authority.

Where a number of operators are to act in consortium to provide a pooled service, one should be nominated to make an application on behalf of all the partners. They should preferably be based in the country where the route begins or ends.


You must send the correct fee with your application. This is non refundable if the application is unsuccessful. If the service is approved, then you’ll need to pay a further fee to validate the authorisation for each year of operation. The maximum period of validity for a regular service is 5 years.

Scale of fees

Coach Fee
Regular service (application fee) £180.00
Fee per year (grant charge) £38.00
Certified copy (per copy) £13.00

The grant charge

The grant charge is an upfront payment for the annual fees and copy authorisations, which can be any period between 1 and 5 years. IRFO will send you a request to pay the grant charge once your application for authorisation has been approved.

Example of grant charge fee (fee request):

Authorisation : London to Paris

5 years at £38.00 a year : £ 190.00


Number of copy authorisations required at £13.00 each : £130.00

(1 original and 10 copies)

Total to pay: £320.00

You’ll receive one free copy of your authorisations and any additional certified copies are charged separately as part of the grant charge.

Authorisations can be valid for up to a maximum of 5 years. After 5 years you have to renew your application, at which point all fees will apply again.

Changes to service

If you make small changes to your service, i.e. change of departure times, these are processed free of charge.

If you make a fundamental change to your authorisation, i.e. change / add / remove a partner then you’ll have to pay for the copy fee only for the amendment to this authorisation.

If you change the service completely ie change the starting or end destination of the timetable, a new application must be made. All fees will apply again.

Additional notes

Passengers using a regular service shall throughout the journey be in possession of a valid travel ticket, either individual or collective, which indicates:

  • the departure and destination points and where appropriate the return journey
  • the period of validity of the ticket
  • the price of the transport

These tickets shall be presented for inspection at the request of any authorised inspecting officer.

Non EU regular coach services

If the service destination is outside the EU, or if the operation route passes through a non EU country, the legal requirements depend on the individual countries. Generally each country will be required to authorise the operations. Unlike in the EU, where approval is assumed after 4 months, there is no time limit in which countries must respond, and you must have all the individual authorisations before carrying out the journey. As with regular services, you make the application via IRFO.

Special regular services

A special regular service means a regular service which provides for the carriage of specified categories of passengers to the exclusion of other passengers.

Special regular services include:

  • taking workers between home and work
  • taking pupils and students to and from their educational institution
  • taking soldiers and their families between their country of origin and the area of their barracks

The fact that a special service may be varied according to the needs of users doesn’t affect its classification as a special regular service.

The application should be made to the competent authority of the member state from which the service departs.

The maximum period of validity of the authorisation is 5 years.

Occasional services

Occasional services means:

  • services which don’t fall within the definition of regular services, including special regular services
  • the main characteristic of the service is the carriage of groups of passengers constituted on the initiative of the customer or carrier himself

Every vehicle operating internationally should carry a control document to confirm its status.

For occasional operations, where it’s accepted that volume and detail will not be regulated, the operator institutes a waybill (a journey form) to specify the circumstances.

There are 3 versions of the waybill – EU, Interbus and ASOR. The one you will need depends on the relevant international agreement between the UK and the country concerned.

Waybills can be purchased from the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT).

For more information, contact the CPT on Tel: 0207 240 3131, by email at admin@cpt-uk-org or write to:

Confederation of Passenger Transport
Fifth Floor Offices (South)
Chancery House
53-64 Chancery Lane


Cabotage operations are authorised under EU Regulation 1073/2009 in any EU member state for the following services:

  • national road passenger services carried out on a temporary basis by a carrier in a host EU country
  • the picking up and setting down of passengers within the same EU country in the course of a regular international service provided that cabotage is not the principle purpose of the service

Operators must hold a community licence, a certified copy of which must be kept in the vehicle and the necessary control documents.

Bus permits for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia

UK PSV operators running occasional services that pick up passengers in Belarus, Kazakhstan or Russia need a permit from IRFO.

You’ll need to provide IRFO with the following information: :

  • name and address of operator
  • PSV operators licence number
  • make of bus
  • registration number
  • destination
  • number of passengers
  • departure date
  • arrival date

The law states that a permit isn’t required if the same group of passengers is transported on the same coach throughout its entire journey and the journey begins and ends in the UK, or if the coach leaves the territory (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia) empty.

NB – regardless of this, Belarus and Russia still ask UK operators to provide a permit, even though ‘closed-door’ tours are described as exempt under the bilateral agreement. This may be because the group of passengers is being taken from the territory of a third country and vice versa.

These permits are currently issued free of charge.

Own account certificates

Own account means operations carried out for non-commercial and non-profit making purposes by a person or organisation, where:

  • the transport activity is not the main business for that person or organisation
  • the vehicles are the property of that person or organisation, or have been obtained by that person on deferred terms, or are the subject of a long-term leasing contract
  • are driven by a member of the staff of the person or organisation or by the person himself or by someone employed by, or put at the disposal of, the undertaking under a contractual obligation

Application is made direct to IRFO. The costs of these certificates are £6 per annum for a maximum of 5 years and are vehicle specific.

MOT extensions due to coronavirus (COVID-19) – Great Britain only

MOTs have been extended due to coronavirus. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has updated its electronic records, but has not issued new paper documents.

When you make international journeys, carry a copy of this letter from DVSA that explains your MOT has been extended. This letter has been shared with the European Commission.

You should also carry:

  • a printed copy of the email confirmation you received from DVSA if you were given a 12-month extension
  • a print of the vehicle record from the service to check the MOT history of a vehicle – this shows the new expiry date

Find out more about MOT extensions due to coronavirus.

Useful addresses

Confederation of Passenger Transport
3rd Floor, Drury House
34-43 Russell Street
Tel: 0207 240 3131

International Road Freight Office (IRFO)
Hillcrest House
386 Harehills Lane
Tel: 0113 202 6072

Central Licensing Office
Hillcrest House
386 Harehills Lane
Tel: 0300 123 9000
Fax: 0113 249 8142

Published 16 April 2013
Last updated 22 December 2020 
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