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Brexit: Does IDP solve UK licence swap problem in France?

UK driving licences cannot currently be swapped for a French licence, leading to issues with legal driving for those whose UK licences are expiring; one reader asked if an International Driving Permit could help

26 January 2021
By Liv Rowland

You recently ran an article about not being able to exchange a UK driving licence for a French licence. Is one work-around to apply for an International Driving Licence? A quick Google search suggests these can be obtained online almost immediately. Is this allowed?

As we have reported recently, residents of France with expiring or expired UK licences are facing a dilemma because they cannot renew in the UK and cannot currently swap for a French licence post full Brexit.

Unfortunately, no, an IDP is not the solution. The main reason is that these are not actual driving licences in their own right, but must accompany an actual, valid, driving licence.

Their correct name in English is an International Driving Permit or IDP, and they are a document which countries may ask visitors driving on certain foreign licences to have with them in addition to their licence. They are essentially an official multi-language translation of your driving licence.

France has decided, following full Brexit, that UK visitors do not need an IDP to drive in France. People driving on French and other EU licences do not need an IDP to drive in the UK.

So an IDP is not relevant in France for holders of UK licences and in any case on its own would not be valid as proof of the right to drive in France.

What is more they can only be issued on proof of having a valid driving licence. Official UK IDPs are issued by post offices in the UK for £5.50, but only to people with a UK address.

France formerly allowed holders of UK licences living in France to apply for a French permis de conduire international, but following full Brexit the UK is no longer listed among countries whose licences are accepted for this. It is unclear therefore how a holder of a UK licence living in France may obtain one at present, especially as it is also not currently possible to swap for a French licence.

The term ‘international driving licence’ does pop up on a Google search, with the first result being the website of a body called the International Drivers’ Association, which charges $59 to issue one.

However we note that the website states in the ‘About us’ section that their document has no ‘official status’. “International Driving Permits, which are booklets issued by governmental agencies or private organizations designated by a country’s government, are the only official translation of a person’s Driver’s License,” it states.

The RAC and AA used to issue IDPs in the UK, but the AA currently states on its website that it is not able to issue them at present linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and government guidelines but hopes to resume issuing them in the future. The RAC meanwhile states on its site: the post office is currently “the sole issuer of IDPs”.

As such we would not recommend relying on 'licences' from unofficial sources and in any case, as mentioned, an IDP can only be issued on providing a valid licence and should accompany the licence when driving in a country which requires one – which in the case of UK licences does not include France.

Previous articles

UK licence holders left in limbo over driving licence swap rules post Brexit

Hopes for fast solution for UK driving licence swap in France

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