Hopes of fast solution for UK driving licence swap in France

French officials want to reassure drivers using UK licences in France that they are confident an agreement can be found with the UK before summer and say swap applications made in 2020 will be processed as before

15 January 2021
By Liv Rowland

People driving on UK licences and who applied to swap them for a French one at ants.gouv.fr before the end of 2020 will still receive French licences, official sources confirm.

Their applications will continue to be processed as before, leading to issue of a new licence.

This is because due to the Brexit transition period an exchange of a UK licence was still treated the same as an exchange of an EU licence, until December 31, 2020.

However the position remains unresolved for other UK licence holders. There is currently no international agreement in place permitting the swap for a French equivalent and the ants.gouv.fr site does not therefore accept applications for a swap of a UK licence at this time.

A senior French government official told The Connexion preliminary discussions are taking place to lay the ground for talks they expect France to propose to the UK. These would aim to resolve this situation both for those who were driving on UK licences in France before 2021 and those coming from January 2021 and to find “the most efficient solutions possible”.

It was not possible to start such talks before full Brexit while the future relationship of the UK and EU was unclear, the source said, however they expect that the issues will be resolved in the first half of this year.

In the meantime the UK licences of those living in France before this year are currently valid in France until January 1, 2022. The licences of those moving over from January 1, 2020 will be valid for 12 months after they move.

“This means that for both groups that is absolutely no urgency for the moment,” the source said – they expect an agreement with the UK “well before the end of the year” and UK licence holders will be informed of the arrangements.

Third country (non-EU) licences can usually only be swapped for a French one if a specific bilateral agreement on licence swaps exists. However where these do not exist with certain countries, or in the US certain states, that is often because the other country refuses reciprocity.

For example a French person moving to California has to take a Californian driving test, the source said, which explains why there is no agreement with that state.

He said that they anticipate no particular problems regarding the UK as long as there is reciprocity for French licence holders in the UK. They are familiar with the UK driving test process, and the countries have worked together for decades, he said.

In the meantime however there is no solution for those whose UK licences are about to expire to allow them to drive legally while the situation is resolved. They may face a period without the legal right to drive in France.

“We can’t do anything about that for the moment, there’s no immediate solution, but it’s not us that voted for Brexit,” the source said.

The UK does not issue new licences to those living abroad, and France cannot currently issue a French licence for now.

Britons living in France and using UK licences should not worry about being unable to swap after being flashed by a camera, the source said. Under normal circumstances drivers are requested to swap their licence in this case as points cannot be removed (which is the French practice) from a foreign licence.

There is no confusion concerning the right of UK licence holders to drive in France on visits from the UK as this is covered by an existing international law. 

Previous articles

Brexit: UK to French driving licence swap impossible for now

Driving licence rules unclear - there is no France-UK agreement on swapping licences

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