UK drivers left in limbo over licence swap rules post Brexit

Drivers in France using UK licences cannot renew them to a French address if they expire

26 January 2021
If a UK licence expires, it cannot currently be renewed to a French address as the rules to do this were not covered in the Brexit deal signed in December
By Liv Rowland

Brexit has left an increasing number of British people living in France facing months without being able to drive legally.

It is currently not possible for UK nationals driving on UK licences in France to exchange for a French one, as is required of non-EU nationals, as the rules to do this were not covered in the Brexit deal signed in December.

France has agreed to allow drivers using UK licences to continue to do so until the end of this year but if the UK licence expires – as recent photocard ones do after 10 years and all do when the driver reaches 70 and every three years after, it cannot be renewed to a French address – and currently cannot be swapped for a French licence.

The only legal options are to stop driving or take a French driving test.

A reciprocal solution is hoped to be concluded by summer

No date has been set for talks on reciprocal solutions between the UK and France but French officials say they hope they will be concluded by summer. One said: “We can’t do anything about the expiring licence issue – there’s no immediate solution but it’s not us that voted for Brexit.”

Reader Mary Miller, who lives in rural Burgundy, said her UK licence expired in December when she reached the age of 70.

“As I live in an isolated house, 3km from the nearest neighbour and boulangerie and 10km from any supermarket, I am finding this very stressful. I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Other readers say they feel “panicked” and “worried” as their licences have expired, or expire soon, and they do not want to sit a French test.

Before Brexit, UK licences could be swapped for French ones under a simplified EU procedure.

It was not obligatory unless a driving offence required it or the licence was expiring but EU licence rules no longer apply to UK licences.

Drivers holding non-EU licences have 12 months after a move to France to swap if the country of issue has an agreement with France.

A few countries – and some American states – do not have such an agreement, meaning newcomers must sit a French test.

Usually, this is because the other side insists French drivers who move there must take a test but this is highly unlikely to happen with the UK.

Licence swaps can only be arranged online at ants.gouv.fr. Extra documents are required for non-EU licences, as opposed to EU exchanges, including a sworn translation of the licence and a letter from the issuing authorities attesting to the holder’s right to drive, also translated.

Sworn translation costs vary but are from around €40 per document. Applications will still be processed for British licence holders who applied for a swap last year.

For UK nationals who come to live in France after Brexit, their UK licences will remain valid for one year from arrival

“This means that for existing residents and the new group that come there is no urgency for the moment,” the French official said.

He said France expects an agreement with the UK “well before the end of the year” and UK licence-holders will be informed of the arrangements.

This does not resolve the problem of those whose UK licence has passed, or is about to pass, its validity date.
The DVLA in the UK will not issue a new licence to a person without a British address.
Britons living in France using UK licences do not need to be concerned about being unable to swap if they are flashed by a camera, the official said.

Usually, drivers are obliged to swap in such cases as points cannot be removed, as is the French practice, from a foreign licence. French licences begin with 12 points and have points deducted for infractions.

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