Check codes: Clarifications on UK driving licence swaps in France

A simple way of obtaining proof of entitlement to drive will be accepted and sworn translations will not be required, officials have confirmed

9 August 2021
By Liv Rowland

Several simplifications related to UK driving licence swaps in France have been confirmed to The Connexion by the British Embassy in Paris.

The clarifications came after readers reported issues relating to how to prove your right to drive as part of a swap application for a French licence, and whether or not sworn translations into French of certain documents are now required.

When are swaps required?

Under the terms of the recent UK-EU driving licence deal, the UK and French authorities announced in late June 2021 that British licence holders living in France who applied for a swap last year, at ants.gouv.fr would still have their applications honoured on condition that their licence has expired or has only six months to go before expiry. 

Last year the UK was still in the Brexit transition period, meaning swap applications made then should legally still be considered ‘EU’ licence swaps.

Under the deal, other residents in France with UK licences issued before 2021 do not have to swap them, but can continue to use them in France.

However they must swap the licences when they are approaching expiry, or in other limited circumstances such as if they have committed a driving offence that would usually involve loss of points from a French licence. 

Newcomers to France with licences issued from 2021 onwards would have to apply for a swap within one year of the date of issue of their residency permit (carte de séjour), the British Embassy said. If their licences are older, the same rules apply as for those living in France before this year.

Read more: Official French driving licence site now open to swap UK licences

EU or non-EU licence swaps - the differences

Since the UK is fully a non-EU country since January 1, 2021, the list of documents required for a swap application has lengthened.

As shown on this French government website, additional items are usually requested for non-EU licence swaps, compared to when applying to swap an EU/EEA licence.

These include providing an ‘attestation of the right to drive’, dated less than three months ago, from the authority that issued the licence and a sworn translation of this document. A sworn translation of the foreign driving licence is also usually required for non-EU licence swaps.

The French Interior Ministry previously told The Connexion that UK swaps from this year would be according to the normal non-EU rules.

What is an ‘attestation of the right to drive’ in France?

The formal document issued by the UK’s DVLA that corresponds to an ‘attestation of the right to drive’ is called the D737 Certificate of Entitlement. However, some readers have reported difficulties in obtaining one.

This document shows if your right to drive is still valid in the UK (this is usually until age 70, and then the licence must be renewed every three years if you live in the UK) and that the licence has not been suspended or withdrawn.

However, questions have been raised as to whether a simpler alternative is acceptable. Issues have also been raised over the need for translations for UK licence swaps.

Can the ‘check code’ be used instead of the D737?

The UK government provides an online service called a ‘check code’ which UK licence holders may use to obtain a screen showing up-to-date information on their licence and driving entitlements, similar to the D737. It is possible to save this for sharing with third parties, or print it out.

The Connexion recently heard from two readers who have had this document accepted by the French authorities as part of a swap application. However in both cases these readers had already applied for a swap in 2020, and their licences (but not right to drive) had since expired. In order to complete the processing of their applications the extra right to drive document was requested.

The French Interior Ministry told The Connexion it has been discussing the ‘check code’ point with the British Embassy. The embassy has now clarified to The Connexion that a check code will be accepted for swap applications as long as the licence is an ordinary British licence and not one for a Crown dependency, Gibraltar or Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. 

In these latter cases, the embassy said where an ‘attestation’ is requested, you should contact the relevant issuing authority to request a letter or certificate of entitlement.

Neither the French nor UK authorities have clarified why the extra document was requested of our two readers who had applied in 2020, as it is not requested for EU licence holders, however the embassy has told The Connexion that it appears it is now being asked for systematically, even for 2020 swaps.

If you do fall into this category and are asked for an attestation, it is quicker and easier to obtain the check code as opposed to the Certificate of Entitlement which has to be posted out by the DVLA. Am embassy spokeswoman said the check code and/or Certificate of Entitlement can still be obtained to show the French authorities even if you are now aged over 70 and your right to drive has expired. In this case 2020 swap applications will still be honoured, the spokeswoman said.

Moving forward, those applying for swaps this year or later will also be able to use the simplified check code procedure.

Are translations required?

Neither of our readers were asked to provide a translation of their check code document, however, both applied last year under ‘EU’ rules, and EU rules do not require any translations.

However, the British Embassy told The Connexion that translations will not be required for UK licence swaps generally, either of the check code or Certificate of Entitlement, nor of the licence. This simplification is contrary to the previous information that UK licence swaps would be subject to the ordinary non-EU rules.

Read more: What does the UK-France driving licence deal mean for you?

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