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Is UK driving licence extension valid in France?

A reader has asked if Britons worried about their UK licences having expired can benefit from an extension from the DVLA

I read online that the DVLA has been extending the validity of expiring British driving licences – is this the solution for those unable to exchange for a French licence?

It is correct that the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) announced last year that Britons whose licences were expiring would benefit from an automatic extension with regard to their obligation to renew.

Linked to the coronavirus pandemic, it said it would extend the date of the obligation to renew by 11 months for those whose licences were expiring between February 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. This applied both to the requirement to renew modern photocard licences after 10 years from issue as well as the requirement to renew all licences at age 70 when the right to drive expires.

Those concerned did not have to do anything to qualify for the extension. However a DVLA spokesman told The Connexion: “If your licence or entitlement to drive in the UK has been automatically extended, then you must renew your licence before you can drive abroad.”

In other words it is a UK tolerance but does not allow you to drive on an expired licence in France. Also it does not apply to licences expiring from January 1, 2021.

The problem of expired or expiring UK licences came to the fore recently after it emerged that it is not currently possible to apply to exchange a UK licence for a French one as there is no French-UK agreement on this post-full Brexit.

It is hoped that bilateral talks will resolve this in the coming months.

French officials have stated that ongoing applications for swaps made via the site up to December 31, 2020 will be processed as they were made during the Brexit transition period under the rules for EU citizens.

Meanwhile France has agreed that for now British licences of those who were residents in France in 2020 will remain valid to use in France for 2021 and British licences of those moving over will remain valid in France for one year from moving (though only if they have not expired).

The Connexion continues to receive emails from readers affected by the expired/expiring licences issue.

Some had previously applied to the CERT service in Nantes for a swap prior to 2020 but had their dossiers returned and closed early in 2020 due to CERT’s backlog because they were not deemed urgent at that time. They did not then submit new applications via the new online process at last year.

One possible, but costly, solution to the problem of expiring licences for some people who rely on their own transport could be to hire or buy a voiture sans permis – a small vehicle which can be driven without a valid licence. 

Similar to riding a small scooter (up to 50cc), these can be driven with only an eight-hour training course, or if you were born before January 1, 1988, with no formalities at all.

Previous articles

Does IDP solve UK licence swap problem in France? 

UK drivers left in limbo over licence swap rules post Brexit 

Hopes for fast solution for UK driving licence swap in France 

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