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French prefecture explains permis delays

Waiting times of seven months or more are being reported with the exchange of UK driving licences for French licences, however officials promise to reduce the waiting times and have offered advice on speeding up applications.

The second in command at the Loire-Atlantique prefecture in Nantes, Serge Boulanger, told Connexion they hope in coming months to cut waiting times to around three or four months.

Drivers hit by delays (as reported by many readers) are asked to be patient – however the prefecture is aware of difficulties such as Britons wanting to travel outside France while waiting for their new licence.

Mr Boulanger told us the prefecture was tasked with processing all applications to exchange foreign licences in September last year.

“A very large number of applications came in. We’re dealing with around 95,000 a year relating to licences from all around the world,” he said.

“We’re recruiting and training more staff and we now have 82 compared to 39 in January but we’ve a backlog and we are trying to deal with it.”

So far 4,000 exchanges of British licences have been done and a similar amount remain, he said.

Delays in issuing new licences are also partly due to the requirement to check your rights with DVLA in the UK, Mr Boulanger said.

Under the new system, applications are made in writing to the CERT centre in Nantes, instead of, as previously, to local prefectures. Original licences should NOT be sent with the application. Following initial checks of the application, Nantes will send an attestation de dépôt, valid for 12 months in France, that drivers can show if stopped by gendarmes. On receipt of this you should send in your original licence.

Mr Boulanger said gendarmes are aware of the delays and are not usually fining people for driving on a slightly out-of-date British licence while waiting for an attestation.

However attestations are not likely to be recognised outside France so drivers wanting to drive and hire cars out of France may face issues. 

Issue of attestations are also affected by the delays, however if you are worried and especially if you have been waiting since 2017, you can email

To minimise delays ensure you complete the application fully with all required documents; for married British women this includes a birth or marriage certificate showing your maiden name (this does not have to be translated) as this appears on a French licence. If possible apply at least a few months before your UK licence expires.

Mr Boulanger said that sometimes British applications face extra delays because people are in the UK for months, meanwhile the prefecture has written asking for a further document.

He said Nantes is not responsible for the issue of cartes grises, where delays were also reported – although he said this has now largely been resolved.

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