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Long exchange time leaves foreign drivers in France without licences

Drivers are being asked to apply to swap when licences are ‘expiring’ or specifically in the case of UK ones, where there is less than six months to go; however the swap process can take nine months, a reader was told

An image of Bob and Trisha Street standing by their car holding UK driving licences

Bob and Trisha Street have experienced lengthy delays when trying to exchange their UK driving licences for French licences Pic: Bob Street

Connexion readers continue to report delays with swapping their UK driving licences for French licences with several people being left without a licence for months. 

Read more: Licence swap delay left me unable to drive all year

Read more: UK-France driving licence swap success for reader: Others still wait

We have mostly heard from those with British licences issued prior to 2021, which, under the UK/France driving licence deal signed this summer, continue to be acceptable by France if they are in their validity period. 

However other people are also affected by delays. For example, a woman with a licence from French Polynesia who had to swap due to a driving offence said her exchange took over a year.

At the time that the UK/France deal was announced, it was stated by French and UK officials that holders of UK licences issued before 2021 should only apply for a swap when the British licence has less than six months to run.

This is similar to current official advice to those with EU licences, despite the fact that it has in the past been considered a right to exchange EU licences, optionally, at any time. 

In fact, both EU and UK drivers are being told on an official government information site to apply if their licences’ ‘validity has ended’, whereas those with UK licences are being told in another section of the website to apply ‘in the case of expiry’, so even the ‘six months’ period is not now being stressed.

Several readers have reported waits for exchanges that left them without a valid licence for a period. It comes as one reader reports being told that the current processing time is around nine months.

We note that before the new licence is issued, people are asked by government documents agency ANTS (by email or text) to send in the old licence, and at the same time are provided with a link to download an attestation de dépôt sécurisée allowing them to continue to drive in France while waiting. These are being issued for a four-month period at present according to a recent reader report. This can give extra time – but does not avoid problems for drivers if their licence has expired before this stage.

Bob Street, a retiree who moved permanently to Escanecrabe (Haute-Garonne) in 2016, told The Connexion that his wife Trisha applied for a French licence in July, as hers was due to expire this month. 

In view of the official request not to apply if there is more than six months remaining on the licence, Mrs Street could not have submitted her request much earlier than she did.

“She sent in all her paperwork and even managed to have verbal exchanges with people at the ANTS centre to confirm that her request was being processed,” but as the months rolled by, her licence did not arrive, Mr Street said. 

Earlier this month “in desperation, she rang and spoke to someone who said she would ‘just have to wait – it can take nine months.’”

The Connexion contacted ANTS to ask what people who find themselves in this situation should do, and whether tans to speed the process up. We have not yet received a response. 

An ANTS spokeswoman previously told The Connexion that users of its web portal (ants.gouv.fr) should find it has “better performance” than before, after a recent revamp.

People who move to France with a UK licence issued before 2021, or with another foreign (non-EU) licence from a country with a licence swap deal with France, should apply to change their licence for a French one within a year of their ‘installation’ in France. For Britons moving to France with a visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour, this runs from the date that their visa is validated by OFII.

Related stories

When is medical needed to swap non-EU driving licence for French one?

Q&A: What does the UK-France driving licence deal mean for you?

Check codes: Clarifications on UK driving licence swaps in France

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